If there's a tool out there that will increase my productivity, I get it. Some have proven to be wastes of time, money and attention, but others have contributed to increased productivity or enjoyment of routine tasks. In this issue of the Win Without Pitching Newsletter I cover five tools of the trade that anyone charged with growing an agency should consider to help optimize performance. Please note that I have no formal relationship with any of the companies or products mentioned here and I do not benefit financially from discussing them. I mention them because my clients and/or I have found them helpful.
Tool #1: The Call Log
Got a messy desk? Have trouble finding notes from your telephone calls? Don't like to type while you talk for fear of sounding like a call center? Consider the call log. I first started using a call log years ago when I thought I was going to have to sue my employer. I wanted documentation of as much of my activity as possible, including every telephone conversation. A friend suggested a simple call log in which I made handwritten notes on every inbound and outbound call. While I never did have to use it for legal reasons, it had an immediate effect on my organization and productivity, starting with cleaning off my desktop. It's deceptively simple: a sheet of columns and rows that record date/time, person/company, phone number, whether it's an inbound or outbound call, if a voicemail message was left, and any notes, message or action required. Here's a link to file. Print 50 at a time and put them in a three ring binder. Page two of the file is an example of the call log in use (typed – there's no way you could read my handwriting!) Use a highlighter to indicate actions that need to be taken or moved to your to-do list. For me, nothing has contributed to greater organization than the call log.
Tool #2: The Headset
A telephone is a tool used in labor, while a headset is a toy used in games. No business development person should be without a headset. There are many makes and models and the type you are able to use will be determined by your phone system. I own a few headsets (Plantronics, Motorola and others) but my favorite is the wireless GN Netcom 9120 (www.gnnetcom.com). It offers impeccable sound quality and a variety of sound adjustment options. Being wireless, it lets me wander 100 yards from my desk, which is pretty handy when you're office is next to the beach. GN Netcom makes other less-expensive models too. The wireless component of the 9120 might be overkill when doing repeated dials (you cannot dial from the headset but with the optional remote handset lifter you can answer) but I personally find a sizeable psychological benefit in being unchained from the desk. Last year while wandering around outside in the middle of one long qualifying call I saw something out of the corner of my eye and reached down to grab it. The prospect was then interrupted with my child-like yell of, “Hey, I caught a snake!” (Value: priceless.) I've only run the rechargeable battery dead once – after almost nine hours of talk time.
Tool #3: The List
A good list is a must. You can build your own but I find it's almost always more efficient to buy, provided you can find a good supplier. Here are the four that I recommend most, in no particular order.
Advertising Redbooks (www.redbooks.com)
The 100-year Advertising Redbooks contains information on 18,000 U.S. and international advertisers who each spend more than $200,000 annually on advertising. Fully updated every year, with minor updates throughout. Available in print, CD or online delivery. Redbooks parent LexisNexis has also just released a Global Brand Guide that features contact, key personnel and other information on over 25,000 companies representing 180,000 brand names. The Global Brand Guide is currently available in print only.
The List, Inc. (www.thelistinc.com)
Like Advertising Redbooks, The List specializes in building business development lists for marketing communication agencies. Their focus is on marketing decision-makers at companies with $60 million in revenue and higher. Their strength is data quality: all data is updated every 120 days. Available online or on CD. The List also offers First Visits, an outsourced appointment-setting service designed to get agencies in front of prospective clients.
The most robust (and expensive) of the solutions listed here, Hoovers Online delivers a depth of information that others do not. Not everybody will find this extra information on board members, company hierarchies and directors' salaries worth the premium price, but most will appreciate the high level of customized searches and the ability to save searches and preferences that are easily retrieved once you log on. If you like Salesforce.com, you'll love Hoovers Online. Hoovers is owned by D&B, which also owns Zapdata (www.zapdata.com), a more affordable, scaled down version of Hoovers Online.
A list broker is often the place to turn for more elusive or obscure niches like professionals, not-for-profits or small businesses. There are plenty of list brokers but InfoUSA is the biggest. Need a list of Catholic priests, airplane owners, or Wisconsin dentists? They're your source. They're primarily a B2C resource, but InfoUSA has contact information for over 100,000 marketing executives and 4,000,000 small business owners. They also have email and fax lists.
Tool #4: The Qualification Questionnaire
If your objective or destination in your meetings and telephone calls is to determine a fit between the two parties, then your road map to that destination is the qualification questionnaire. Another simple but valuable tool, your qualification questionnaire is your list of 20 questions, 5 in each of the four areas where you need information to determine how close someone is to buying. (For more information on this subject see Four Keys to Qualifying, archived on our site.) Your questionnaire is not a script, and the questions are not mandatory; they are merely options that you are free to choose from in the middle of your call, broken into four areas of Need vs. Supply, Decision Makers, Timeframe, and Budget. You'll find an example here. Use it to build your own. A qualification call without a qualification questionnaire is like a trip through foreign lands without a map.
Tool #5: The Web Conference
In last month's issue on Lowering Your Cost of Sale I mentioned web conferencing as an alternative to travel. Agencies that use process-framed case studies to demonstrate their defined methodologies live by web conferencing because it allows them to present their detailed case studies to the prospect without having to part with them. At the end of the presentation the client is left with nothing concrete that he can share with his peers or use to make an apples-to-apples comparison with work from other agencies. This leaves the agency in control of what happens next.
The range of web conferencing options is wide, with simple desktop sharing on one end of the spectrum, and comprehensive feedback mechanisms of whiteboarding, IM chatting and instant polling on the more robust end. Some even offer VOIP, recording for future playback, and multiple-party video. For our purposes these add-on options are unnecessary. You want a simple desktop sharing solution that is extremely easy for the client to access (nothing to download or figure out) at an affordable price.
Glance Networks (www.glance.net) and GoTo Meeting (www.gotomeeting.com) are the slimmest, easiest to use and cheapest to run, but while your prospectsT will be able to view your presentation from any machine or browser, the meeting must be hosted by a Windows machine. Mac and Linux users have fewer options, but among them is GatherPlace (www.gatherplace.com), one of the simpler and more affordable cross-platform choices. GatherPlace also offers free phone conferencing and integration into your own website.
I don't recommend adding a video component to your web conference (I find it distracting), but if you or the prospect insists on it, consider Macromedia Breeze Meeting (www.adobe.com/products/breeze). It's Flash-based, slick and you can select the pay-per-use option at 32 cents per user per minute with no monthly commitment. It's available as integrated software or as a hosted solution.
The call log, the headset, the list, the qualification questionnaire and the web conference are my top five picks for tools of the trade. If you've got others that you'd like to share with me for a future issue, please let me know. Look for a contact management software review later this year. As always, I'm happy to hear your feedback.