Sales POP - Purveyors of Propserity
Streamlining your eCommerce Business: 5 Tips for Entrepreneurs

Streamlining your eCommerce Business: 5 Tips for Entrepreneurs

If you haven’t heard, eCommerce sales are simply booming. Just five years ago, eCommerce sales totaled $194.3 billion, and while that number isn’t bad, things have come a long way since then. By the end of the year, the renowned research firm, eMarketer estimates that eCommerce will bring around $1.9 trillion. Not only that but, while the sales are expected to slow over the next couple of years, the firm still predicts that by 2020, sales will surpass $27 trillion.

It seems like most consumers have enthusiastically embraced the convenience of online shopping, which you can’t say was unexpected. People can find basically anything they want or need and order it with just a few keystrokes on their PCs, laptops or smartphones. With the growth in the industry, online merchants can expect to see their sales plummet, but this growth also attracts competition. So in today’s climate, how can you differentiate yourself and stay ahead of the competition? Simply put – by being more efficient.

#1: Have Progress Indicators

As Sale Cycle reports, during the second quarter of 2016 almost 75% of carts were abandoned before the purchase process was complete. During other months, like during the holiday season, that number is only higher. So does this number represent the number of consumers who have changed their mind about their purchase? Or shoppers who are frustrated with the process as a whole? While you may not know the answer, it’s better not to risk driving customers away with an overly-complicated checkout process. You should, therefore, keep every step straightforward, replace any distracting headers and footers with a progress indicator. This bar will reassure your shoppers that the order is moving, smoothly and successfully.

#2: Improve Customer Service

Two years ago, a Gartner survey found that, by 2016, almost 90% of businesses expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer service. While the report wasn’t exactly correct (companies compete on other bases as well), it wasn’t exactly that off, either. Customer service remains one of the most important aspects of eCommerce because no matter how a website can speed up and enhance the shopping experience, not every order decision is seamless. Therefore, you should have at least one service representative available for certain customers who need additional help with their ordering process. You should also keep your contact info in plain sight so that customers won’t leave in frustration if their questions go unanswered.

#3: Go Mobile Right Now

According to statistics from Internet Retailer’s 2016 Mobile 500 report, mobile sales now account for 30% of all eCommerce sales in the United States. In other countries, like the United Kingdom, people are shopping even more through their mobile devices. As the Telegraph reports, 51% of online shoppers in the UK are making their purchases with their smartphones. Clearly, you have to optimize your site for mobile. And while you have to think about the smaller stuff, like properly optimizing images, you should mostly invest into a responsive design, or even build a mobile version of your website,  or even choose a mobile responsive eCommerce platform (for information regarding this topic Website Advisor is a helpful resource). Responsive design is probably a better option (it will most likely cost less), because it will provide a better user experience across multiple platforms and devices.

#4: Try To Traffic Spikes

For instance, according to the latest Global B2C eCommerce Report, the B2B eCommerce market grew 20% in 2015, and the experts tend to agree that we’ll see another growth of this magnitude this year. And no matter if you run a B2B or a B2C business, as the market continues to grow, you’ll need to make sure that your platform is capable of managing jumps in traffic. In addition, you’ll need a safe, cloud-based CRM software like Pipeliner, which not only handles traffic spikes but also offer the security your business needs to protect sensitive data and consolidate all your user records.

#5: Optimize the Supply Chain

Probably the hardest truth every business owner has to face is that you cannot do everything yourself. Most eCommerce owners are usually tempted to ship their products on their own. However, once the orders start coming in, and subsequently, piling up, you need to focus on managing the growth of your business, and definitely not schlepping to the closest mail center. Even though most owners believe that shipping software is too expensive, you simply cannot afford not to automate shipping. Simply put, an effective 3pl logistics provider can be the backbone for your growth – the provider will improve your security, productivity, and even the overall customer experience.

Conclusion

So if you were looking to streamline your processes, even though there are many other things you could do, these five steps are a good starting point. As we said earlier, efficiency is key to running any successful business, and of course, an eCommerce online store is no exception. Efficiency doesn’t only mean a greater profit margin, it also means less waste, and in today’s world, where your customers expect nothing less than the speed of light, your efficiency can make all the difference between a regular and a lost customer.

The Entrepreneurial Sales Manager

The Entrepreneurial Sales Manager

Condensed from a Pipeliner SalesChat Interview with Andy Gole
Interview by John Golden

Andy Gole has taught selling skills for over 20 years to over 90 clients in a variety of different industries and market conditions. He started 3 different businesses—a sales agency, a product company, and a consulting company—and has made over 4,000 sales calls, both B2B and B2C. He created his own selling process, called Urgency Based Selling, from his field experience, and has taught selling skills at the Fairleigh Dickinson University Rothman Institution for Entrepreneurial Studies for 8 years.

Recently Andy was our special guest on Pipeliner SalesChats, and gave us some amazing insight into how to bring about entrepreneurial sales management.

Q: Most people don’t normally put “entrepreneurial” and “sales manager” together. What do you actually mean by the entrepreneurial sales manager?

A: The entrepreneurial sales manager is a master of change. He or she can help change the sales force and help change what they do in the field.

We say that there are 4 stages of sales management evolution:

  1. The first stage is anarchy where nothing is going on.
  2. The second stage is the motivational sales manager who treats each salesperson like he or she is a customer, and there’s really not much management going on.
  3. The third stage is the rigorous sales manager. What you see in this stage is a manager who is focused on P&L, CRM, and someone who would actually fire salespeople.
  4. The fourth stage is entrepreneurial sales management. That’s the stage where we can effectively develop and change our sales team to get entrepreneurial results, to open more new accounts.

So that’s what I mean by the entrepreneurial sales manager: Somebody who can change the sales team.

Q: I personally believe that a sales manager can be the greatest revenue multiplier in an organization. Why are sales managers struggling so much? And why aren’t they becoming the revenue multipliers that they could be?

A: I think the biggest problem is unrealistic or unfulfilled expectations.

I think ownership and top management is looking for what I have called an entrepreneurial sales manager—somebody who is a master of change. But very often we hire somebody who doesn’t have the full gamut of needed skill sets.

When they don’t, it’s top management’s job to bring it into the organization in another way.

Q: If I want to create an entrepreneurial sales management culture, what are some of the first steps I need to take?

A: What we would really like to hire are entrepreneurs, but they’re in short supply. According to statistics, most are either employed or running their own businesses. There’s just not a lot of free-agent entrepreneurs to go around.

What I have found in my work over the last 20+ years is that there’s another player in the marketplace which we call a hybrid entrepreneur. This is a person who has many or most of the entrepreneurial qualities but needs support. So in my experience, 70 to 80 percent of the average sales team are hybrid entrepreneurs.

Q: So what do they need to be able to get entrepreneurial outcomes?

A: First we need to establish a culture in which bold sales behavior is viewed heroically: going out and facing the unknown, taking the hits, taking the adversity.

Next, we need very powerful selling tools that put the bold vision out there. At the same time, the selling tools have to include a proving kit, because most of the buyers are risk-averse, and we need to arm our sales teams to make what you might call the less risky sale. So there’s yin-yang, an oscillation. First, we’re bold, to get into the new opportunity, but then we have to show that we’re safe. The tools have to express this.

So once we have the culture, and we have the right selling tools, now we need a powerful selling system that’s geared to resolving what we call the 3 fatal flaws in selling. From studying over a dozen different selling systems, I’ve noticed 3 consistent flaws, any one of which will destroy business development.

  1. The first is assuming you’re in a serious conversation. There are 2 kinds of conversations in selling—safe and serious. In a safe conversation, you’re kind of a chump. You’re more or less being brought in as a price check. In a serious conversation, the prospect has a compelling need, and they’re willing to discuss it with you.
  2. The second fatal flaw is assuming the prospect believes what you say. Reliably, in business development, they don’t believe anything you say.
  3. The third fatal flaw is assuming that the prospect knows how to make a good decision. Typically the prospect does not and, particularly, for the infrequent purchase.

So what we need is a very powerful standard sales call—a step-by-step procedure that resolves the 3 fatal flaws. We want to have a standard selling product out there, just like we have a standard product or a standard service.

Q: A lot of salespeople are risk-averse, even though they’re in the riskiest profession, but they have to learn to be bold. How do you get over that?

A: There are 3 exercises we use to transform behavior.

I’ll start with what I think might be the easiest—it’s the sales evaluation grid. It’s based on an idea that’s been popularized by Alan Mulally, ex-CEO of Ford Motor Company. You put your KPIs along the side of a paper, and then each salesperson self-evaluates: green means they’re doing a great job, yellow maybe not so great but they have a plan, and red’s a train wreck.

In sales meetings where we put up each of these on a slide and we see how everybody’s doing, The people who are doing it really well coach those that aren’t. Then in the following week, we have 1-to-1 coaching where we really zone in on the areas that need improvement.

The second idea is the battle plan. We have a 2-page battleplan that kind of synopsizes all the key principles of Urgency-Based Selling. When an opportunity is important enough, we have salespeople fill out the battle plan, and we pick something where there’s a challenge, and then we share the battle plans in a group meeting, everybody reads it, and then we discuss it.

The third method, which I think is the strongest but it’s the hardest, is that we diagnose sales calls just like you used to diagram the English grammar of a sentence in the 7th or 8th grade. We have sales team members diagnose each step of the sales call, present it to their peers, and then we discuss the case.

In all of these 3 methods, we’re constantly bringing out the best practices of the team, and trying to make it the practice for everybody. And when we do a program like this, which goes on for 4 to 6 months, we keep on increasing the skill and competency level week after week.

So these are 3 tools that you could use to change the culture.

Q: Great, thank you! How can people get in touch to learn more about your selling system the entrepreneurial sales manager?

A: By all means, feel free to contact me at any of these methods:

Website: urgencybasedselling.net
Email: andy@urgencybasedselling.net
Phone: 732-563-2700

Learning from Failure: Trying to Grow Too Fast

Learning from Failure: Trying to Grow Too Fast

For some, failure can mean the end of the road on some activity, venture or goal. But that is only true if you give up and just stop. For me—and for many others like me—failure in some area can act as a valuable learning experience that further enables success. This new series of blogs illustrates, with my own experience and observation, how learning from failure is possible.

Instant Gratification

Many places you look today, you see examples of the demand for instant gratification. People want things without taking the time to cultivate them. They want the payoff without having to build anything first. They want to grow things fast so they can get the results now, now, now.

A prime example is today’s industrial agriculture: corn, tomatoes and other crops are grown in record time, to big sizes. Nutrition and flavor quality come in a distant second to getting the crops fully grown, picked, and to market in record time.

If you go and buy a tomato in the supermarket today, you’ll notice that its flavor is pretty bland. Now go to a farmer’s market and purchase an organically grown heirloom tomato—and the difference in flavor will astound you. You’ll most likely exclaim, “That’s what a tomato should taste like!” You’ll also find, if you analyze them, that they’re far more nutritious than average supermarket tomatoes. But they took longer to grow, and they’re certainly not as big as some of their industrial counterparts.

Lessons from Nature

How fast do things naturally grow? Have you ever seen a child instantly grow up? Or an animal, or even a plant?

Right at this moment my family is getting a dog. The breeder gave us very explicit instructions to only feed the puppy the diet prescribed by the breeder, otherwise the dog will grow too fast and it won’t have healthy bones.

The very universe in which we live took billions of years. The petroleum that we so carelessly take from the ground and use up, took millions of years to arrive in its current state.

No…these things take time. And it’s a lesson we should learn well.

In Economy as In Nature

When we move out of nature and into business and economy, we learn the same lesson. We see now, especially with VC-funded startups, people thinking that if you throw enough money at something, it will grow.

It’s a total falsehood. All the money in the world won’t substitute for proper staff training and putting the proper infrastructure in place. Without such actions, even with endless funding an organization will collapse.

It’s very much the same as nature: things grown too fast have weak points. Just as the dog grown too fast will not have healthy bones, a company grown too fast won’t have a healthy structure.

My Own Sales Team Lesson

I’ve certainly learned this lesson firsthand. When I brought my company to America from Austria, I was strongly advised that since the company was now online, leads were being created in countries all over the world. I should have sales reps in those countries to follow them up. I immediately hired salaried salespeople in four countries where we were getting the most leads.

Over the next 6 months, we made few to no sales in those countries—certainly not nearly enough business to justify the cost of paying the reps.

Fortunately we realized our mistake before too long, and put those reps on commission only. But where did we really go wrong?

First, I assumed that the reps we were bringing on were entrepreneurial, and would forge a market for themselves in their territories. But it turned out that they were not, and were also not self-responsible enough to figure out what they needed to do and get going.

But the real problem was this: we hadn’t yet figured out what it took to bring a salesperson onboard for our product and company. We hadn’t figured it out for the US locally, let alone for foreign markets remotely. Therefore we didn’t know how to manage even a local rep. How could we then manage a rep thousands or even tens of thousands of miles away? It was the missing infrastructure we talked about above.

Now we know. Once we fully figure out onboarding for ourselves here in America, and have really made it work, then it makes sense to move out into other countries. We’ve only now arrived at the point where sales is really working here, and can now do that.

The Takeaway

Of course in business we want to do things as fast as possible—that has always been true and will always be true.

But no matter how “fast” you go, you must take the time to do it right. As tempting as it is, growing too fast is dangerous. You only have so many hours in a day, and so many personnel. The work needs to actually be done, and the personnel need care, training and mentoring.

Lesson learned: Grow at the speed that makes the most sense for your company, and ensure your infrastructure is there before you try and go global!

For more on growing and managing a sales team, download our free ebook The Vital Essentials of Building a Sales Team.

Pipeliner CRM is the sales tool that grows along with your company, and is with you every step of the way. Get your free trial of Pipeliner CRM now.

 

Learning from Failure: Make Sure You Can Push Through

Learning from Failure: Make Sure You Can Push Through

For some, failure can mean the end of the road on some activity, venture or goal. But that is only true if you give up and just stop. For me—and for many others like me—failure in some area can act as a valuable learning experience that further enables success. This new series of blogs illustrates, with my own experience and observation, how learning from failure is possible.

The Video Bungle

In 2013 I was advised to create a series of cartoon videos that acted as advertisements for my company’s product, Pipeliner CRM. It seemed like a fantastic idea: we would create these highly entertaining cartoon videos as a series of episodes—1, 2, 3 and 4—post them on YouTube, send out some emails promoting them, then sit back and watch them go viral. Interest in our product would soar and we’d watch the leads flood in the door.

The first episode looked as if it might do it, as it topped 1,000 views and eventually made it to over 2,100. But that’s where it stopped—it certainly didn’t make it to the hundreds of thousands or millions that everyone, including me, thought it would.

The 2nd, 3rd and 4th episodes didn’t even do as well as the 1st. The 2nd made it to just over 1,000 views, and the 3rd and the 4th didn’t even make it to 1,000.

Needless to say this was a very expensive disappointment. What happened?

Lack of Brand

First of all, Pipeliner CRM, especially at that time, was far from an established brand. Virtually no one knew who we were. If we had been a known name, viewers might have shared the videos just based on that fact. But the videos themselves weren’t powerful enough to overcome a name no one knew.

Lack of Campaign

The only way to make up for that lack of brand would have been to buy the needed exposure for these videos: that is, pay to get them placed into as many high-profile channels as possible. That’s actually what was needed. That campaign would have been the way to actually put those expensive videos to work for us, and might have resulted in leads and sales that to some degree paid us back.

But we had spent all of our available funds—and then some—just to produce the videos. We had also dedicated numerous staff plus a production company to get them made. Then we had hung all of our hopes on the gamble that people would love the videos enough to share them and cause them to go viral. As with many long-odds gambles, it didn’t pay off.

The considerable cost would have been far better spent on lead methods that we knew worked for us, to obtain more leads.

Lesson Learned

What lesson did we learn from this, that we could pass onto you?

If I had it to do again, I would research and calculate the cost of promoting the videos, and ensure I had to the money to fully utilize them. The cost of getting items like this properly promoted is almost 4 times the production cost—which is what we would have needed to have in place to utilize them correctly. In other words, I’d make sure I had to money to actually get the job done.

So the lesson for everyone is: make sure you take all costs into account. Make sure that, in the end, you can push all the way through.

Better Videos

The one thing we weren’t wrong about in making the original videos was the importance of this medium to marketing in this industry today. Despite the failure of our initial videos, we did not cast aside our dedication to this medium. Today we have more product-oriented videos than anyone else in our industry.

Of course the other lesson we learned from this failure was to make highly impactful videos at lower cost. We have now done this—our videos are now much more communicative and are far more effective in explaining our product and its benefits. You can see one of our latest videos here.

What have you learned from your failures? I’d love to hear about it! Contact me at nikolaus.kimla@pipelinersales.com.

Pipeliner CRM is the sales tool that grows along with your company, and is with you every step of the way. Get your free trial of Pipeliner CRM now.

Story Telling & Other Ways to Engage a Prospect

Story Telling & Other Ways to Engage a Prospect

All of us are fascinated by stories. Aren’t we? Stories take us to a different world and give us wings to fly in that world. We identify ourselves with one of the characters in the story, more often than not we identify with the protagonist. Stories capture our imagination and we are excited to know what’s next. We start visualizing the sequence and in the process we get inspired to take action.

Why Story Telling?

  1. Everyone likes stories.
  2. It helps the listeners to visualize and the visuals / images they see in their mind sticks with them.
  3. Stories help us connect with the audience emotionally. And buying is an emotional decision first then it substantiates with logical reasoning, rationale, meeting requirements and other criteria.
  4. Stories are successfully developed by big brands like Apple, Tesla, Amazon, Google, BBC etc.
  5. Neural Coupling: The speaker – listener neural coupling or in other words, mirroring of their brains happen, when the listener is able to predict what the speaker will say next and in such a situation syncing happens between their brains and is supposed to be the efficient communication. And Story Telling helps in neural coupling.
  6. Buyers are able to connect to the story and imagine what they can do or will do in a similar situation.
  7. Every story has a core. At the core, there is a problem to be solved and the solution comes in the climax. Your product or service is the solution. The protagonist uses your product / service and comes out victorious. Your product or service is unbeatable. That is the message you want to convey.
  8. The entire Story can also be a metaphor.
  9. It creates a community of users.
  10. It is etched in memory for a long time vs. boring presentations.

How to tell Stories?

  1. It has to have a storyline. And the storyline has to be captivating. Sparking imagination.
  2. The story should help in connecting emotionally with the buyers.
  3. Third, focus on prospects’ ambition: Where are you right now? Where do you want to be? How will our product / service help you reach there?
  4. Story should not ask the buyer to buy the product/service. That is best left unsaid. Just provide the proof of the Protagonist winning with your product/service to solve the core problem.
  5. Idea is to capture the minds of the buyers for life. Not sell one time. Or to make money. Money will follow.
  6. It has to heighten the emotions and make the buyers to take action.
  7. It has to inspire or spark the fire in the bellies of the buyers. The buyers should get the message in the story.
  8. Promote values.
  9. Stand for a cause.
  10. The story should end in a positive note. Happy ending.

Other ways to engage the Prospect:

  1. Undertake homework before starting to engage them.
  2. Understand their problem statement.
  3. Be Authentic.
  4. Respect them and their time.
  5. Look at it from their perspective.
  6. Imagine that they are already your customers and treat them accordingly.
  7. Find what they stand for. And support them.
  8. Identify other interest areas. May be golf. Or Football. Play with them.
  9. Introduce your team to theirs. Let the teams interact with each other.
  10. Last but not the least, Be on the same page, with your prospects

It has to be a true story. We cannot make things up. If we look close enough, we will be able to find that story. And don’t solve the core problem in one scene. It is important to explain how the protagonist suffered, went almost bankrupt, was frustrated but did not lose hope, had tremendous will power and narrate how he/she fought back before becoming victorious by solving the core problem. It should resonate with the buyers at the bottom of their heart and help them think that their situation can be solved too; they are no less and inspire them to take action.

Learning from Failure: Timing is Everything

Learning from Failure: Timing is Everything

For some, failure can mean the end of the road on some activity, venture or goal. But that is only true if you give up and just stop. For me—and for many others like me—failure in some area can act as a valuable learning experience that further enables success. This new series of blogs will illustrate, with my own experience and observation, how learning from failure is possible.

My PR Bungle

In 2012 when I first brought Pipeliner to America from Austria, the first advice I received from people was that I should immediately engage in heavy PR activities. The reasoning was that PR is far less expensive than marketing, and I could get the product and company known quickly and broadly.

This advice wasn’t necessarily wrong generally—but it was wrong for me. Before you start enticing the media, you have to have a story to tell. You have to have a company in place, a corporate identity, design and message. None of these things had been accomplished at that time.

In addition to jumping right onto the PR train, the other mistake I made was to immediately engage the services of a PR agency—something else I was advised to do. After I had reached out to a few of them, I contracted with one that, as it happened, wasn’t even in my industry. But they gave the right pitch, sold me on the idea and signed me up.

Fortunately I was smart enough not to jump in with both feet. Instead of the year contract that the agency was insisting I needed, I only signed up for 6 months. On top of that, I made sure the contract contained a clause that allowed me out of it after 4 months if I was unsatisfied, and also defined additional requirements on both sides. I also talked them down to half of what they wanted to charge me.

These were all a good things, because the agency didn’t produce results for me at all. I ended up terminating our relationship at 4 months.

As I said, I didn’t yet have a story to tell. The story itself has really evolved over the last 3 to 4 years. It has bloomed, become deeper and more profound. The PR message I have today is far different than what I had 3 to 4 years ago. Additionally the agency wasn’t in our industry so never reached our target audience.

Lesson Learned—and Seen Elsewhere

The lesson I learned out of this failure was this: Everything has timing. Someone may be attempting to force you to act too early or too fast.

A prime example is something that is routinely pushed through the VC industry into companies today—that a company, to succeed, must be the fastest and the first to market. Tempting though it is, I’ll avoid dropping foul language into this article, and just say that this is pure poppycock.

There are many, but one total standout story that disproves this statement is that of Google. When Larry Page was courting investors, AltaVista was the clear search engine leader. The response he got everywhere he went was along the lines of, “Oh, no! Not another search engine! We already have 8 of them!” Page ended up making some 350 pitches before he found investment.

Google was certainly not the fastest nor the first to market. Yet today it is one of the biggest companies in the world, and the world’s 2nd most valuable brand at $82.5 billion. So this “must be first and fastest to market” mandate has been completely disproven by Google alone.

This demand on a company can be highly destructive. It can have the same effect as demanding that a first-grader learn to speak 3 languages, excel in higher math skills, and be expertly proficient in arts as well. The child is going to cave under such pressure—and so is a company that is being pushed to be something it clearly isn’t, well before its time.

Companies, just like people, need to grow through stages. Certainly they should grow as fast as they can and make it to market as soon as possible. But they shouldn’t be forced before they are ready.

It is my opinion that venture capitalists have ruined a lot of companies by trying to grow them far too quickly and by forcing them to be what they weren’t well before their time. A prime example is the story of Zenefits, a company that was pushed hard by its investors to build a high-octane sales force before it was ready, and ended up practically doing itself in. Today the company is but a shadow of its former self.

Patience and Faith

Of course we can always look to nature for lessons. What happens when you pick fruit before it’s ripe? It’s bitter. You wouldn’t want to eat it, let along sell it.

2 virtues are needed to properly grow a company: patience, and faith. You need the patience to get a company up and running, and to wait until it is truly ready before pushing it to the next level. And, you need the faith in yourself, and in your team, that you and they will be able to get it there.

What have you learned from your failures? I’d love to hear about it! Contact me at nikolaus.kimla@pipelinersales.com.

Pipeliner CRM is the sales tool that grows along with your company, and is with you every step of the way. Get your free trial of Pipeliner CRM now.

Masks in Business: Authenticity and Risk

Masks in Business: Authenticity and Risk

Recently I was having a drink at my local hang-out, when I ran into a colleague I met a few years ago but who I hadn’t seen since. We recognized each other and engaged in a catch-up conversation. As we moved from small talk to more business talk, I realized that my first impression was no longer my current impression and I took the awkward risk of expressing this realization quite openly. All seemed fine, until the following week when I received an email calling me all kinds of negatives. I was truly shocked, yet apologized. As a communications expert I know that if your message doesn’t get through as you intended it, then you are partly at fault.

This scenario reminds me of an interesting article on “being yourself” which appeared in the New York Times on June 4, 2016. The author, Adam Grant wrote:  Nobody wants to see your true self. We all have thoughts and feelings that we believe are fundamental to our lives, but that are better left unspoken. Unless you’re Oprah, being oneself is terrible advice.

Although I understand the op-editor’s point of view, I feel more aligned with Brene Brown’s perspective that being open and vulnerable demonstrates strength. We all conceal aspects of ourselves at times depending on our audiences, be it a prospective client, partner, family member, business associate, or social group. It can be equally authentic to keep ideas and/or beliefs private or to share them. Keep in mind, though, that sharing authentically is often a risky and vulnerable choice, as my opening story suggests.

This debate on authenticity reminds me of a colleague discussion on Masks in Business that I facilitated at a networking meeting. One might assume that a “mask” is inauthentic, as masks are usually designed to disguise one’s identity. However, here are insights from this discussion, some of which may be somewhat surprising.

Masks can be an asset and a ticket to acceptance

We all face situations where we dress, speak or act in a particular way in order to meet the expectations of the group we are in. Wearing a suit or carrying a briefcase may feel like a costume, but it can also facilitate connection and trust. People tend to accept those who are most similar to themselves. In sales, when you mirror your client’s body language to gain trust, are you being authentic or manipulative?

Environmental masks are not always preferred

“I have several rooms in my business space, some neater than others. Sometimes I lead my clients to the more organized environment, to reflect the more “put together” me. However, I have found my overly-packed and sometimes out-of-order environment is frequently more appreciated and comfortable for many clients.”

Masks can expand your sense of self

“Once I bought a baseball cap with long brown hair hanging all the way around the brim.  I imagined myself a redneck, which was totally out of character for me. Once I put on the hat, I suddenly felt free to become that character! What surprised me was how this simple mask caused something in me to break loose. The experience expanded my sense of self and I felt more complete and authentic!”

Masks can be transitory

“When I stopped being an attorney and became a meditation coach, my clothes, speech and behavior changed significantly. Now I look back at my first career and see how it masked my being who I was meant to be.”

Masks need not be negative

We often think of masks as false, hiding behind them to conceal our true selves. But when you think of the role of masking tape in relationship to painting, a different picture emerges. Masking becomes a form of protection and preservation. Therapists, coaches, consultants and salespeople may intentionally mask their feelings in order to eliminate bias and allow for objectivity.  Having a boundary that masks a personal point of view can be immensely helpful to clients. 

Here are some takeaways:

  • Masks can be helpful and harmful, protective and deceptive, engaging and disarming.
  • Speaking one’s truth can support or compromise relationships. Communication is often misunderstood.
  • Authenticity is a core value and your birthright. Being oneself is important for everyone; not just for Oprah. It is your personal essence and inner connection to yourself that makes you unique.
  • Expressing that essence through language often poses the challenge and the risk.

Personally, I’d rather share authentically and risk misunderstanding, than be guarded and mask my true nature. There’s room for both. Knowing your listeners better can be the tipping point for being both authentic and understood.

Pipeliner CRM and the Crucial Necessity of Fair Trade

Pipeliner CRM and the Crucial Necessity of Fair Trade

Trade has many benefits—to economies, to families, to individuals. It provides jobs, it provides incomes, it provides life to a culture and society.

I think we can all agree that trade is a highly beneficial activity. But it has a far more significant role than you might at first think.

Keeping Peace

It’s not just because our product Pipeliner CRM empowers sales that we feel that trade is vitally important—it goes far beyond that. As has been pointed out by several leaders in the Austrian School of Economic Thought over the last 150 years, trade has a peacekeeping element. 2 parties engaged in trade cannot engage in war.

I’m sure you’ve already noticed how important peace is to our planet, especially in these times. We live on a tiny island in this universe. At least currently, we have nowhere else to go. So it well behooves all of us to engage in peace. Fortunately we as a race are finally learning that war never leads to peace, as proven by 2 titanic and devastating conflicts of the 20th century. World War I and World War II were both touted as “the war that would end war forever,” which they very obviously did not.

Finally we are seeing the truth—that the most practical route to peace is through trade.

Fair Trade

You might notice that today there is a great amount of attention not just on trade, but on fair trade. Fair trade is the primary fuel of debate and discussion, for example, over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the proposed trade agreement between the US and the European Union. Why has fairness in trade become such a focus?

Let’s make an example of something familiar to any big fan of Italian food: parmesan cheese. It was recently discovered that some of the grated parmesan cheese being sold in US stores contained more wood pulp than actual cheese—and it retailed for considerably less than the pure grated parmesan cheese which people thought they were actually buying.

This is a capital example of unfair trade, in which some company selling an inferior product comes into a market and undercuts the real product. On a larger scale it has happened throughout the world—mega-corporations have come into a countries and vastly undercut local products with inferior substitutes, wrecking local economies. A prime example is GMO corn planted in Mexico by American companies, practically forcing local corn farmers out of business.

Fair trade, by its intrinsic definition, would mean honesty—fairness to people purchasing the product or service, and fairness within the marketplace. But by today’s definition, it goes beyond these. It also includes fair wages to the employees of producers, and benefit to the environment in which products are produced. Using this standard, you can see how vitally important fair trade is in today’s world, in which not only war is a threat, but also environmental ruin and depletion of resources.

Economic and Social Stability

As we’ve already touched upon, fair trade is capable of bringing economic stability to a city, country or region. Economic stability can also bring civil stability, as can be readily observed in places throughout the world where economic stability has prevailed over time.

What is the first thing that happens when conflict arises between one or more nations? The borders close. Trade ceases. When free trade is prevented, that sweet stability disappears. If it disappears too drastically or for too long, a percentage of the population will end up leaving. Where do they go? Places where they can find economic stability and fair trade. Just look to Sweden, Germany and Austria where refugees have been coming for years from eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa and other volatile economic environments.

When enough people decide they can no longer tolerate living in a particular place because fair trade has vanished, it becomes a crisis that must be borne by many others in the world, as we’ve seen with the Syrian refugee situation. I have personally observed this crisis in action in Vienna. When the Syrian refugees were first arriving there in September of last year, there were banners welcoming them, and people were meeting them in Vienna’s central railway station and providing them food, clothing and other necessities. When I returned to Vienna 4 months later (I currently reside in the US), all of those banners were gone, replaced by much smaller ones demanding that the refugees leave.

When large segments of a population simply move from one place to another, it simply taxes the resources of the new place in which they arrive. This type of scenario was discussed by philosopher Hans Jonas all the way back in 1984, in his work The Principle of Responsibility. Jonas pointed out the continuous cycle of depletion of resources by population segments moving from one place to the next.

When fair trade is denied people long enough, revolutions are also ignited—something else we’ve seen far too much of in recent history. Unfortunately most revolutions end up being the subject, in the future, of more revolutions. So which is more effective: revolution or trade?

Extremely Sustainable

We have arrived today in a digital world, in which many things are transparent that weren’t before. One of these is trade. Unfair trade—in which substandard products, price gouging or one of an endless variety of unfair practices are engaged in—comes to light very quickly, and word travels throughout the world instantaneously. The sales of a product or service can be shut down almost instantly.

This same transparency is what makes fair trade extremely sustainable. When a reputation is good, everyone knows it. When buyers research products or services, they find out who they should trust. A great product, service, company and sales team all have reputations that spread out like ripples in a pond, only infinitely vaster and with far more impact.

Because of this transparency, the company, the product and the seller appear as a single entity to the buyer. For that reason they should be considered as a unit by the company—and should always be created, united and branded with fairness as a goal.

This type of totally transparent operation is exemplified by online clothing retailer Everlane who, on their website, proclaim: “Radical Transparency—know your factories. Know your costs. Always ask why.” This type of data is totally available, through the company’s web site, to all who seek it. That is the transparency of the digital world, and of today and the future.

Salespeople: Agents of Peace

Now, how does sales fit into all of this? Simple: Trade is conducted by salespeople. As you might see, salespeople are, in fact, a major force in keeping peace throughout the world.

For this and for many other reasons (including their extremely unique talents) we have always maintained that salespeople should be respected and supported in their efforts. That is why we have worked so hard to provide a CRM solution that truly empowers salespeople to sell.

Sales is, in fact, our best chance to make a difference in the future.

Pipeliner CRM is based on the principles described in this article. Try a free trial today.

Pipeliner: A Buyer-focused Business

Pipeliner: A Buyer-focused Business

As you are aware from our blog posts and our extensive library of ebooks, we at Pipeliner CRM are deeply in-tune with the business of business and the ever evolving needs of the market. In simple terms we are obsessively focused on what our buyers need and want. We are proud and humbly grateful that this focus has been rewarded by our company doubling revenue every year for the past three years and increasingly our customer base massively as a result. After all the greatest vote of confidence is when someone becomes a customer and then goes on to renew time after time, which we have been fortunate to experience and is evidenced by our extremely high renewal and retention rates. The nice thing about success, however, is that it does not allow you to rest on your laurels, rather it drives you to always evolve, innovate and adapt.

One of the biggest by-products of our success has been that we are now attracting potential customers from every market segment. Small businesses are attracted by the ease of use and intuitive nature of the product, mid-market businesses love the unique productivity tools such as Navigator and Insights and Enterprise businesses are discovering our ability to deliver top class services and integrate with their other business-critical systems. As a consequence we decided that the time had come to create multiple versions of our CRM aligned to different market segments and priced appropriately for that segment.

Today we are proud to introduce our new three tiered model for business:

Pipeliner Starter: This version is designed for smaller or less complex businesses and provides them with basic sales management, tracking and collaboration.

Pipeliner Business: This version provides full CRM functionality with advanced reporting features, customization capabilities and all the productivity features unique to Pipeliner CRM.

Pipeliner Enterprise: Designed for the largest and most sophisticated of businesses, this version includes advanced services, customizations and integrations.

For more detailed information click here.

As you can see not only do we have a version that can meet the needs of any business today but our solution can grow and scale along with that business. This is a significant moment in the evolution of Pipeliner CRM and we thank our customers, prospects and partners for continually driving us forward – to state the obvious, we literally couldn’t do this with your support!

Now, of course, we could have stopped here as for most companies this would have been plenty of change at one time but as you have come to know, we are not most companies! No, we are also entrepreneurs (as a look at our bios will show you, especially that of our CEO & Founder Nikolaus Kimla who regularly writes on the subject) and firmly believe that entrepreneurship is foundation of a vibrant, thriving economy and indeed, society. From our experience we know how hard it can be when you start out on your own and there are so many demands on what is often your very limited funds. We also know from experience that if you are not well organized and don’t set your business up with good processes from the start it can be a long, hard road. For any business creating leads and contacts, tracking prospects and turning them into customers is critical to success but for a single person business it can be the difference between building a sustainable business and losing everything.

So as always, we at Pipeliner are here to help. We are now offering a free version of our CRM for a single user that will provide them with basic sales management and tracking functionality plus we are offering an enhanced version for a nominal fee. So now for an entrepreneur, a consultant, contractor, home business operator, indeed student or whoever else needs to bring organization to their daily activities, Pipeliner Personal is available at no cost.

Research has shown that there is an explosion in people leaving traditional employment to branch-out on their own. Remote working is becoming the norm as people locate to places they believe give them a better quality of life and many are choosing to operate as a contractor or consultant for greater flexibility and work/life balance.

At Pipeliner we salute the entrepreneur, the risk taker, those who choose to stand alone and build their own future and with Pipeliner Personal we support them in a very real way.

We would like to thank all of our existing customers as well as those who we have engaged with over the years who may not have become our customers. All of you have helped us arrive at this point where we now have a product for all market segments from the individual entrepreneur to the small business, to the mid-market company all the way to the global enterprise.

And guess what? The journey is only starting!

Is Entrepreneurship Dead? The Argument Part 2: Art, or Craft?

Is Entrepreneurship Dead? The Argument Part 2: Art, or Craft?

During a recent visit to an entrepreneurship conference in another city, I happened to eavesdrop on a fascinating conversation in the hotel bar at the end of the evening, between Dr. Abraham, a kind of world-weary experienced entrepreneur and a young, energetic hot venture capitalist named Doug.

The first part of the conversation covered the fact that 80 to 90 percent of startups fail, despite anyone’s best efforts. Following that, the conversation then turned to why.

The new round of drinks arrived, and Dr. Abraham began. “First of all, let’s get one thing straight: being an entrepreneur is not a craft, it’s an art. It’s not something that can be taught or learned—it’s something that comes from a combination of gut instinct and experience.”

“What the heck are you talking about?” Doug demanded.

“An art is something that has an x quality about it, a je ne sais quoi—something that can’t quite be defined. Whereas a craft is something that results from specific, definite steps. For example, medicine was once an art—but today, with everything that is known and taught, it can be precisely learned by anyone with the aptitude for it. The same could be said for architecture, which was once a total art, but today can be learned as a craft.”

But entrepreneurship is a craft! It’s taught in universities all over the world!”

“Well, something is taught in universities all over the world. But let’s take the word of someone who would know. I take it you’ve heard of Steve Blank?

“Sure–an incredible entrepreneur.”

“That he is. But he’s also a professor of entrepreneurship at Stanford, who also lectures at UC Berkeley, Columbia University and Caltech. But to my point: he recently made the statement that ‘becoming an entrepreneur is not material for a lecture; a founder is not a job because there’s no manual out there for it.’”

“What did he mean?”

“We’d have to ask him. But I can tell you that from my standpoint of experience, it means that a real entrepreneur must have incredible capabilities in several very important areas. I’ll give you some examples:

  • He must be like a ship’s captain, capable of mastering the vessel through rough times.
  • He must also be like a battle-hardened general, leading his troops to out-maneuver competitors.
  • He must be like a chaplain, who counsels wounded soldiers in the heat of battle.
  • He must be like an evangelist who travels the world, preaching the benefits of his product or service.
  • He must be a kind of doctor, who can fix up parts of his company when they are broken.
  • He must also must be like a treasurer who can, at the drop of a hat, create vital liquidity.”

“But even those things can be learned!” Doug insisted.

“Sure—if you have the many years it would take, you could theoretically learn each one of them. But then it takes another run of years to learn which of these hats to wear when—and to conduct your organization by knowing fully which function does what. Those years of experience teach vital lessons—not necessarily through succeeding, but mostly through failure.

Dr. Abraham continued. “Not every human has all of these qualities—in fact, it’s relatively few. Since you deal with entrepreneurs all the time, I’ll go ahead and ask you: How many people do you know who have all of these qualities available and can think and operate with them? And using them, have an entire growing enterprise under control without losing composure?”

“Well…not many, I suppose,” Doug said.

“Correct. Most people that we listen to—in fact, most people speaking at this conference—are expert in one area. We come to events like this to listen to experts. And that brings up another point—you cannot be an entrepreneur and rely on experts. It’s fine to get advice from them—but you must learn these fields of endeavor, these areas of expertise, yourself. Otherwise you’ll never have enough understanding to truly lead an enterprise.

“But…” Doug started to say.

Dr. Abraham raised a hand, interrupting Doug. “I’m not finished. Now let’s talk about another very important quality.

“Today—in fact, right here at this conference—there are a great many who desire one single quality of entrepreneurship: freedom! The freedom to create your own life, be your own boss. But as we learn from Thomas Mann, the other side of freedom is responsibility. It is a two-sided coin. You cannot have one without the other.

“Now I ask you: How many aspiring entrepreneurs came to this conference ready to take total responsibility for their startups? To really assume the risk? Compared with: How many aspiring entrepreneurs came to this conference with great ideas—but seeking someone else who would bear all the financial burden and responsibility, whether or not the business failed or succeeded?”

“Well,” Doug said. “I’m guessing most fall into the second category, based on all the ones I’m meeting with.”

“Of course! It’s why you yourself came here—looking for someone with a great idea into which you could invest your fund. But they must be willing to give up a great deal to obtain that funding—and they are, simply because they don’t want to take that responsibility. They want the freedom, but they sure don’t want the risk, which can be crushing.”

Doug regarded Dr. Abraham. “So just assuming that I take what you’re saying as true—what qualities, then, does an entrepreneur actually need to succeed?”

“Well,” Dr. Abraham replied. “Even if someone were to take the decades it would require to learn each and everyone of the area I have described, including that of taking responsibility—being a real entrepreneur is even more than that.”

“More than that?” Doug exclaimed. “You’re kidding!”

“No I’m not. You see, all of these areas, every single one, are encompassed within a person’s character. They have a precise instinct, utilizing all of these skills and characteristics, of how to do it. This is why so many companies fail—the leader just doesn’t have the considerable character and maturity it takes to lead. Amazingly, you sometimes have young people that have such character and can lead a company to glory. More often, the young don’t’ have it and neither do the old.”

Doug asked, “So does that mean a person shouldn’t even try?”

“No! I never said that. For more often than not, a person will discover he has abilities and skills he never dreamed of until he does try. None of those who have succeeded, would have if they hadn’t tried.”

There was a silence. Then Doug asked, “Is there more?”

Dr. Abraham smiled, raising his empty glass.

Doug chuckled. “It’s going to cost me another drink, isn’t it?”

Join us next week to see where this conversation went next.

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this website you are giving consent to cookies being used. For information on cookies and how you can disable them, visit our privacy and cookie policy.