Telecom sales is a competitive sport, but it can be just as much about collaboration as it is about competition. LinkedIn forums offer sales and SMB professionals the chance to share tips and success stories. Following these forums will help you keep up with the latest Sales and SMB topics.
B2B Lead Roundtable
Brian Carroll, author of Lead Generation for the Complex Sale, originally created this group to expand the interactivity of his blog, B2B Lead Roundtable Blog. In addition to user generated topics on things ranging from best practices to lead scoring, you will also find links to great B2B webinars. Be sure to follow Carroll’s regular blog as well, where he and guest bloggers offer ideas on improving your B2B marketing.
You may have heard of Inbound Marketing University, which offers training tools for internet marketing professionals. This company also hosts a forum where people discuss internet marketing topics including things like the use of QR codes, which social media outlets have been successful for which industries, and what has changed in SEO.
SMB IT Connection
Although many small and medium businesses share the same challenges, the technology industry often requires unique solutions. SMB IT Connection offers a forum for small and medium business leaders to discuss IT solutions. Members of this group share a combination of IT related information and marketing ideas. You will find topics anywhere from branding your small business to overcoming road blocks in the IT sales process.
Sales Best Practices
This forum for Sales Professionals, boasting over 82,000 members, focuses on the art of the sale. Whether you’re looking for ideas on sales development, prospecting handling, sales automation, or closing strategies, this is the place for you.
Sales Motivation Research
The stated objective of this group is to develop three new models of sales motivation, focusing on the factors of motivation vs. de-motivation, job satisfaction vs. job dissatisfaction, and personal improvement. If you are interested in participating in a study of sales professionals, you will find information on the group’s profile. However, the group discussion is where you’ll find ideas on starting conversations when cold calling and getting past gatekeepers.
As the adage goes, business is all about who you know. Being plugged in to the right LinkedIn forums can offer you similar advantages to knowing all of the right people. Which forums do you follow that help in your telecom sales efforts? Tell us about them below.
Every telecom agent worries about their businesses surviving and thriving, especially in a world where outcomes are uncertain and technologies are changing so rapidly. As Charles Darwin pointed out, those that adapt to changing environments will thrive while those that do not will get left behind. While he referred specifically to physical environments, the same concept holds true in business.
Telecom and technology are rapidly evolving. You may feel a little lost, or scared, or you may still be in denial, holding on to the old ways of doing things and hoping its enough to see you through.
In this new “Information Age,” knowledge is king. Staying up to date on the latest developments in telecom, technology, sales techniques and running a small business will give you an advantage over the competition. The implementation of that knowledge? Well, that’s up to you. But finding it and filtering out the noise is a very big and important first step.
Help Is on the Way
That’s why we will dedicate the next several blog posts to finding, filtering, and organizing the best and most current information out there. All these posts will be written with you, the telecom sales agent, in mind. We will be covering topics such as:
- Top Telecom Professionals to follow on Twitter
- Top Sales/SMB Professionals to follow on Twitter
- Top Telecom Forums to follow on LinkedIn
- Top Sales/SMB Professionals Forums to follow on LinkedIn
- How to Use LinkedIn for Prospecting
- Top Telecom Blogs and Newsletters to Subscribe To
- Establishing and Expanding a Telecom Agent Brand that Sells
And much more. Is there a topic you’d specifically like us to cover? Leave your ideas in the comments below.
“Salesforce.com”: The mere sound of it makes sales people salivate, while making telecom company CFO’s and business owners pucker. Salesforce.com is an incredibly powerful CRM…the best and most versatile on the market by far. It is also extremely expensive when looked at as an option for many small businesses. Don’t be fooled with the bait and switch strategy. The “starter” packages in Salesforce.com ARE missing those 2 or 3 components that your business really needs, but may not be willing to pay for.
What’s the alternative for your telecom business? Driving blind is one alternative, although not optimal. Zoho CRM is a wonderful SAAS (software as a service) CRM package that is very similar to Salesforce.com, at a fraction of the price. I am a bit shocked that Salesforce.com has never sued Zoho for the similarities between the two.
With Zoho, you get almost a fully functionality, and HIGHLY customizable CRM, for free for the first 3 users. This is perfect for business owners looking to test-drive a new software package. Here are just a few of the features included with the Free Addition (3 users)
- Salesforce Automation
- Marketing Automation
- Customer Support
- Inventory Management
- Common Features (tasks, events, etc)
- Web Forms
- File Storage
- Data Administration
Additional users are only $12/month per user. Full functionality is available for only $25/month per user (compare with Salesforce.com at $65 per user)
The best aspect of Salesforce.com is how easy it is to setup and get started and how incredibly easy it is to customize. Zoho has almost identical setup and customization features, at almost 1/3 – 1/5 of the price. Of course, Salesforce.com has MANY more bells and whistles and can do FAR more than Zoho for advanced users. But for users who want moderate CRM package functionality, that is easy to customize for their unique business processes, and that can be found at a reasonable cost, ZohoCRM is a great solution.
Go here to compare Salesforce.com features and pricing with ZohoCRM:
True, neither Salesforce.com nor ZohoCRM is as robust, streamlined, and useful, in terms of commission management and channel management, as channel management tools like RPM software ( http://rpmsoftware.com ). If you’re not part of a master agency like Intelisys, that offers RPM software for free to its agents, ZohoCRM is a fantastic alternative. Some companies use both.
If you need visibility into the sales efforts of your telecom sales team and you have a lot of money to invest, go with Salesforce.com (and of course integrate with channel management and commission manageent tools like RPM). But if you’re on a budget, and don’t want to make a large commitment just yet, Zoho CRM is a fantastic solution.
“TECHNOLOGY”: Its the big, hairy, 300 pound gorilla, staring small telecom business owners down…just daring them to challenge this hairy beast to a no-holds bar, knock down, drag out brawl. Why bother, right?
Technology can help your telecom business propel to the next level, as long as you choose the right software.
For basic project management, you will not find a better mix of simplicity and usefulness than you will with a nifty SAAS software called Comindwork. Whether you are a sole proprietorship, or have 50 employees, this incredible FREE piece of software will keep you and your telecom company on track and on top of every task.
As said before, you can sign up for free. After a certain amount of activity within your account, you’ll need to upgrade. But it takes a while.
Customize your Comindwork account with your company’s colors and logo. Sign up as many employees as you want, and dive right in and start using the program. It’s that easy. Set up different customers, assign tasks to be completed for each customer, assign % complete to each task, and customize screen views to see exactly what you want to see, and nothing more. Create Wiki’s for each customer/project to collect and store intellectual property and new employee discoveries. Comindwork has a time tracking module, milestone tracker, and robust Gantt chart as well (yes, this might be overkill for your business…but its still there).
You’ll be able to see exactly what the open items are for each project/customer you are working on. In addition, you can view the percentage complete for each employee you have working on each customer/project. You’ll get an entire snapshot of what your company needs to get done and by whom, on one screen at any point in time. That should make any business owner or manager sleep much better at night.
Important: While Comindwork is a great tool for managing internal and external projects and employees, it is NOT a tool best used to manage customers (inventories, services, fees, and customers reports and visibility). Telecom channel-specific tools like Audex are much better equipped for streamlining and providing the crucial visibility for growing agencies in these arenas. Optimally, some combination of Audex and Comindwork would be used to maximize efficiencies and visibility both inside and outside a company.
For any of you on the BasecampHQ bandwagon, this project management software blows basecamp completely out of the water. Basecamp is EASIER to use for tech newbies, but Comindwork is much more robust for those willing to take a few more minutes to learn.
The Web site is:
That big, hairy 300 pound technology gorilla staring you down, may not be looking to fight you. If it’s the right 300 pound gorilla, it may just be looking to dance with you instead.
When talking with top producing telecom agents over the years, I hear the same story over and over. “Growing my telecom business is MUCH harder than I thought it would be.”
If you’ve ever read The e-Myth by Michael Gerber (which I HIGHLY recommend any small business owner read), you’ll learn that every small business owner runs into the same problems. Telecom business ownership is not all fun and games. As you grow, small problems become HUGE. Huge problems then become gargantuan problems, and so on.
So how do you grow a company sustainably? The best companies that grow effectively over time utilize a 5 step approach in everything they do. EVERYTHING. Those companies experiencing constant growing pains (and thus profitability pains), are almost always systematically missing out on one of these 5 steps.
The Five Essential Steps for Growing Your Telecom Business
- Goals: Everyone knows about goals. The Gurus teach goal-setting ad nauseum. Everyone likes to set goals because all it really takes is some imagination and some ambition. Most companies do goal-setting reasonably well, especially those run by experienced sales persons.
- Strategy: Make a plan, and go after it. Simple. Most companies do this well too.
- Accountability: This is where most companies begin to break down. At your company, is more than one person accountable for the same task? Does your company utilize job descriptions? Do employees know what they are accountable for? Do you have regularly scheduled evaluations with employees? If not, your telecom company may be a bit chaotic.
- Measuring and Monitoring: If it can’t be measured, it can’t be improved. Sales targets are easy to measure. What about customer service levels? What about operational efficiencies? What about employee morale? Turnover? etc. If you are not measuring every level of your telecom business, you are probably operating extremely inefficiently…and are losing money as a result.
- Consequences: This is the big one that most telecom business owners drop the ball on. If the goals are not achieved,…
- …because the strategies are not implemented…
- …and the right person(s) is/are held accountable…
- …because his/their activity has been measured…
- …are there any negative consequences as a result?
Be it verbal reprimand, pay cuts, lost bonuses, demotions, public embarrassment, or any number of other negative consequences., without this final step, the entire system falls apart. Of course positive consequences for positive results should also be implemented (i.e. promotions, bonuses, pats on the back, public recognition, etc.). Positive consequences are just as important as negative consequences.
Your telecom company growth doesn’t have to be painful. In fact, it can be quite an exhilarating ride. The quicker you learn, and incorporate the five step model in your company business, the quicker you will alleviate your headaches, and dramatically increase your profit margins.