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Expert Connexions: Marketing & Sales Roundtable

It’s time to create our “next normals” in the world of marketing, business development, and sales.

In this live panel discussion, Shari Pash, Member & Growth Strategist, Stephanie Barnhill, Operations Consultant of mConnexions, and Julie Holton, Principal Strategist & Founder of mConnexions talk about how to generate leads and connect with prospects during and post-pandemic.


Julie: Good Morning. Welcome to our special series called Expert Connexions. I’m Julie Holton. I’m the Founder and Principal Strategist of mConnexions Marketing Agency and I’m so glad you can join us this week for this series. We are bringing you roundtable-style interviews every day as we talk about COVID-19. What it’s been like during this quarantine period and as we start to return to find what we’re going to call today our next normals. Joining me today for a conversation about marketing, business development, and sales are two of my very favorite women in the industry. We have Shari Pash, she is a Membership and Growth Strategist. You can find her at Shari is very well known throughout the U.S. and Canada especially for her work with Chambers of Commerce and growing their membership base and really working on focusing on providing those resources and education and the necessary things that businesses need to thrive. So Shari, thank you for joining me.

Shari: Thanks Julie. Welcome, I’m so excited to be here so thanks for welcoming me in today.

Julie: Absolutely, thanks for taking the time to join us and also with us today is Stephanie Barnhill she is our operations guru at mConnexions. She is a Business Operations Consultant and all-around just brilliant mind in business development and working if you need someone to work with spreadsheet Stephanie is your gal and so Stephanie we are so glad to have you join us today too.

Stephanie: Thank you so much Julie for having me. I’m so excited to share with you ladies today.

Julie: And for those of you who are tuning in give us a thumbs up, let us know you can hear us and see us okay. We’re so glad to have you joining us too. Feel free to join the conversation with us this morning. We’re really looking forward to some of the topics that we’ve prepared for you, but we know there are a lot of questions and plenty of directions where we can take this conversation. So feel free at any time drop a comment or a question and if you have additional insights to offer we’d love to hear that too. So all right ladies let’s get started. So we, Shari you and I you joined me weeks and weeks ago back when all of this was first starting. I think we were in maybe the first week or two of the stay at home order here in Michigan, where we are located. Gosh how much has changed between then and now? I think if you had told us then that we would still be at home right now, I might have taken a different turn on the conversation. So let’s talk let’s start by talking about so much has changed in the business world. We know this. We hear all this talk about finding our new normal. Actually Shari, I really like how you word this, finding our next normal because we know this is definitely a period of transition and so one of the things that we need to do is we find this next normal is relook at on what we call our client personas, our buyer personas, and really in layman’s terms it’s our ideal client or our ideal member. So as we start to look at kind of revamping this client persona the first thing I want to ask you, Shari, is why is this so important? Why do we need to look at our buyer persona?

Shari: Because right now we’re going to be coming out of the time that’s unheard of for business right. So we need to understand our market segments, our client segments, segments those personas so that we know when we’re looking now to rebuild and recover, what is that going to look like? We have to know if what I recommend is looking at a market or client segment talking about what percent of your business has been coming from that segment. These are kind of the things that are going to create this persona or this profile for you and again this is kind of that corporate client customer, we can do the same thing with membership as well though, but really this one is very clear for that define the type of client that makes up with this market segment because right now we need to know if we need short-term business right now you need some you need new business to get you through this you need long term business. Do you need a lot of smaller clients and customers they’re going to generate a lot of revenue or do you need one or two big clients? But we need to know who is then and where they’re at so you can go right away to that. So we want to make this profile and you’re going to talk about the market segment or whatever you call your segments basically. Define who makes that up. What does that look like? Where do you find that type of a client or customer? What type of business or revenue do they produce or represent? That’s really important and what’s their buy pattern? Will they book short-term business with you? Will they sign contracts a year out? How does that how do they buy basically and then what’s the average price rate they’ll tolerate? If you need a lot of large money right now which we all you know everyone does right now, what does that look like or again can you use those smaller clients to add up and what’s the status of this particular segment that you’re talking about? So when you get back to business right now or you’re trying to rebuild you can actually say I need short-term business that can sign new contracts now or can buy my product now or my service or needs my service. You can go to your segments. Lay out these profiles or personas and determine based on the rates they’ll pay, the how they book and buy, and you can make a decision on what that client calls going to look like because we don’t have time just to call everybody in our CRM right now. We’ve got to be very specific to the segment that is going to give you the biggest return on your work right now for what you need. Does that make sense ladies?

Julie: Absolutely. Okay looks like we lost Shari there for a moment but as she rejoins one of the things that’s so important Stephanie know we’ve been talking with our clients about this is as we’re looking at those personas, our personas have changed. I mean we look at our clients and we look at you know so by the way let’s talk about the persona itself by the way. So as we’re talking about this persona it looks like we have Shari back I’m going to add Shari back here. Hey Shari, welcome back.  I love technology and this work from home situation right. Shari so one of the things that Stephanie and I were just saying as we’re talking about persona so first of all for those who are tuning in and you’re thinking like wait for a minute persona what is this persona that we’re talking about? The persona is very simple it is your ideal client and you might have you typically will have multiple personas that you look at you know and you look at these personas on the end of the sale as Shari’s talking about, you look at them on the marketing end, and all of this comes together and we just shared in the comments if you are looking at a buyer persona here’s an example. So we just shared one with you in the comments. You can take a look at that link later. Shari one of the things that have come up multiple times with our clients is well I know who my ideal buyer is and the reality is your ideal client or customer has changed. Maybe that person is still the ideal person that you’re going to target but think about in your personal life, in your business life, how much has changed since the start of the COVID pandemic. All of those things have changed for your persona as well and so it’s really important right now to walk through this exercise. For instance, maybe your ideal client before you used to connect with them at networking events that were they were at trade shows that was where you connected you made those I mean there are a lot of businesses that that relied on I say relied past tense hopefully that will come back, but a lot of businesses that have relied on historically on trade shows for instance. What happens now those trade shows aren’t happening or if you’re not able to go to in-person events you have to look at where that your persona, your ideal client has not changed, you still want to connect with that client, but where you connect with that client has changed. How that client is conducting business has changed and so I think right now one of the things that people aren’t talking about enough is conducting this client persona exercise all over again for every single client and it may not be super time consuming but Shari wouldn’t you agree that we really have to look at each client persona and rethink about how COVID 19 has changed their habits and then how we need to adjust our habits to still be able to connect with them.

Shari: Exactly and the thing is too that top client that you had may have gone through such a financial hardship that your personas of a certain industry or type of business that was very strong for your company or for your organization or if you have sponsors investors that money may not be available anymore in your a client may have just changed. So it’s really key to rework those personas based on today’s reality of revenues and staffing. They may not even have sales people that are going to events anymore for you to meet and talk you know sales to sales, so it is really important now to sit down and look at these personas or profiles of your individual industries of market segments because it has all changed. You know there’s familiarity there for you still for sure, but it’s time to update those and make sure you’re doing business with who you need and want to do business with and even those people who were your top clients before if they are struggling, how can you be that that aim for them right now? How can you help them recover and come back? Do you have a product or service or just your personal relationship that can still add value? We have to remember it’s not all just coming right down to business. You’re not top for me anymore, but how can you help them recover and be a part of it. It’s all about what we’re giving back right now as well so they may not be able to be there for you right now, but they’ll be there for you another day when they recover.

Julie: What a great point to talk about. The values that you have as an organization that those values need to be reflected in how you’re conducting your business. I love that Shari and I think it’s really important to fold what you’ve said so I’m just going to repeat this because one you’ve said you need to prioritize your persona so you need to look at maybe your A’s and your B’s. Where is there going to be that short term turnaround to help you generate cash flow and then maybe the long term growth. So those have changed and also I love what you just said about okay even if someone has kind of moved from your A team to your B team you still need to look at how you’re providing value as well. Stephanie I want to turn and talk to you now about developing. So we’re talking about our external personas we’re talking about how as an organization we’re communicating and doing business with our clients. I think this persona is also an interesting thing to talk about internally. So a lot of the work you do is really looking at culture, looking at structure, so what would you say Stephanie is like how do we need to look from maybe a persona perspective at our teams as we’re managing our teens in this return to the office?

Stephanie: Yeah and that’s a great question, Julie. I the one bed of course is probably most of the forefront for a lot of people, actually, it is for me for sure though we have learned that employees can be productive in a work from home environment and that that’s kind of shocking news. I think to a lot of companies out there I think the old nuts and seeds thing kind of you know unless you’re sitting there at your desk you know in the office then you’re not being productive or you’re not you know doing your job if you will that’s right out the door now and it’s a fact that many companies have acknowledged being able to be productive remotely from home and they’ve been benefiting from you know since well before COVID. I take our company takes mConnexions you know this is we were a virtual agency since day one, well before the pandemic hit, so generally speaking people should be able to determine the best space for them to be creative, to be productive, and engaged with work as much as possible anyway. Allowing and dare I say encouraging employees to continue to work from home is a great option for many companies and their employees you know not only now, but in the future even once you know things have settled on a bit right now. Also, you know right now companies that need to be very thoughtful and flexible when planning to bring stuff back into an office space. I would just you know recommend having increased safety measures at the building and within the actual office environment whatever that looks like for the particular company. Following all of the recommended guidelines you know for your industry, for you, for your area, but some employees may be at high risk for COVID 19 or they might have people in their immediate family or that they’re providing care for that on high risk and are concerned about being in close proximity to other people right now and it makes sense. So I think to make sure that employees have their own space in the office making sure that you’re following all protocol and guidelines that you’re communicating that effectively social distancing from others within the office is going to be vital. There’s also the mental health you know concerns of someone trying to thrive and be productive when they don’t feel safe. So some when it returns to the office they’re trying to work but they just you know keep having this society and fears of being you know getting sick or spreading something that you feel they you know might be a risk for. Then it’s going to impact their being able to enjoy their work, being able to thrive, being able to be productive. So again allowing people to work remotely or from a safe place for them can be really helpful moving forward to the best of the company’s abilities. I just think the company is needing to just really need to strive to be as flexible as possible and shift scheduling you know whatever that looks like for that industry. For their industry transparent about the needs and concerns of the company while also sharing their gratitude for their staff so employees need to feel safe but they also need to feel valued and when people feel valued and when they feel safe and they feel like they’re being heard and they’re understood and their safety and health is a priority for their company, then the trust and loyalty for the company build and then productivity goes way up.

Julie: Oh so many, you pack so many really important points into that Stephanie let’s unpack a little bit of that because I realize what you were saying so much. One of the things you said that I want to emphasize first is we’re talking about people and people are the most important assets. Shari who says that Stephanie we all know this okay so, but we’re also business-minded. We own businesses, we get it, we always want to put people over profits, but profits are important right. Another P word I’ll throw up there is productivity. People are more productive when they feel safe when they feel secure when they feel valued. These are things that we know science tells us. These things our bottom-line tells us these things. It’s something that we know at mConnexions as a virtual agency that our people are very working in their own environments on their own schedule. So we were doing it before it was cool. So important to talk about that, but one thing that so Stephanie you and another member of our team Amanda worked on a blog that just came out it’s on our website today. I haven’t even promoted it yet so you can get your first look at, but one of the things that that we kind of inserted it into this blog is this idea and maybe this is kind of an unpopular idea but I’m just going to throw it out there cause we are on Facebook right now. After all, put your politics aside, put your opinions aside, if you are a leader in a business or organization and you have a team that looks to you for your leadership it doesn’t matter what your personal opinions are about wearing masks whether you’re for them or against them right like either way our job as business leaders is to follow the regulations like that get put out to our businesses and I think that as leaders we have a responsibility to make sure that our team feels safe. That our team feels that hey you know one way or another like we’re going to follow these guidelines. We’re going to make sure that you’re safe. We care about you, we care about you going home to your families at night if you’re in an office situation that we care about how you’re interacting. If you’re interacting with our clients we care about our client safety. I mean all of those messages are so vitally important right now and maybe because of social media we see a lot of the divide the divisive enough sit can be very polarizing, but I really think that at the end of the day put your politics aside, put your opinions aside, and look at what the rules are that we have to follow to get our businesses back up and running or back open to the public and set that good precedent set that be that role model for our teams. Stephanie I really loved you talked about mental health and we won’t get fully into all of that but you can look back at our interview from yesterday. We had two incredible mental health experts talking about this and the reality of this pandemic and the mental health status is this even for those of us who feel for the most part pretty good on a daily basis, every single one of us is going through stress heightened, stress heightened anxiety, heightened worry, some more than others, but that’s something that I really think the business world needs to talk about because it’s vitally important when we talk about bringing our people back to work or back to the office. People our people have been working, but it’s one of those things that you know we also need to keep in mind when we’re interacting with our clients, with our customers, how we’re doing it. It’s not just about making the sale and Shari you said that so eloquently when you were talking about the personas. It’s showing that value even if they’re not your number one customer right now from a business perspective. So, Stephanie you really made some incredible points there that I think is so important and also hey if you’re a numbers person at the end of the day your numbers are going to be better, people are more productive when they’re happy and they’re healthy and they feel valued.

Stephanie: Yes, absolutely. I mean you know when you’re healthy, you’re not missing work. You’re not you know having to go to the doctor’s office as much. You’re not you know is suffering from pain, likely not suffering from pain. So you’re in the office more. You’ll be producing more, it just is better all-around for everyone.

Julie: And productivity we know translates into providing better products and services. Again when our team is performing we’re able to provide better products and services for our clients which makes for better business. Shari, there’s been a lot of talk about finding our new normal I love your phrase our next normal. Tell us about those next normals especially in sales and business development. We know that for instance right now in a face to face meetings are out so where do you find prospects.

Shari: You know it’s funny you said that right the new normal is what we’re in right now during COVID. I in the past we’re not going to see again at least not for a long time and so that next to normal is what’s our next way of doing business and that’s exactly right to find those prospects we’re going to use some of this data that we’ve been talking about. Using those personas to find out first who do we want as a group as a DNA if you want to call it. What’s the makeup of who we want to add to our prospect list and then when we start to look at that look at our lead sources in the past what worked to bring us those types of clients. If it was events and it was networking we know we have to do some digital events and digital networking and some other ways that we’re going to do that. So we’re going to talk a little bit about that. We know if when your short-term revenue go to those personas. So truly to target the ideal DNA you have to understand what you’re looking for before you get them to your prospect. Once you know who it is there are a couple of tools one LinkedIn you all know I love LinkedIn packed on June 9 I’ll be doing another LinkedIn trainee, so be sure to go to my website and sign up for that, but now we’ve got to look at how we digitally get in front of people. We got to hang out where they’re hanging out and if that ideal client is in LinkedIn because that’s how the executive level if you’re looking for that or if they’re hanging an Instagram, but wherever they’re hanging out you’ve got to hang out with them you also have to be able to truly be able to sell your relationship with them through phone, through what we’re doing today virtually. I work with a lot of people’s I’m just not tacky and unfortunately, we have you as you can see what we’re working through today. We have to all become techie in order to really move into this virtual world that we’re in right now. Another tool I’d like to mention if you are looking for prospects and you know your DNA there’s a free tool out there and that many people do not use it’s called reference USA. I don’t know if any of you ladies have heard of this, but it’s free through your library if your library does not have the tool go to a library and you keep looking online till you find one that has under business resources and then it’s free you can put into this database which is very accurate the size company you want the route the revenues you want that company to happen their credit rating you can put in I figured what I’ve been in business there’s like 40 or 50 things of criteria different geographic locations anyway you can find some amazing prospects through this tool then use that tool and put those names in your LinkedIn to see okay now that I’ve got a company to let me look them up on LinkedIn and build the relationship with a person at that company. Now I can see that this company. I can learn who they really are as people because of what they’re talking about on their insights within their LinkedIn company page. Now I see the CEO or the VP I want to connect with. I don’t just connect with them maybe on LinkedIn, but I might now use this as a source for rapport building through a phone call or email and then go back into social media. So a lot of different steps they can do but I feel those two tools together make an amazing ability to virtually build a prospect list. I didn’t get to walk into that networking event but I got to go into rough-in c-USA and find 10 new companies to digitally build relationships with and some people will say I don’t want you know should I let people on LinkedIn know I’m looking at them. When you went to those events you didn’t wear a paper sack over your head you walked into the network and shake hands. So shake hands with your LinkedIn profile now and that’s what we want to be doing more of so that’s how we can still find new clients and customers also keep your brand which is what Julie is such an expert in keeping your brand strong out there so they come to find you as well you want people inquiring looking for you and that’s where I’m in the sales side Julie and Stephanie on that marketing side that really help you know who and how and how they’re going to find you through some of that marketing brand.

Julie: Shari I love it when you talk about LinkedIn because every time you talk about it I learned something new about prospecting because it’s different. LinkedIn is such an incredible resource for us in so many ways and when you’re using it for marketing you’re using it in a totally different way than you are when you’re prospecting and I’m just going to emphasize I did not hear you say but you should just start spamming everyone on LinkedIn with your cold call type sales message yours you’re talking about using it as a tool to start building a relationship which is so important because oh my gosh the other way just does not work just like a telemarketer at that point it’s like no we’re using LinkedIn to pull data out I want to know the companies and the people I now want to begin a relationship selling experience with oh and Shari you mentioned that you have an upcoming on you ninth I believe you have I’m at 10 a.m. you have a LinkedIn training session I just put the lengthy events link there update that later to help it make sense but it that’s the direct link to sign up for that that training and I highly recommend it because Shari could talk all day about LinkedIn but we’re not going to it’s such a great tool and Shari I love how you know really the point is to start thinking outside of the box. I mean we’ve had you know more than two months now of this as we’re adjusting to this next normal we know I mean there’s very little that we know the long term but we know enough to know that we’re not getting back to normal anytime soon. So now is the time to really start making these adjustments and to see creatively how we continue to connect with prospects and I really love that idea.

Shari: One thing I can add real quick Julie is that it’s especially when we used to go out on sales calls you could look at the person’s office you could see their face more you could build rapport. Building pieces just from what you saw walking into their office building we’re now how do you find that rapport building and you’ve got to use this social media tool to learn what’s important to this person what’s their personality and use some of these tools when you’re warming that call-up. So there are no cold calls you’ve got it warmed up by what you’ve learned through their LinkedIn profile or their other social media too.

Julie: Oh Shari that you know that’s a topic for another day I think we can do a segment on that I mean we talked about like the disc analysis and assessing people’s personalities how do we do that now in a virtual world and think about it before the pandemic um we would we would get to know our clients or our prospects do they prefer emails or phone calls or social media or text now we’re limited even more we’re not just bumping into the elbow so it really does change and force us like you said we can’t use not being tech savvy as an excuse anymore if we have to get up to speed we have to learn for some of you whose kiddos are at home from school they can teach you know my six-year-old nephew taught my mom how to you know set up a zoom account so we can you know learn from who you’ve got you know and Julie you set a good point about the disk there’s some things you can so easily do like if you see somebody talking with their hands talking fast you know on fast-paced high-energy I need to I need to talk to them in regards to a sales relationship or experience in energy in fun activity don’t just give me a bunch of data in details I need those that I love those but I live on this fun and excitement piece so you’ve got to be able to read your and how do you read them with just a couple questions in your head when you don’t get to even see them maybe you can still tell about the conversation and the words they use and think so I think that could be a really fun session all right I want to watch that one you know Shari a lot of the things you’re talking about is adaptability being a flexibility you know some of these keywords that businesses really need to look at and adjust and change with the times Stephanie I want to ask you about this could there be and I hate to sometimes I hate to use this cliché but it’s so true could there be a bit of a silver lining in some of this as far as giving people the push business leaders the push and let me actually I’m going to jump back as you nod your head I’m going to jump back to a comment from someone you know very well that says work from home can be the new normal absolutely flexibility with employee work from home practices should definitely continue with companies that can allow it and Seth was actually one of our guest several weeks ago Seth works he’s a creative director at a marketing and advertising agency and I know Seth has been a big proponent of work from home and flexibility Stephanie do you think this could be the silver lining that really starts to push businesses to make some of these changes?

Stephanie: Oh I think so and I hope so. It’s a great question and it’s something that we’ve been thinking about a lot just in my own home. I’m thinking a lot about and in these next steps. I mean I think that companies are given if there is a silver lining and I think that this is certainly one company that has been given me the perhaps uncomfortable opportunity to really quickly get their tech up and current you know like okay and now we have to have this new account. Or some other conferencing account.

Julie: Isn’t that the truth? We can put it on our resumes now.

Stephanie: Exactly. It’s this whole new skill set right that we’re building and getting the hardware to okay now we got to have a tablet and a computer for this person or that staff member. So I think that we’ve done what we’ve kind of a lot of companies have done what it takes to kind of you know to get set up you know at least short-term but I think there would be a huge benefit and allowing people to work remotely moving forward at least in some capacity and there’s going to be people watching this that is like but I don’t like to work from home I’m a radio I want to get back I’m extroverted I really love getting together with my group and brainstorming it and that’s a beautiful thing and hopefully, someday safely you know we can get you there but also there are lots of people that you know would rather not commute and drive an hour in to work every day you know if they don’t have to or if their work is it can be done you know safely but also just you know they can be productive and creative from home or another place that’s in their own community. If they do have to travel for work then let them you know like encourage that because that’s going to be better for the employee they’re going to have time back in their day less money on gas and fuel for their cars right and you know I think that if companies got really kind of innovative they could say okay there’s these two days a week or one day a week where no one comes in the office yeah unless absolutely necessary because that saves an overhead think that if you if you can take two days a week and not turn the lights on not turn the heat on or the a/c on you know or not have to pay other staff to be in office you know security guards things like that but they can you know they can monitor a different part of the building then that’s saving the company overhead costs and those really do add up so there are benefits to allowing people to be more flexible and so you know work on your schedules a bit and what people kind of live their best life you know which also means they can live there work life too. So I think that’s there’s a lot of benefit coming mConnexions I just want to say again you know I think that companies you know we want companies want to be able to serve their clients their prospects their customers in the community to the rest of their ability and with mConnexions Julie, this is something that you took on immediately you know when all of this pandemic started you know you saw that there were people businesses in the community and outside of the community that really needed counsel they needed to hear from other professionals and experts so you know Julie got you know the Expert Connexions what we’re doing right. I’ve been running at a time that was so crucial I mean talk about being innovative and ready to take everything on when people needed it the most and clearly they still need it I mean we’ve gotten so much positive feedback and testimonials about how hopeful these Expert Connexions have been for people and for businesses and they continue to be so I think the more we become innovative and forward-thinking then the more we’re going to continue to move in that direction you know companies of all size and in all industries and it’s going to better them it’s going to better the community it’s going to better the employees and staff I just see it as a win-win as long as we take on that responsibility and we maintain it and continue to work to improve it.

Julie: It’s always about taking the negative and turning it into the positive and I love how you talked about looking at innovative ideas you know when we look at the recession we look back at 2008 and we talked about this in a previous expert connexion series. When you look back at what was happening during that recession we saw the birth of companies like uber, air B&B and so when you look it’s I think of course we’re focusing on our own businesses right now but it’s also interesting I think to think about what’s being born that we don’t know about yet what’s happening right now that’s going to change our world for the better in the long term you know as you talk about innovative companies to Stephanie I think some of the businesses that have been thriving right now are those that were very forward-looking to begin with that we’re looking ahead and willing to kind of step out of the mold and try something new one great example would be a client of ours gr a benefits group and their ability to actually write now during this time provide insurance agents with an online accessible portal you know an online benefit admin system and you know to cut paper out of the equation and when we think about going paperless now it has a different connotation to it when you think about covid 19 and you think about you know protecting ourselves and safety and not being able to be in the office or not being able to sit down face to face who wants to print off a 90 page report for a meeting when you can have access online especially when that meeting is virtual and how do you get those papers to the people that are in the meeting. So I think some of these really innovative ideas are really being pushed to the forefront right now out of necessity so it’s something for us as businesses to be thinking about what how do we change our policies what policies need to be changed what things could we or should we be doing within our businesses to be more accessible and to allow for this flexibility absolutely and so talking about kind of digital Shari as we’re focused virtually right now is we’re looking at everything digital. I mean we’re talking right now virtually we’re using a you know an Internet where some of us are Stephanie’s on our hotspot I’m on my hobby I think Shari that’s going back and forth between us so we’re definitely in this in this virtual world right now let’s talk about CRM because I know that that is something Shari when it comes to you collecting data and then being able to you so there’s one thing to collect the data that’s right to be able to use it so from a sales perspective let’s shift and talk about CRM. What data should we be collecting and then how in the world are we going to use it?

Shari: Yeah that’s the thing so many people will collect data and at what at conferences I’ll ask about that and nobody’s using it though. So it’s one thing we’ve got to collect the right data and then we’ve got to give ourselves permission to take time and have a strategy session with our own team and pull data out and let it direct your strategy for the next core the next year. So the things I’m talking about are things like lead source right now can you run a report for your own business your own work that tells you the lead source of all your new clients or accounts whatever you call that for your new revenue what was the lead source for those how did they find you how did it come to you because that’s what you want to do more of what’s bringing you the great new revenue that you have the new clients or customers and how do you do more of that instead of spending time and resources over here on things that are giving you the biggest return so lead source data no matter what system you’re using you’ve got to have a data field with lead source and make your choices drop-down boxes as much as possible when you leave it to open text your team they can all be entering different things CRM czar is important for a small one or two person operation as they are for a large corporation for two different reasons a large corporation you’ve got to know what everybody’s working on with these particular clients and customers. You need to see the journey the conversations are happening and it being a small business like myself a one-person show I can’t keep track of every person I work with and every client in every conference. I have to have a CRM just like you ladies to give us the data we need so things to collect lead source referral source did this come referred to you by a person so again you can run your referral sources to see who do you need to be doing some thank yours to because those good customer and clients are coming their way fiscal year wouldn’t it be great to know if not for everybody I know but for a lot of us when does your client or customers new money start when do you need to make sure you’re getting in their budget for that next investment you would like some people’s money start July 1 and if that’s the case if we’re not in their budget right in this tape period right here when the budgets are being approved you may miss out for the whole next year until the next July so knowing fiscal year is really important there by pattern put that in there do they buy your round do they buy certain times of your certain quarters of the year when can they so again if you need money right now you could easily run through your CRM who spends their money now who signs contracts now so again some people buy regularly all it depends on your product or service you know and if it’s a continuous one prospecting client again tied your personas your quality levels if I’m hoping you could track those if you don’t I recommend who are you’re a your B and your C level customers and clients so when you are looking to really do some innovative work. I’m going to run the types of client’s customers or prospects. I want so talk about that again in a second your by factors reasons that they invest with you the reason they buy your product or service so again when you run a report and see all those reasons you know am I offering enough benefit and value for the reasons people are doing business with us how can I continue to enhance that and grow that follow up next steps all of that should be in your CRM with custom fields user-defined fields whatever you your system calls it but your relationship journey has to be in that CRM because you’re not going to remember that their daughter broke her leg in soccer three months ago when you go to talk to that person you want to use that personal data to keep that relationship strong or if anyone else in your company or organization is getting ready to call that customer or client you want them to talk that like that customer is so important to you all talk about them and care about them so it’s a great tool for the relationship but the data is huge anything that you need is criteria to measure put it into your software system put it into a field with this you can query from and then give yourself that permission to query from it and actually use it to guide. If I’m going to get ready to do new strategies for sales or new places to find prospects I want to know how many of them came through LinkedIn, how many came from reference USA, how many came through social media and I know where again I’m going to put my big push on right now. I hope that helps a little bit. CRM is what I’m really passionate about. I’ve used them for decades every team I’ve worked with through my career and in my own business now it’s been a measurement of success for that person is how well they use the CRM.

Stephanie: Yeah it’s such a great point, Shari. I loved it and I loved your shared enthusiasm with neuron because I share that with you a hundred percent um you know and you on you know the sales side especially and with me it’s a lot of the operations organizational side you know one of the things that I use our score that’s so helpful is having a pipeline built in to the CRM and I know that that’s some that some have some doubt I mean with CRM you can have all the bells and whistles and you just your bare minimum whatever is best for you for the company but you know we actually you know our project flow and in our client flow through our pipeline is all done within the CRM and it’s a one-stop shop it helps us make sure that we’re staying you know on top of all of our proposals and our contracts and or peeking out to the people that we need to reach out with in the right amount of time and so just as an organizational operational tool it’s incredibly beneficial and just also having everything in one spot having all your contacts in one spot having all of your prospects in one spot it’s so helpful especially when it comes to you know marketing email marketing and things like that so it’s a wonderful tool.

Shari: And I love what you said something about tracking your forecast. It’s you’re watching your deals if that’s what your system calls or it’s watching the revenues grow what’s prospect what’s tentative what puts stage of the cycle are they in so there’s an entire operational side that is so important so your CRM is data for the strategy it’s a relationship and it’s your operations and if you don’t have one email any one of us and we can recommend some I know some that are very affordable for small business those that are huge with the bells and whistles so but if you don’t have one you’ve it’s a key tool especially during this time of regrowth and rebuilding right now start fresh with the new CRM if you don’t have one.

Julie: Talking about CRM really I think brings together at this point that sales and business development and marketing all need to work together hand-in-hand one is not successful without the other and you need the system you need you need the data to look at it all to keep it to keep it flowing because I’ll inject that marketing we so we use our CRM in so many ways operationally as Stephanie described we use it as Shari described and kind of our sales process our pipeline a great example is we just we just brought it on a new client this week whose spouse is actually someone who’s been in our pipeline for about a year now I think and just someone that we’ve and we established a relationship with about a year ago and you know I mean Shari you know that the sales process is not they’re not always looking for it right then and there that doesn’t mean they’re not a prospect or that they’re not a good prospect or a referral source in this case and so you want a way to be able to track you want to be able to nurture that lead foster that relationship and work that through the pipeline now on the marketing side of things oh my gosh like we you know what is our marketing without measurement systems and benchmarks and our CRM is an exceptional way to be able to track all of that and continue to foster that growth so we focus on a system called inbound marketing and the whole idea both of you have described which is really just attracting those leads nurturing those leads working them through the pipeline part of that is just I’ll give an example from our own business there’s so many different forms of marketing right so if someone is really interested in social media marketing I may not want to be sending them high-level technical emails about DIY SEO it’s a lot of letters DIY SEO they’re not going to want to care about search engine optimization if they’re really focused on building their Instagram platform and what are they going to do they’re going to unsubscribe they’re going to they’re going to pull away they’re going to feel like mConnexions is not relevant to my business or to what I’m doing that is the last thing we want because we also provide Instagram right we provide that marketing week so it kind of take this example for your own business you don’t want to be sending the wrong messages or mixed messages or lose a prospect because they feel that you are not connected you do not understand their business um that defeats the purpose of everything we’ve been talking about today as we talk about building these relationships and connecting and building our prospects. So definitely from a marketing perspective nurturing those leads and being able to use that big data, use that CRM to our full advantage.

Shari: Really quick one thing on it Julie just you triggered me really quick I’m going to jump in there, is that you want to be able to pull them that member or client record up in your CRM. You’re calling them or there they called in you want to pull that up and be able to see this data what’s important to them Instagram or some high-tech thing they’re looking to do is it important to them for what product or service you offer so immediately your conversation is relevant and it looks like you know exactly who you’re talking to when you have a hundreds of thousands of customers and clients you have to have that data. So make sure it’s in an easy-to-use format you could pull it up as you’re answering the phone or calling out and you literally have the information you want to use in that relationship right away.

Julie: So important Shari I’m glad that you brought that up and I know you gave the example of you know if your client has a daughter who broke her leg you want to remember that and we’re busy people and so it might not be that you’ve forgotten or don’t or that you don’t care I mean of course you care but you know you’ve got so much going on have a place where you can keep track of this you can check in you know the ups and downs because you know especially right now with covet brain we talked about that yesterday put the stress and trying to keep everything straight we can feel like we’re in a time warp and so use that of course to your advantage to be able to keep track of these things Shari another really great tool and you are the queen of this I feel like I even though this is an amazing marketing tool I always think oh I need to be like Shari when it comes to this another great tool is using testimonials. How do you use testimonials as a marketing and business development tool?

Shari: Yeah testimonials you when you think about before we do anything before we download an app before we purchase most about most anything anymore we purchase we read reviews right so we want to make sure that your clients and customers in process especially can read reviews about your work your product your service and so having those testimonials I do firmly believe that when you send an email to a prospect especially you need to have a testimonial under your signature or right in the body of the email that is talking to that particular prospect either it their company looks like this company they’re going to use a product or service that you offer that you know the this prospect would have an interest in and their the testimonials talking about that so you want to make sure that basically you’re matching testimonials to the person you’re emailing and put those right in there because if you’re looking to get a sales appointment a phone call appointment you know that’s where we can hold for now we can’t hold for those in person but you want a phone appointment with someone that that testimonial may get you that appointment more than anything you’ve written about your company or what you do so we want to definitely use those so as you gather those it’s an it’s a lot of people go how do you get testimonials you know I hate asking for them we all in our business day get emails or phone calls where someone’s complimenting oh you guys saved my life with that last post or that mother for you guys marketing wise or oh my gosh I met so many people when I attended your virtual networking the other day or you know I saved so much money using your insurance program so whatever the thing is you’re getting that you want to turn that around and kind of don’t change the wording but make it read like a testimonial email it back to them and say would you be comfortable if I was to really use what the words you’ve shared as a testimonial to help other businesses have the same success you found or you know that they out promote your company while I use your name and all my different emails and my website in my social media. A lot of my chambers will do something like that because it’s really important that exposure. So basically a voicemail, email, turn it around, and send them their words back. Most people are going to be so pleased that you want to use their words and they didn’t have to do the work of rewriting a testimonial for you.

Julie: Yeah you already hard work. I have to say we actually have an example of when you gave a testimonial about chambers of commerce. You unsolicited you sent them you posted something and they were actually able to turn that around and it was something so your testimonial can also help generate new business. So think about that you know give some get some right that’s right you and maybe that praise.

Shari: Yeah if there’s somebody you know what are your clients are struggling see if giving a testimonial would add value to them or now this is something easy we can do you can collect those again through your LinkedIn recommendations or just through emails and but it’s a strategy you have a testimonial strategy for your company or your organization what are you doing with testimonials using them in like put them on a Word document by category get those into your client in customer emails as well as given social media we’re so blessed to work with people like this and show what they said about you put them into your website of course all those normal things we’ve done but put them in the emails to get using them and my only tip to add is when you think about it do it because of getting testimonials I am the queen of thinking about it and that weeks later thinking about it again and remembering that I never did it right and we want to do yes and you’ll see if you go to my website there’s a whole tab for just testimonials because I can tell you what I can do for your business or company and I and I can talk about it but it’s going to hook me a whole lot more when you can read people who are just like you what they’ve experienced so the same thing for all of your products and services out there get those that feedback and share it use it as your use it as a sales tool it’s my strongest sales tool my only sales tool almost are testimonials well and too it makes sense I mean think about what we buy online now I mean we I don’t think any of us buy anything without reading they’re sensing how many stars it gets alright it really is vital it’s so important and that’s Mary you do such a great job with that I’ve seen your testimonials and they are fantastic and so thank you that’s what I hope that helpful and I know that I’m here we have a lot of small businesses so you can use those too if you don’t have the online presence and we all I know are going get into those stores well how do you use those testimonials on your social media Facebook page you know a lot of smaller businesses use that Facebook page like we might use our websites or those online stores in such a local business you can do just as much with testimonials through your social media which is so impactful.

Julie: Absolutely and you can actually share that review link from Facebook for example from Google reviews you can share that direct link in that email that you’re sending to your clients to give them easy access to just write their testimonial right in there with great this is such an incredible conversation this morning we’ve had a lot of feedback I’m thanking you both for your expertise audience if you have any questions before we go I’ve got one more question I’m going to ask so that’ll give you some time to go ahead and use the comment box if you have any comments or questions for Stephanie or Shari or myself you know Stephanie before we wrap up I want to I want to turn back to you again because at the very beginning we were talking you were talking about internal operations and internal communication and we know all of us as business leaders that we’re not going to get everything right we know that’s actually maybe what makes us a leader is knowing that and having transparency and honesty in that whether it’s internally with our teams or externally with our clients you know we’re going to give it our best but we’re not always going to get it right Stephanie what’s your closing advice for business leaders again as we really work through navigate through finding our next normals from this COVID 19 pandemic.

Stephanie: Yeah good question. So I think you know the take the take home for me really when it comes down to what we’ve been experiencing and looking at these next steps of businesses you know reopening or bringing people back to the office is really the importance of communication effective communication so and that starts with leadership right so having communication that brings people together that’s a you know transparent that’s honest that’s reassuring from leadership within companies is absolutely vital you know I you can look at it I mean it depends on your industry and your company how much did you be communicating how should we be communicating I think video is always really nice when possible so all of that is going to kind of depend a little bit about you know on each company but as long as again honest transparent reassuring is law uplifting it to the best of your ability you want people to feel as good as they can in a really uncomfortable and in stressful situation that we’re all experiencing right now at some level so I think that’s paramount that staff need to feel valued and appreciate like we talked about especially in a time of crisis as we also go through this personally to it and trying to figure out to predict and prepare for what life is going to be looking like in the days and weeks and months ahead so communication shall also be unifying including language that is based on company values so whatever your company values are whatever your company mission is making sure that those communications are bringing that in aligning with that so it is authentic and meaningful and inspiring for your staff Julie as you said earlier keep politics out of it for my goodness I mean I think there’s so much of that going on right now for companies and families and everywhere we can’t escape it right so hey you know whatever your particular as a leader political opinions are put those aside and look at how you can best represent and model positive unifying behavior for you for your staff because staff and employees and contractors they look to you they look to the leaders to figure out – just like children look to adults I mean not to you know make the ones you know more adult than the other it’s not that comparison it’s looking up to see who should I be looking up to as my model who should I be looking to for reassurance who should I be looking to and I have needs that come up you know for certain you know work work-related needs that come up and you have questions and you need a reassurance and you need to talk through benefits and HR all of these things need to be really led with a lot of grace with a lot of reassurance with a lot of transparency so all of that makes a lot of sense when it comes down to just being there for your staff being there for your employees even when it’s tough even when you don’t want to even when it’s scary even when you know there might be layoffs I mean just you know everything that you can to really keep people unified to the best of your ability I believe that if a company can create an encourage of culture of compassion and teamwork chances are that company is going to get through all this a lot better and easier than companies that don’t put out messages and communications of alarm or dissatisfaction or disregard for employees or just be absent you know just pulling back all together now is the time when you have this an important opportunity to step forward to lean in to wrap your arms around figuratively and to really make sure that you’re the kind of leader that leads with integrity that you can be. So that way people not only are they who are working for you are happier and healthier and more productive, but so that from the outside people can understand that your mission and your purpose as a company are authentic and real and that’s that at the end of the day that can be a make-or-break and a saving grace for a lot of companies right now.

Julie: So inspirational Stephanie and something that again we don’t always get right but we certainly you know we try with our team and they I would say if for better or worse I’m transparent and one of the things we were talking about yesterday when we were focusing on mental health which ties in to what you were just saying is you know we said to our team very early on hey if you need a day if you need a week if you need an hour you know whatever you need you don’t even need to tell us why just let us know that you need time and we’ll make adjustments because we understand that every day is changing we have people who have children at home they’re not going to be going back to school we have you know so many different layers of complexities that everyone is dealing with personally and professionally that if we can lead with that transparency and with that open communication and again be careful about HR boundaries we don’t you know you don’t need to report to us of what’s going on with your mental health and that kind of thing our goal has been and this may not work for everyone but our goal has been to create a safe space so that people feel comfortable if they want to share our Tuesday bullpen meetings every Tuesday morning we start by you know just checking in how’s everyone doing what’s going on in your lives and again you both also know that I’m still very busy I’m Ed let’s all right let’s get it out and let’s get down to business lets you know we started our business meetings let’s get all of that extra stuff out of our brains so then we can focus on what we need to because at the end of the day we still need to serve our clients and we need to help them through this and so if you’re not at your a-game and I am here for you but I’m also going to take you off and put you on the bench until you’re feeling better so come back tomorrow let’s see how you’re doing but I think just really taking that approach and valuing our people is going to help all of us as we move through this recovery you know Shari we were just talking about just the open lines of communication and any final thoughts I think that might also translate as we’re working with our clients and our prospects it definitely does which I was listening to you I’m going so much of that would be exactly how you’d be dealing with your clients as well having that empathy being authentic and I think that’s a lot of it is realizing that they’re trying to find their way yes you’re trying to get back to your sales because everyone in sales is that’s how they’re in their money but we have to have that empathy of what they’re going through and be transparent on what this has done to your own business and your own company as you’re talking with your clients so really everything Stephanie was talking about how you would go with employees you want to do that same thing with your clients so it all depends on where your relationship is with your customers and clients but if you are very relational with them that transparency is so important and everybody right now is going to appreciate that when you will build that relationship so that they feel they can be transparent with you also and very authentically absolutely such a great point Shari thank you so much for joining us today. is the best way to connect directly with Shari. You can email her at [email protected], you can message her here on Facebook, but and also check out that LinkedIn event that she’s hosting June 9th that that’s in the comments here. So Shari thank you so much. Stephanie thank you to you as well you can connect with Stephanie and me there directly. You can connect with our team. We’ve shared a couple of blogs. I really love the title we finally came up with this most recent one, returning to the office, 4 tips to take back our roaring 20s and has this been a roaring start to 2020.

Shari: Thank you both too and thank you Julie for hosting these events and for including me. I love having that chance to share and I learn something from you ladies every time we’re together, so I love the time together.

Stephanie: Me too and thank you so much, Shari. Thank You Julie so much for hosting this and for doing such a great job in bringing such beautiful insight for all of us. So it’s wonderful to get to be with you two ladies on this wonderful Wednesday.

Julie: Well you should mention our Expert Connexion series and just how wonderful it is Stephanie because tomorrow we have another roundtable interview you will have three attorneys from Foster Swift law firm. They have been just incredible this entire pandemic I think we’ve interviewed gosh maybe five or six attorneys in total at this point. So love when we can get those legal insights and get our questions answered. They’ve been so gracious giving their time and their insights to us so you’ll want to join us tomorrow. We’re going to have three attorneys from three different practice areas talking about a range of topics. So come prepared with your questions. If you have questions about the PPP loan forgiveness if you have questions about employment law as you maybe are preparing to get your staff back into the office. If you have questions about business contracts made before the pandemic during the pandemic you name it, we’re going to talk about it tomorrow so thanks to Foster Swift for that, it’ll be tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. and a quick plug for Friday. We’ve got one more interview one more round table style panel on Friday ladies you’re going to love this we have two business strategists who are going to join us they work in different capacities here in the Greater Lansing area working with businesses of all sizes. So we’re going to just really kind of have a brainstorming session and talk about what are they seeing that’s working, what’s working better than maybe other strategies right now and what do they see coming as we look down the road and how businesses should be adjusting. So it should be a really interesting conversation there too. So thank you again both of you for joining us thanks to all of you if you have questions as you’re watching the replay feel free to go ahead and ask those questions, we keep up with the comments. So feel free to connect with any of us and we will see you here tomorrow morning at 11. Ladies thank you so much.

Shari: Thank you.

Stephanie: Thank you.



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