18 8 / 2014

We’ve been working on SellHack for a few months now. Ever since getting picked up by in the tech blogosphere here and here, our inboxes were flooded with emails from supporters and a few detractors. We soon discovered that the subject matter for the inbound emails fell into one of three categories: 1) ‘this is awesome, keep up the good work!’ 2) ‘how do I get an account?’ 3) ‘please delete my information’.

We committed to responding to each and every email within 24 hours, which proved to be more overwhelming than we ever expected. My total email word count that dat was ~40,000 and I type ~50 words per minute. Using back of the envelope math, these replies would have taken 13 hours of nonstop typing and that’s not including the time it would have taken to read the email.

Fortunately, we had Yesware in our toolkit.  For those not familiar with the company, Yesware is an email productivity platform that helps salespeople work more effectively, right from their inbox.  The product is intuitive and there were 4 specific features that rock!

  1. Templates
  2. Reporting & Real Time Notifications
  3. Send Later
  4. Reminders

1) Templates rock because they save you time.

Leveraging Yesware templates saved us a ton of time in conveying the core messages with a couple of keystrokes by crafting templates for each topic. Yesware templates, built for speed and flexibility, enabled us to start with an email foundation that could be customized as needed effectively cutting the reply time by 80%.

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2) Reporting & Real Time Notifications rock because you’ve never had this degree of transparency.

Once that fateful day in late March passed, we were able to log into Yesware reporting to understand which categories the emails fell into. 35% of the emails were in support of the product we were building, 60% were inquiries on how to get an account and the remaining 5% were folks spooked by the coverage and asking for their accounts to be deleted. We made sure to set tracking on each email we sent back to this remaining 5% and when we received confirmation that they opened the message, we immediately followed up with a phone call. (pro tip: with Yesware, you can see what device a person opens the message on. If it’s a phone and they are reading your email…CALL THEM NOW!) The 5% of folks who wanted their account cancelled or info removed were so surprised that we took the time to reply directly and call them that we were able to save most of them from canceling.

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3) ‘Send Later’ rocks because you’ll never forget to send a follow-up email again.

Business has been steadily growing for us and we’ve had a chance to meet lots of interesting folks. Timing is not always right for companies or people that we speak with, and just today I was asked to follow up with a prospect in mid-August. With Yesware, it’s easy to manage follow-ups without ever leaving gmail. Before Yesware, I would create a new calendar event on the given day and time to follow-up. This was messy and often created calendar conflicts with setting meetings and the events were easily overlooked. Now, as soon as a customer or prospect asks me to follow-up within a certain time frame, I compose the follow-up email and schedule to send on the right day and right time in the future leveraging the ‘Send Later’ option.

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4) Reminders rock because without them, you are not as organized as you could be.

Reminders are another really useful feature. We’re a startup without the luxury of a back office, and customers have all sorts of special needs including custom invoices, reports or account tracking. Our business is SaaS and each customer has their own rolling monthly usage cycle, so due dates for some of these special asks can vary. Reminders is a bulletproof was to keep on top of this.

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Even if you don’t have a traffic surge from trending on ProductHunt or getting mentioned on TechCrunch, Yesware’s templates, insights, reminders and ‘Send Later’ can be home brewed into a really effective business automation engine for any growing company. and insights are a great tool for managing day to day tasks. Whether it’s an automatic follow-up email to biz dev prospects, customer service inquiries and even a reply occasional person probing how our algorithm works, we have a template for that.

Note: If you are interested in trying out the product, Yesware is pleased to offer a special trial of their product, available exclusively through this post.

3 Free Months of Yesware Enterprise ($150 Value)

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*Available for new users/teams only 

Keep an eye out for more blog posts about hacking the sales process. We’ll be highlighting the best of the best tips, tricks, apps, services, people and more. If you don’t have SellHack installed to find hidden emails, download the free extension here.

Cheers, Ryan O’Donnell

Growth Dude at SellHack

12 8 / 2014

04 8 / 2014

This post originally appeared in an email from CustomerCentric.  I couldn’t find a link to it so re-posting here with due props.  Great Read!

How many times, after a three, six, or twelve month sell cycle, have you lost a sale that’s critical to making your number for the quarter? The worst thing a salesperson can do is ‘go the distance’ and lose the business anyway. In the twelve months you’ve spent ‘competing’ to stay busy, how many real opportunities walked right past you?

When you do the forensic examination of a lost opportunity, I believe the cause of the loss almost always comes down to one word - qualification. Something wasn’t qualified effectively as part of the sales campaign. As we teach in our workshops, there are six (6) key qualifiers in any given opportunity:

  1. Goal/Problem/Need: Is there an identifiable, quantifiable business goal, business problem or business need? If the salesperson cannot articulate the business driver of an opportunity, chances are they don’t really have an opportunity in the first place.
  2. Vision of a Solution: Does the prospect believe that the capabilities your company offers will help them achieve the goal, solve the problem or satisfy the need? Can the salesperson not only explain the capabilities the prospect requires, but have they also documented them, in writing, back to the prospect to confirm accuracy?
  3. Value: Has the salesperson identified and quantified the business metrics associated with the prospect’s current environment and created a cost/benefit analysis to help the prospect understand the value of moving forward?
  4. Champion: Is there one or more people in the prospect organization that is doing the selling for you when you’re not there and helping you get to the right people?
  5. Key Players: Has the salesperson proactively engaged with other key people within the prospect organization to get their perspective on the issues and ideally, created some vision with them as well?
  6. Implementation Solution: Has the salesperson, as part of the sales campaign, proactively identified and sought out the people who will be responsible for implementing your offering? In many cases, salespeople wait until the “yes” before they engage with the people who are actually going to have to live with the offering and make it work on a daily basis. If those individuals don’t have a clear understanding of how they are going to get it successfully implemented, they will often derail an initiative at the last minute due to resource constraints, lack of training in a specific area, etc.

No one likes bad news, but I’d rather find out today that I’m not getting a piece of business in six months rather than going the entire six months to find out exactly the same thing. How about you?

—Frank Visgatis, President & COO, CustomerCentric Selling®

23 7 / 2014

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First, LiveChat is a game changer!

At the suggestion of a friend Ryan Schmidt, we implemented LiveChat on July 17.  Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with 144 different people around the world.  Some customers, some prospective customers, some tire kickers and one troll.  

What we’ve learned…

 - These are people on our website that are engaged and may not have otherwise sent an email with their comment or question.  

- Our onboarding sucks and we didn’t realize how bad until we saw how many people were asking how it works and how to get started.

- Our name is polarizing.  Some people love it but it scares others.

- 50% of the questions are about pricing and we didn’t display a pricing link on page.  We’re going to run A/B tests for a few of the scenarios we have.

- 25 of these conversations led to direct signups and subscriptions.

- Managing these conversations take time and I don’t know if it will be sustainable for me to be the only one managing our queue.  

- A lot of our traffic is stemming from articles written on us back in April.

- People aren’t patient when they start a chat and I’m not able to reply within a few seconds.  Managing expectations here with a queue is important.

My wishlist for LiveChat:

- I wish there was an easier way to share a file or screenshot.

- I wish there was a way to do country level targeting.

- I wish there was a way to initiate a voice call or screen share.

I can’t think of a single business that wouldn’t benefit from having LiveChat installed.

Cheers,

Ryan 

Growth Guy at SellHack

17 7 / 2014

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I get asked by lots of folks to make intros to others in my network.  With more connections to nurture than physically possible, I actually enjoy making intros.  Why?

  1. Introductions give me an opportunity to check in with a connection without sending a weak ‘just checking in’ email that wastes everyone’s time.
  2. Introductions give me a chance to position myself to either party as a benefactor.  Unquantified reciprocity is the new quid pro quo.
  3. Introductions are a way to demonstrate my understanding of a potential market/opportunity/problem for the recipient solved by something the requestor is bringing to the table.

On a daily basis, my inboxes fill up, and while I try to get back to every email within 24 hours, there are some that get parked for later.  Introductions can sometimes fall into this category especially when (respectfully):

  1. We haven’t talked in a while (or ever) and I can’t remember what it is you actually do.
  2. You don’t have any social capital built up with me and I don’t want to risk a losing social capital with the person you are requesting an intro to.
  3. I’m busy and don’t want to stop what I am doing to research you, your company, or try to remember how we actually met and what I thought of you or your company.
  4. Timing isn’t right.  For example: if you want an intro to an investor and I’m raising money from them, your ‘new and great’ opportunity could get in the way of mine.  Same is true for a biz dev deal where a partnering company only has bandwidth to engage with one or two new projects/startups in the next 3-6 months.
  5. This is the most selfish reason and one I wouldn’t suggest, but it can happen.  Did you ever ignore or refuse an introduction that I asked for?  Maybe I’ll use this as an opportunity to see if there is anyone you are connected with that I could benefit from meeting.  

Depending on how well I know the person you are trying to meet, I may ask for permission to make the intro before actually making it.  Save me a step, when you ask for the intro, make it forwardable.

So, how do you actually compose the best forwardable email intro?  I’ve broken down the optimal structure (from my experience).

Subject Line: Intro Request: Jeff Lebowski

Intro or Introduction doesn’t really matter here, but I take into consideration the character length limitations for a mobile email client and usually go with Intro.  

First Line of Email:  Hi Ryan, I can’t believe it’s been two years since we sat across from each other at WeWork.  I hope you, Corrie and Jack are enjoying your new home in Cleveland.

Whether I want to admit it or not, the face that you remembered personal details about my family indicates that you a) know me well b) are thorough and detail oriented and/or c) interested enough in the intro to track down the information you think may sway my judgement or time to respond.  You can sweeten this intro with something like, “I have Cavs season tickets and I’d love for you to be my guest at the home opener.”

Next Line: MyCompanyName (http://mycompany.com) works with widget makers like Widget Express and Widget Emporium to automatically scan for defects.  We just did something great and our new product (http://linktonewproduct) is driving some tangible metric that will agitate or excite the intro recipient.

Play to the intro recipient’s interests or motivational points:

  • We work with Competitor A, Competitor B, & Competitor C.
  • We’ve helped a company in this space increase some metric by x% or better yet x dollars.
  • Some other tangible or vanity metric that is going to make your prospect look like a rock star for ‘discovering’ you or at least like a super connected and relevant person for someone to have brought him/her your introduction request.

I see on LinkedIn that you are connected to Jeff Lebowski, VP Operations at WidgetsRUs (http://linktosocialprofile).  Would you please connect us via email?

I like asking for an email intro because, in my experience, automated intros via other ‘social networks’ tend to get lost in the shuffle, ignored, or responded to much later than email.  When I get asked for intros, often they are to people I don’t know incredibly well or haven’t worked with in a while, and I may need to do a quick refresher on how I know that person. I like to include the link to the person’s network profile, so, if the person is like me and wants to do quick research, they have a link at their fingertips.

Cheers/Best/Regards,

 Ryan O’Donnell                                                                

Growth at SellHack.com                                                                        

Rest of Contact Info

I prefer not using ‘Thanks in Advance’ as it’s an assumptive close and runs the risk of being negatively perceived.  Your personality can really be summed up in the words you choose in the sign off.  I don’t read a ton into it but some folks do.

Ultimately, know who you are reaching out to for an intro and who the end recipient is.  You are a person, not a robot.  People buy from and invest capital in people they know like and trust (capital comes in many forms - time, money, attention).  

The last intro I requested was blocked when the recipient declined an intro.  It happens and I have thick skin.  I also hack SellHack to get his email address, so there will be a politely persistent follow-up a few weeks from now to the gentlemen with a better approach and value proposition.  

*This post has no scientific basis other than my own personal experience.  Please share your tips, tricks, advice and hacks in the comments.

Cheers,

Ryan (& the SellHack Team)

25 6 / 2014

Sometimes, it’s just better to email.

22 4 / 2014

So, this whole ordeal with LinkedIn may end up being a blessing in disguise. We got to meet some really interesting folks who used or want to use our technology. The legal team at LinkedIn was cordial, professional and were quick to re-activate my personal/professional member account after we complied with their requests.
Before getting shut down, our costs were growing day by day and we were going back and forth trying to sort out a pricing model so we could at least cover our costs. We spent that last few weeks focusing on what we did really well (verify emails) and how we can get the basic functionality back into the hands of people who need it to do their jobs better.

Everyone will have a free account on SellHack which has a limited number of email verification credits. We priced our service starting at effectively 2 Lattes per month to make sure that everyone had fair access to a service depending on their monthly needs.

We had to make a few changes to the workflow and I PROMISE, this is just the beginning of a much more robust product. Our API will be ready this week, so drop us an email if you want access. We have a solid product development plan, but if there is functionality you can’t live without, please let us know.

Email verification by SellHack is open for business.

- Cheers,

SellHack Team

01 4 / 2014

We learned a lot in the last 24 hours which calls for a more analytical retrospect. For the sake of this post I’m going to stick to bullets as there is a lot to communicate and we had more signups today than in our first 60 days combined!

- We received a C&D letter from LinkedIn on 3/31.
- This is not an April Fools hoax.
- SellHack plugin no longer works on LinkedIn pages.
- We only processed publicly visible data from LinkedIn based on your profile permissions…all of which has been deleted.
- LinkedIn stated: “No member data has been put at risk as a result of Sell Hack.”
- We are building a better product that does not conflict with LinkedIn’s TOS.
- We’ve been described as sneaky, nefarious, no good, not ‘legitimate’ amongst other references by some. We’re not.  We’re dads from the midwest who like to build web and mobile products that people use.
- Recently been lauded with love (196x), awesome (87x) , ‘you guys f*cking rock’ (3x) amongst others.
- There are 300+ unanswered emails (and growing) in my inbox asking why the button isn’t working. We’ll get back to you before we sleep. Promise.
- We hit a previously record month for signups in one day!
- You are awesome!
- What else would you like to see since we’re taking a fresh look at things?

- Sell Hack Team

26 3 / 2014

Great infographic from the UnderCover Recruiter: http://theundercoverrecruiter.com/infographic-how-recruiters-use-social-media-screen-applicants/

Great infographic from the UnderCover Recruiter: http://theundercoverrecruiter.com/infographic-how-recruiters-use-social-media-screen-applicants/

27 2 / 2014

Once upon a time we took the 6 Train to Canal St. and made our way to the top floor of 154 Grand St to join 20-30 other entrepreneurs working on pre or post ‘startup accelerator’ stage companies in WeWork Labs.  We joined a few months before WeWork went through a massive expansion. Jesse Middleton and Matt Shampine led the charge expanding the Labs 3-5x and taking up a new space just cross town on Varick St.

I met Scott Britton at the original Labs while he was working on Sfter before joining Single Platform.  Scott was early in the game teaching Skillshare classes.  My favorite was the 30+ Life Hacks where the most useful trick (imho) helped to procure a free cup of Starbucks whenever my caffeine levels were running low.

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Scott went on to perfect his Biz Dev craft at Single Platform and leveraged his teaching skills to put together a great Udemy Course on Cold Emailing For Startups.  There are a ton of best practices like making sure you follow-up with a cold email within 3-7 days of sending and the art of getting an internal referral.  I highly recommend taking this course.  SellHack wasn’t around when Scott first put this course together but it’s certainly a tool you can use along with a lot of the other email best practices to get the right message to the right person at the right time.

Happy Hacking!

-The SellHack Team (follow us)