Friday, May 22, 2015

Microsoft Community Connections: 8 tips to turn cold calls into warm introductions

Ringing up total strangers to chat about your business and persuade them to set up a meeting is very hard to do.

Simply picking up the phone takes courage. But turning cold calls into actual sales calls — that takes confidence and thick skin as well as skill.

Prospects may react with hostility or courtesy, but that won't change the odds. You face a firestorm of rejection for every spark of interest you ignite. Even seasoned salespeople shudder at the thought of cold calling. Plus, with many marketers reluctant to take risks these days, the challenges of cold calling are even greater, especially for startup entrepreneurs.

"Your #1 competition right now is the status quo. Every buyer will ask, 'Does buying this product make sense for me?' You've got to give him that reason,” says Stephan Schiffman, author of the best-selling Cold Calling Techniques (That Really Work!).

When done right, with smart research, scripts, presentation, and delivery, cold calls do land business— even if money is tight.

Here are eight expert tips to help your cold calls yield some hot results.

1. Aggressively target your buyers.

The more you can define your markets, the greater your chances of differentiating your business and gaining access to decision makers. "Too many new business owners don't write a business plan, or they just do one for bankers, so it doesn't cover marketing very well," says Jim Brown, Executive Director of the Russ Berrie Institute for Professional Sales at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J. Entrepreneurs often skip the upfront work of narrowly identifying markets appropriate for their services. As a result, sales efforts are all over the map. "It's a waste of time," says Brown. It’s also a waste of money. Every owner should have a plan. Until you know the companies or consumer markets that are ripe to buy your wares, don't pick up the phone. You need to distinguish yourself and your company from random telemarketers.

2. Invest in research.

At Benefitfocus.com, an application service provider of employee benefits, the sales team is trained to suggest solutions to client problems rather than to simply present online demonstrations. "More often than not, sales associates are in competition with 'the way it has always been done,’” explains Bob Stevens, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for the Charleston, N.C.–based company. “Our sales associates are encouraged to research a company they are going to cold call, so they know something about the company's business and their human resources needs."

3. Craft a good script—and use it.

You can't wing it. Despite the fact that you're passionate about your fledgling business, communicating the benefits of your product takes distinct skills. With limited time on the phone, a written script lets you focus on points you want to make. In a few short sentences, you must provide both a description of your services and compelling reasons why the prospect should buy your product. You can then move on to secondary benefits or news. "The script shouldn't be word for word," says New York sales trainer Wendy Weiss, author of Cold Calling for Women: Opening Doors and Closing Sales. "It's a way to prepare yourself for the conversation. You decide ahead of time how you want to present yourself, what reaction you want to get, and how to ask for what you want." Be ready to counter possible objections with specific explanations, statistics, or case studies. If an objection is raised that you hadn't anticipated, react as best you can. Then write it down and prepare a detailed response before the next call. ”Not everyone is born a salesperson. Luckily, there are things you can do to improve those skills, like hiring a coach or reading a book," Weiss says.

4. Warm up every cold call.

It helps if you don't start on thin ice. Before calling, send the prospect a smart, useful introductory notice. "You should send a short, personal letter saying something like, 'I'd like to introduce myself. I've developed a new product, and I specialize in your industry. I'll be calling,'" says Brown. "Wait two days after they've gotten the letter, then call." There are obviously many introductory options, depending on your targets and products. "When possible, we precede calls with a mail or email campaign," says John Rarrick, a marketing consultant in Nyack, N.Y. "This allows us to use introductory phrases such as 'Hi, I'm just following up on the brochure we sent you. Did you receive it?'“ White papers or special reports are useful for consulting services; introductory discounts may stand out for suppliers or retailers. Make sure you enclose a note describing your services and indicating that you'll be calling in a few days to gauge interest. Then, promptly follow up.

5. Be nice to the gatekeepers.

An executive screener's job is to guard the inner sanctum. Becoming irritated, frustrated, or rude with such assistants will only hurt your business. Think through strategies to get gatekeepers to open doors. Create a friendly mood. Learn screeners' names and preferences. By making the gatekeeper an ally, you'll win access more easily.

6. Practice, practice, practice.

As with most skills, the more cold calling you do, the better you'll get. Rehearse your pitch out loud with friends or associates. Some experts suggest standing during calls in order to give your voice authority and energy. Everyone always says smile while you talk, because that will be also conveyed in your voice. Some trainers advise facing a mirror so you can see when your energy or body language flags, and you can adjust. All such strategies attempt to substitute for the usual visual clues of conversation, which some studies pinpoint as 80 percent of how people communicate. Whatever helps you infuse warmth and confidence in the calls, try it. Weiss suggests dividing all your leads into A, B, and C lists: "Practice on the C’s before calling the A’s."

7. Then customize your delivery.

Don't become too attached to any particular script or language. Once you have a framework, you must be able to fine-tune it to fit individual prospects. Every customer has specialized needs and preferences. Edit your calling script to hit nerves for each new audience. Make sure you're up to speed about your community and industry or market news. You want to sound plugged-in and connected whenever you call prospects.

8. Create warm introductions instead of cold calls.

Make every conversation more relevant with social insights that help you get to know the person behind the contact data. Learn how Dynamics CRM Online can help your business by downloading the free white paper, The ROI of Trust.

Cold calling is difficult and daunting work, but it does pay off. To be successful at cold calling, Weiss says, "You need to be targeted and focused and to call only on those people who are ready to buy."

Microsoft Community Connections: 5 steps to a strong company culture

"Great leaders inspire. They pull in talented and high-performing staffers. But behind each powerful leader you'll find something equally powerful: a company culture that motivates people to work hard and stay with the business."

As long as you have a business, you have a company culture. Instead of leaving it to grow on its own, you can nurture it and make it into something that will breed loyalty and motivation. Creating a strong culture—one of fun, sharing, collaboration, and connection—can be done in five simple steps, according to Carol Skube, a Minneapolis-based human resources consultant.

Step 1: Understand

A strong culture is founded on more than just paid lunches or personalized parking spaces. Great leaders understand what is important to their employees. As a business leader, developing a strong company culture starts when you take steps to find out what motivates the people who work for you.

The process of understanding starts with communication. Talk to your employees to find out what you both expect from the job, Skube says. This will help you clarify your expectations of your staff and, in turn, help you learn what motivates them. It will also send a message to your staff that collaboration and communication are important to your company.

As you talk to your employees, you also will learn what's important to them. This understanding will help you build a culture of fun and sharing that is appropriate for your company, rather than one based on your idea of what people might enjoy.

Step 2: Take action

Once you've taken the time to understand your employees, it's time to take action. This follow-through is important, as it shows that you have taken your employees' interests and concerns to heart.

Try this simple exercise: Divide a blank piece of paper into four quadrants labeled fun, sharing, collaboration, and connection. For each heading, brainstorm a list of actions you can implement to improve your company culture in this area. For example, under "fun" you may have things like a Friday drawing for free passes for dinner, a movie, or some other treat.

When you take action, it's important to set yourself up for success. Rather than doing everything at once, try implementing a selection of ideas that you know you can do and do well. Highlight a few of the items from your brainstorming list that you'd like to implement immediately. The rest you can save on a prioritized wish list of things to do later.

Step 3: Involve
A company culture comes from all employees. When it's successful, it's something that you start and that your employees continue.

Ask your employees how they think they can contribute to the success of the business and its culture. Encouraging them to take a personal stake in the company can nurture a new and positive energy, Skube says. When this happens, your employees have gone beyond their day-to-day duties. They now feel responsible for the company's success.

Step 4: Collaborate

At this stage, your employees should be involved in your company culture. Now comes the time to grow, deepen, and further develop it. This is where collaboration really comes into play.

Give your employees the room they need to follow through with their own ideas. This doesn't mean allowing them to go off in all kinds of different directions. In your pivotal role as the leader, it is up to you to oversee and guide this creative force along the right path. Encourage them, but discuss concrete ways of putting ideas into action, and hold them to any agreed-upon action plan.

It's important the employees understand that the perks and benefits they enjoy come as a result of this work. Individuals who view them as an expectation can potentially affect the entire group attitude in a negative way. "Are people going to be held accountable for meeting their objectives and delivering their commitments? If I'm not held accountable, I may or may not do it," Skube says.

Step 5: Demand accountability

Company culture isn't something you start and then ignore. Like a well-tended garden, a strong culture is the result of creativity and care. Make accountability part of your culture, through strong communication and follow-up. Make it easy to communicate with tools like Yammer and Lync Online in Office 365.

You will know if your culture has been built effectively if your employees are not only trying out new ideas but meeting expectations and commitments regularly. Their interests and needs will change as your company grows. Take the time to re-evaluate these motivation factors if you find a change in performance.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

5 Reasons Why You Should Attend Harlem EatUp



Harlem EatUp! is 1 Week Away!
Top Five Reasons To Attend Harlem EatUp!

#1 - Celebrate the culture of Harlem at The Stroll: A Grand Tasting Experience

Harlem vibrates with art, music, dance, style and of course food. Discover all this and more at The Stroll! For the best experience, buy a ticket to The Experience. While live DJ sets play in the background, taste signature bites from 24 Harlem chefs and sample a selection of almost 40 fine wines, 40 beers and a dozen spirits and cocktails. 

#2 - Culinary Demonstrations From Celebrity Chefs

Learn tricks of the trade and new cooking techniques from Marcus Samuelsson, Aaron Sanchez, Scott Conant, and many more on The Avenue at The Stroll! These demonstrations begin at 12:15pm and are presented by Macy's. Seating is limited and available on a first-come basis! 

#3 - Wines, Beers & Spirits Tastings From Over 30 Brands at A Sunday Afternoon & The Experience

Sundays in Harlem are made for family, friends, and wine, spirits and beer! Purchase one of our SIPS packages and sample.... 
Wines from: Banfi, Bedell Cellars, Bordeaux Wine Council, Franciscan Estate, Frederick Wildman, House of Mandela, Kenwood Vineyard, Robert Mondavi Winery, Rosatello, Roscato, and Terra Andina
Beers and Ciders from: Angry Orchard, Blue Moon, Coney Island, Coors Light, Corona Extra, Harlem Brewery, Modelo Especial, Negro Modelo, Pacifico, Palm, Samuel Adams, Shiner,  Smith and Forge, and Victoria
Spirits and Cocktails from: Basil Hayden's, Cruzan Rum, Domaine de Canton, Hendrick's Gin, Hornitos, Hpnotiq, Knob Creek, Maker's Mark, PAMA and Tito's Homemade Vodka
*If you're attending the Experience at The Stroll on Saturday, you'll also be able to sample from the same list!

#4 - You Could Meet Marcus Samuelsson

Enter now for your chance to win a meet and greet with Marcus Samuelsson at Harlem EatUp!

#5 - See DJ Stormin' Norman, the NY Knicks & NY Red Bulls at A Sunday Afternoon in Harlem

Whether you are a sports fan, or a music fan, A Sunday Afternoon in Harlem will have something for you! One of Harlem's favorite residents, DJ Stormin' Norman will be performing in his own backyard, and players from the NY Red Bulls and NY Knicks will be there to meet everyone!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

MCC Board Member News: Beth Bronfman and View Profiled on 1010ParkPlace




By Brenda Coffee, www.1010parplace.com


Beth Bronfman is vivacious, smart, insightful, funny and always willing to help advance the cause of women in business. The recipient of three prestigious awards for women business leaders—the Presidents Award for the Women Presidents’ Organization, Office Depot Businessman of the Year Award and the Enterprising Women of the Year Award—Beth Bronfman’s built a multi-million dollar, New York advertising, interactive and branding firm, View The Agency.

VIEW HAS A REPUTATION FOR CREATING THE IMAGERY THAT MAKES BRANDS. BETH, AND HER PARTNER, KEVIN DOWNEY, APPROACH THEIR CLIENT’S NEEDS FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE TOTAL BRAND EXPERIENCE.

“There’s so much clutter out there,” said Beth. “You have to develop a strategy that really stands out and that’s top-of-mind when the consumer’s ready to buy.”

During Macy’s “glory days of the 80s,” Beth Bronfman was VP of Advertising. Her time at Macy’s helped her understand the retail process: how to work with merchants, sell products and learn that advertising is a full-circle, brand experience.

“Sometimes clients will hire a digital agency for this, and a traditional agency for that, but what happens is there’s no commonality. There’s no Brand Steward. Because we understand how to sell the product, we’re in an ideal position to help the client. I am a Brand Steward in all aspects of my life. You always want to find the best ways you can to help people out, and it’s the same thing when it comes to selling their product.

“It’s not just the ad or the store, TV or the radio, and now, digital. It’s everything, all involved. I think that’s been our strength. We all (ad agencies) create beautiful ads, but it’s understanding the whole full-circle of integrating everything. It’s a very special skill set.

“Clients want to be on digital, but the question is, ‘Are you selling a brand on digital?’ ‘Are you selling the product on digital?’ ‘Are you selling back to a website?’ You have to have a strategy. It’s not just about taking their money and putting it on digital. You have to understand what digital can do for their product. You have to know how to integrate the design, the technology and the understanding of the retail environment with the other branding marketing you’re doing. We’re the kind of agency that acts as your in-house agency, because we’ll come in and work in all venues, because we understand each one and how they work together.

“People want a brand experience. They want to like and enjoy the product that makes them feel good. Whether it’s a Chanel bag, or not, the consumer has to think the experience was just perfect for them to spend the money. Then these customers become brand ambassadors, because they’re going tell their friends.”

BETH BRONFMAN’S ADVICE FOR BUSINESS OWNERS

  • If you’re passionate about it, you’ll find a way to make it happen. 
  • Find organizations that help women in the corporate or entrepreneurial world. 
  • Never stop networking. 
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 
  • Be a great listener. 
  • Learn to work on your business, not in your business. 
  • Always hire people that are smarter than you. 
  • It’s all about the long game. 
  • It’s never about you. It’s always about the client. 
  • Understand the buck stops with you. 
  • Carefully select an advisory board. 
  • Get a line of credit when you don’t need it. 
  • Be resilient. 
  • Don’t be afraid to fail, and don’t take it personally. It’s only business.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Special Discounts on Harlem Eat Up Events for MCC Members on May 16th

This four-day festival invites you to see and taste all Harlem has to offer from the artists of the kitchen, the canvas, the stage and the streets. Come Dine In Harlem! for a one-night-only multi-room dinner party for the ages, hit The Stroll, where Harlem’s food, art and culture will converge or hear what the tastemakers are discussing at Harlem Talks. With all of this and more, you need to be in here!
When friends and founders of the Harlem EatUp! Festival, executive chef, restaurateur and Harlemite Marcus Samuelsson and veteran event marketer, Herb Karlitz, put their heads together about celebrating Harlem they couldn’t be stopped. Three months later, together with the sage insight and support of Harlem business tastemakers and residents, they would announce Harlem EatUp! to the world!
As part of its mission and dedication to Harlem, the Festival will donate proceeds from ticket sales to Harlem Park to Park and Citymeals-on-Wheels. Respectively, both organizations continue to provide a positive and direct impact on the community through small business support and feeding Harlem’s homebound elderly.

- Save 15% on tickets to THE EXPERIENCE AT THE STROLL Saturday, May 16 http://harlemeatup.com/events/the-stroll-a-grand-tasting-experience/
Tickets include access to the tasting tents where you can taste food from 24 Harlem restaurants, enjoy a wide variety of wines, spirits and beers, watch celebrity chef demonstrations and much more!

- Save 15% on tickets to V.I.E. EXPERIENCE AT THE STROLL Saturday, May 16 http://harlemeatup.com/events/the-stroll-a-grand-tasting-experience/
All the benefits of THE EXPERIENCE plus a special V.I.E. area for meet and greets with the Celebrity Chefs

- Save 15% on tickets to HARLEM TALKS Saturday May 16 http://harlemeatup.com/event-type/panel-discussions/
Fascinating panel discussions with celebrity taste-makers and Harlem personalities!

DISCOUNT CODE: MCOC

For more information please go to http://harlemeatup.com/.

MCC Member Faith Kinslow of True Identity Branding on The Voice of Manhattan Business

Recently MCC Member Faith Kinslow of True Identity Branding appeared on the MCC Podcast The Voice of Manhattan Business. Please see the outstanding feedback she received as a result of being on the show below. You can listen to her podcast here. You can learn more about Faith’s business at www.trueidentitybranding.com.

“Great Podcast!! Brilliantly insightful! I never comment on these things but I am compelled to share with all that this is the BEST commentary that I have heard on the topic and I have been supporting the marketing field for well over 28 years! ”

"Great interview. I could not have answered those questions any more concisely and accurately. Most people don't understand the breadth of marketing - 1. Strategy, 2. Asset Development, 3. Promotion. As faith pointed out, the only thing the consumer sees is promotion - the tip of the marketer's iceberg."

"I just listened to your interview...wonderful!!! It was very insightful!"

“Thanks for sharing this great podcast interview! It helps to be reminded to continually ask those questions of your brand and business each day.”

“That was a great interview and very informative.”

“You really nailed those questions.”

“Just finished listening to your MCC PodCast. Great job! Articulate and very well thought-out answers.’'

May Entertainment Guide from MCC Partner Plum Benefits

These offers are provided to you by Manhattan Chamber Of Commerce. 

With so much to do, you won't want miss all of the great offers right here in New York City! Enjoy deals on the NY Yankees, Finding Neverland on Broadway, and the Superhero Tour of New York. 

Our Fantasy Fairytale Vacation sweepstakes is winding down so hurry up and enter if you haven't yet! Register for your chance to win an unbelievable Walt Disney World vacation complete with a one night stay in the Cinderella Castle Suite! It's a once in a lifetime opportunity only from Plum Benefits and TicketsatWork. 

Enjoy deals on newly nominated Broadway shows like Something Rotten, An American in Paris, On the 20th Century, and more! 

To read the entire article, please click here.