Monday, 28 July 2014

Insightly For Python And Google App Engine

Building custom apps and integrations with Insightly is now easier than ever thanks to our Python client library. This library makes building apps around our web API super easy, as easy as:

from insightly import Insightly
i = Insightly(apikey=’your api key’)
contacts = i.getContacts(orderby=’DATE_UPDATED_UTC desc’)
for c in contacts:
 doSomethingWith(c)

The library handles all of the low level details of communicating with our API, so you can focus on your custom app or integration. You can find the Python library at github.com/insightly/python

We’ve also built a sample app based on the Python library that runs as-is on Google App Engine. The sample app demonstrates how to capture information from web forms, to convert requests for more information into Insightly Contacts and Insightly Tasks. App Engine is a easy to use yet highly scalable PaaS (platform as a service) environment. It scales automatically to handle user demand, and virtually eliminates system administration overhead. You can find the source code and docs at github.com/insightly/appenginedemo

Want to make some extra money? We’re looking to hire developers to build client libraries for other major development environments, including Java, .NET, PHP, Ruby and others. If you’re experienced in a popular development environment and already have experience working with our REST API, drop a line to brian@insight.ly to learn more.

Track Your Data Through the Funnel

Some businesses believe that the phrase “sales funnel” is just another business buzzword.  This may be because many of the businesses that use it, aren’t managing it effectively.  When this occurs, critical problems arise such as lost data, lead spamming and poor customer satisfaction.  By using an online CRM to effectively manage your sales funnel, you can turn these problems around.

Why You Need a Sales Funnel
The sales funnel was created as a way for sales and marketing to track leads and contacts through every stage from prospect to buyer.  By using the sales funnel, marketers can sift through prospects and classify them as qualified, or unqualified before passing them on to sales.  This eliminates the “cold-calling” reputation that sales agents were previously known for.  Since the agent knows the contact is already interested, they can use the information gathered on the contact record by marketing to assist them in the sale.  If the buyer isn’t interested at the time that sales calls them, the lead is passed back through the funnel or kicked out of it.  However, in order for the funnel to remain effective, it has to be managed.

Why Your Funnel Has Leaks
Sales funnels that aren’t managed effectively are counterproductive.  They can actually make a bad situation much worse, resulting in lost sales, frustrated leads and a poor brand reputation. If you’re currently experiencing these problems you may have leaks in your sales funnel.

The following items are common precursors to funnel leaks:

  • Not contacting qualified leads from marketing. (According to CRM Search, 80% of marketing generated leads generated are ignored by sales.)
  • Pursuing unqualified leads.
  • Not knowing a lead’s status.
  • Not following up with leads.
How Customer Relationship Management Can Help
What’s clear from the above section, is that most leaks affect leads/contacts.  Whether it’s calling leads that are unqualified or forgetting to follow up, leaks in the sales funnel will drive down sales and could even damage your reputation.  To keep your funnel free of leaks, you need a CRM system. A CRM system, tracks and organizes data through the sales funnel. It gives every team member the same view of the sales funnel, so any updates or notes are immediately visible.

As soon as a contact becomes qualified, the information is passed through the funnel directly to sales to contact the prospective customer. This eliminates the need to look through various systems for information, which is one of the largest precursors to sales funnel leaks.  A successful CRM also provides calendaring systems that allow agents to schedule events, tasks, and important milestones.  The Insightly CRM provides alerts and notifications of new emails and follow-ups, this way you never miss any changes with your leads.

Since web CRMs work in the cloud, you can access your sales funnel from any device with WiFi connection. If you need to update the status of a sale, you can do so from this device without having to update it again at work. All of your team members have access to your changes, allowing you to effectively, track data through the funnel.

Thinking about a CRM to manage your sales funnel?  Try Insightly's free account or sign up for a 14 day trial to test drive our premium features.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Tips on How to Close a Difficult Sale

From time to time you may run into that one lead that just refuses to budge.  No matter what you say, it seems to drive them backwards instead of forward.  This is a sales agent’s worst nightmare, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few tips to coach you through those difficult sales and to prevent pushing them further away.

Approach Each Buyer as a Unique Person
This is the hardest step for sales agents to remember.  At times, you get so caught up in “processing” that you start to look at every buyer as just another buyer.  However, when you run across that one buyer that refuses to budge from the “lead” zone, panic sets in.  If you really want to shift them through the funnel, you have to treat them as individuals.  Get to know your lead.  Do some background research on them using social data -- two great sources of this information is LinkedIn (or other social channels) and their company website.

Sell them on the Value of Your Products
Do you really know what you’re products are worth?  Not in terms of price, but in terms of usage.  If you’re not sure, think of it like this:  If you were looking for a product like the one you’re selling, why would you need it?  What problems would it solve for your business?  What problems could it possibly prevent?  Once you derive at the answer, analyze your demographic and decide if they have similar problems.  Another way to gain insight into your demographic is to ask them question.  Ask them why they’re interested in the product and what they plan to use it for.  Once you find out the answer, you have the leverage to sell them a vision of how it can solve this problem.

Ooze Energy
If you aren’t enthusiastic about your products, why would your prospects be?  In order to effectively close a sale, you need to bring some energy to the call.  However, it’s important to strike a fine balance between energy and hyperactivity.  If you come across as “too energetic” or hyper as it were, your leads will think you’re trying too hard and they won’t trust your motives.  Entrepreneur magazine says you should do thefollowing to remain high energetic and trustworthy:

  • Focus on the positive and celebrate how far you’ve come.
  • Increase your physical activity outside of the office. (If your building has a gym, use it!) Physical activity releases endorphins that make you feel relaxed and less stressed.
  • Fish for compliments
By following the above steps you’ll not only improve your energy through difficult sales, but also in future sales.  Who knows, you may also leverage a referral or two!

Are you working from a CRM system? If not, this could very well be the problem. An online CRM system streamlines all of your customer data into one centralized app, making it easier for you to access. It also makes it easier for you to keep track of your leads and to boost productivity time. All of this of course, improves customer satisfaction, which drives sales, boosts lead generation and solidifies brand loyalty.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Partner Post: Don’t Send That Proposal Yet!



If you’re using Insightly, one of that ways you’re probably using it is to track and close deals. (That’s one of the best things about Insightly’s free plan - it does everything!)

Keeping track of your contacts is a handy feature in any CRM system, but it’s a means-to-an-end. CRM is how businesses get business deals done.

But, there’s one factor that stands between most sales professionals and a “Closed Won” opportunity - your proposal. And there are four questions that most sales professionals completely neglect to ask, resulting in the non-closing of their proposals.

1. “Why this quarter?” - One of the most basic implication questions that a sales professional can ask is the “Why Now?” question. If every stakeholder on your prospective customer’s team (usually 4 to 14 different people) can’t give a good reason that the project needs to happen this quarter, then you can press “pause.”

No need to be harsh and try to kill the deal. You can simply say, “It looks like we’re good on scoping for now. Since it does not look like the project is urgent, shall we schedule a final scoping meeting 12 weeks from now?”

Do not write this proposal.

2. “Which delivery date is best for your team - X,Y, or Z?” - The real goal of this question is not to find out the proposal delivery date. It’s to acquire information on any hidden decision-makers. This method comes from Alan Weiss’s Million Dollar Consulting Proposals.

By using a set proposal window (usually 48 or 72 hours), and offering the prospect a choice of dates to deliver it on, the prospect will often say something like, “Oh, gee, next Wednesday won’t work because my boss’s boss Randy is out on vacation.”

If you’ve never met with Randy before, then he’s the real economic decision-maker, and you’ve got some serious homework to do, before writing that proposal.

3. “Our decision-making team is me, my manager Bob and his manager Jennifer. Who’s on your decision-making team?” If the prospective customer does not want to tell you who is on their decision-making team, that’s a red flag. Don’t write that proposal.

Generally the prospective customer will give you an answer that includes one or two people that you have not heard of yet. Thank them profusely - they may have just saved a deal that you nearly lost. Then, track down those people that you have not met, and interview them about the project to gather feedback BEFORE writing that proposal.

4. “Our proposals come in a special format so your team can suggest changes and rev it with us if changes need to be made. Who on the team should be authorized to see the proposal and add comments to it?” - If you don’t know who will be reading and editing the proposal, then you’re missing information on the economic-decision-makers on your deal. Always learn this information before sending a proposal.

Once you're ready to send the deal to your prospect for signature.  What's the best way to do it?  Well Insightly is now integrated with the PandaDoc!  If you're an Insightly user, you can now have all of your Insightly contacts auto-synced (every 30 minutes) with PandaDoc.  For example, if you want to know:

- when each customer or prospective customer looks at your proposal
- how long they look at it for AND
- who has not looked at it

then give the Insightly/PandaDoc integration a try. It’s free to use, and you can even get more documents by telling a friend.  Speaking of winning proposals from PandaDoc … Why not get 3 free documents to start with (you can even get 3 more with a tweet). No credit card is required, and you’ll be up and running in minutes.

About the Author: Adam Metz is the author of Amazon #1 internet-marketing best-seller The Social Customer, and the VP of Business Development at PandaDoc. He’s a veteran sales executive who’s carried a million-plus sales quota for a Fortune 500 company (CDW) and run a sales channel for a Google Apps eco-system startup, UberConference.


Monday, 7 July 2014

Partner Post: Bootstrapping Your Marketing Automation

Marketing automation is a big industry these days – and for good reason. With each task you automate, the more human capital you can allocate to value-added activities. The problem is that these systems often come with big price tags. For many small businesses, the value proposition of implementing a marketing automation system simply doesn’t add up.

The good news is that Insightly users can reap many of the benefits that a marketing automation system provides by combining a few (budget-friendly) third party tools. In this article, I'll offer my tips for doing so and show you how to automate more aspects of your sales and marketing activities.

What is Marketing Automation?
At a high level marketing automation streamlines customer outreach and customer response by replacing high-touch, repetitive manual processes with automated solutions.  Here's an example:  when someone self-identifies by filling out a form on your website, you most likely receive an email notification with his or her contact details. What happens next? If you’re like most business owners, you probably flag it in your inbox or forward it to your sales manager for follow up. Hours or perhaps even days go by before the prospect gets a phone call or follow up email from your organization, simply because your team is too busy. By then, the prospect has already contacted two or three of your competitors and long forgotten about your company.

Define Your Goals
I’ve been involved with several marketing automation launches. Unfortunately, many clients get excited and try to do too much at once instead of laying out a realistic timeline of priorities. When bootstrapping your marketing automation, you need to be particularly aware of your goals before moving forward. You’ll be piecing together several different third-party software applications, so it’s crucial you start with the end in mind.

Always remember that you won’t be completely automated overnight. It may take weeks, months, or even years of tweaking and building new campaigns (and even then you’ll still come up with more ideas).

Here are a few short-term goals that may make sense as a starting point for your automation:

•    Send nurture emails to new leads who meet certain criteria
•    Automatically tag certain leads based on pre-defined criteria
•    Automatically send new web leads to Insightly

Develop an Implementation Plan
So reviewing the example above, when someone completes a form on your website, make sure you have a place other than your inbox to capture the information.  You can use Insightly's web to contact capability to have that lead automatically captured in your online CRM.  Then you can you start your marketing automation process by fully exploring Insightly’s out-of-the-box integration with MailChimp (for paid Insightly users). As pointed out in this MailChimp video, with the click of a button you can instantly add Insightly contacts to any MailChimp list. This opens up many different doors for your organization, particularly with regard to lead nurturing. As you may know, MailChimp’s auto responder feature is quite useful for configuring effective drip email campaigns. Sending opt-in contacts to an autoresponder list can be a great way to get started with marketing automation.

Once you’ve implemented your first MailChimp campaign, you may also want to explore additional third party integrations. I am particularly fond of Zapier, which is an amazing service that simplifies the connectivity of various web applications. In fact, at last count you can connect over 250 web apps to achieve your goals. Want to automatically set appointments on your sales rep’s Google Calendar for new Insightly leads? Or how about automatically sending sales call notes from Google Drive to contact records in Insightly? No problem. With a free Zapier account, you can literally automate virtually every aspect of your sales and marketing – to and from Insightly.

One important note here – although Zapier is relatively intuitive to use, it may be wise to hire a consultant to help you successfully implement these integrations. Here are some additional free resources to help you with that process.

Bringing It All Together
Marketing automation is all about helping your organization win more business with less effort. Insightly offers your business a great opportunity to do exactly that. Start simple, stay focused, and in no time you’ll be on your way to becoming a highly automated company.

About the Author:  Matt Keener is a marketing professional, specializing in marketing strategy and efficient, cost effective outsourcing best practices.