How to Overcome the 5 Top Challenges of Remote Freelance Work

To an outsider looking in, the notion of liberating yourself from a corporate environment and controlling your own success as a freelancer probably seems like nothing less than a dream. So much so that (as a slideshare study presented by Upwork shows) 57.3 million Americans were freelancing as of 2017. (Freelancing In America 2017 used the figure of 36 percent of the U.S. workforce).

Theirs is a world I’ve shared: Before I became a business owner with employees, partners and 1099 contractors, I too was a freelancer and so came to understand the unique challenges freelancers face. I know from experience that pursuing an entrepreneurial venture alone can give you the freedom to decide “how, when and where”; but working as a remote freelancer often presents a host of other challenges.

Working remotely, for instance, can feel isolated and lonely. You are no longer operating in your area of expertise and are constantly challenged by the burden of self-promotion and the struggles inherent in time management, travel between clients, invoicing and chasing after payments, to name just a few.

Here are some solutions to five of the top challenges I myself have faced:

The burden of self-promotion

Marketing doesn’t come naturally to many freelancers, yet a business cannot continue to grow without it. This means that a freelance cake decorator, dog groomer and technical writer all need to worry about ways to advertise their services.

The solution if this applies to you? Start creating content, whether it be video, audio (podcast) or written. Content is the key to showcasing your expertise. Content will allow people to discover you, and content will help solidify your expertise.

Contributors like me are always looking for valuable experts, and for tips on hot trends, news or perspectives. If you’ve already started creating content, it will allow you to prove your expertise.

Follow contributors who write about topics you’re looking to provide your expertise on, and reach out on social platforms like Twitter or Instagram (Instagram DM still being the absolute best way to reach someone you’re hoping to connect with).

My advice with this approach is to focus on the relationship. Everyone in media is constantly pitched new stories, but not all those stories are worth covering. However, if you focus on building the relationship and have a unique perspective, a journalist or contributor will be more inclined to speak with you versus constantly reading one cold pitch after another from you. Buzzstream is a good tool to use to help you find different people from the press.

Working in a lonely solo void

While the freedom in remote freelance work may appeal to many, working in solitude may not, as FastCompanydocumented in a recent article. Human nature requires support and interaction, and constant isolation can wear you down. Our bodies only work at an optimal level for approximately 90 minutes at a time, so take your laptop and head to the nearest cafe for some company.

Co-working spaces are also all the rage these days, Harvard Business Review reported, as freelancers and small business owners are often looking to become part of a community. A well-designed work environment combined with a well-curated work experience enables coworkers to thrive in a way that office-based employees cannot.

What’s more, regular in-person huddles with stakeholders can enhance your productivity, through brainstorming and synergy. Be sure to incorporate meetings throughout your work week to break the silence and keep your motivation levels up.

Another tip: Set up your own branded corporate conference room on a virtual meeting platform to coordinate with clients, and put in some face time when proximity is an issue. I love platforms such as ClickMeeting, which offers features like screen sharingand white boards — features which enable collaboration and immediate feedback virtually.

These types of advanced tools also create the illusion that you’re not working by yourself in an office all day and gives you some refreshing face time with clients, contractors and anyone else involved in the business.

Struggling with your calendar

As a solopreneur, you are forced to wear many hats, and you need to manage your time carefully. And given that some tasks will be outside your comfort zone, you may be prone to pushing them off once in a while — or doing this as a chronic habit. But be careful here: Battle your procrastination by adhering to a rigid schedule, to ensure that the job gets done and your limited time is utilized well. Tools like Toggle can help you with time management and ensure you’re staying on top of your to-do lists.

I like to follow the Pomodoro rule for completing tasks. This technique can help you power through distractions, keep you hyper-focused and help you get things done in short bursts while taking frequent breaks to clean your brain and refocus. It’s sort of like short high-intensity weight training, versus long, slow cardio. The Pomodoro Technique consists of short bursts of work followed by a short rest break. You:

  1. Create your list of tasks.
  2. Prioritize the list.
  3. Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro in this context being a timer).
  4. Work on the task until the timer rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper.
  5. Take a short break (5 minutes is recommended, but play around with what’s best for you).
  6. After every fourth Pomodoro, take a longer break (like 20 to 30 minutes).

The goal is to accomplish your tasks in short bursts. Ideally, each task can be done in one to two Pomodoros. The goal is to hold a limit to how many Pomodoros you do per day. Then, repeat the cycle the next day. I’ve found that my productivity shoots up under this technique. Here’s a great web app to track your progress called the Pomodoro Tracker.

Scope creep

What is scope creep? Scope creep describes those extra little client requests here and there. The need that that website you just created suddenly has for extra pages at the time of delivery. That graphic-design gig you took on that keeps accruing more and more changes …

Sometimes the creep is subtle, and sometimes it’s massive. But, if you let the scope creep once, it will never stop creeping.

The best, most obvious way to deal with scope creep is a thorough contract which clearly states that any additional work will be billed accordingly. I love BidSketch for quick, effective, template-rich contracts. If you create a contract once, you can save it and reuse it.

BidSketch also has contract templates for specific industries. You can send the contract and have your client sign it electronically with the click of a couple of buttons, which helps you keep a record of the signed document to reference should any of the obstacles described below come up:

Chasing clients for payment

You produced. You invoiced. You waited. But still … crickets.

Payments are undoubtedly the most aggravating and awkward part of freelance work. So, protect yourself: Ensure a contract is in place for every job, and stipulate that you charge interest for late payments. Set up automated email reminders upon invoicing.

A software like Invoicely can help you with invoicing, with reminders to make sure you are on top of your finances. Invoicely works well because it allows you to set up late fees for invoices that are paid late or not at all. This is another tactic to help make sure clients pay on time.

The best tip I have learned is that you should always wait to deliver the final project until you have the final invoice paid. That way you retain ownership of the work before a client can run off without paying.

Unfortunately, this is an obstacle that you will face. If you embrace this fact and plan for it, you won’t be shocked when it does happen. There is no shame in picking up the phone and speaking directly to your client. If you speak on the phone, make sure to follow up via email, to have a paper trail.

You are entitled to payment for your services. Take legal action as needed. I like RocketLawyer for free contracts for entrepreneurs and freelancers, if the situation dictates.

Remote freelancing presents as many challenges as it does benefits, despite the allure of flexibility. But, if being a freelancer brings you one step closer to fulfilling your dreams, then don’t allow any obstacles to deter you. If you’re the type of person who dreams of working for yourself, you will have what it takes to make it. Stay focused, stay inspired and stay hungry — to learn and grow.

Source: entrepreneur.com ~ By: Andrew Medal ~ Image: pixabay.com

How to Take Calculated Risk to Achieve More and Become Successful

Risk is something we all have to face in our lives but appreciating its value and impact on our lives is not always easy.

I asked my social media friends on a survey whether they felt risk was a good thing and 100’s said yes and yet I know from my clients that this doesn’t equate to 100% of people taken every risky action they could to achieve more and live a life that fulfils them.

Take the client that needed a coaching session to get them to take the jump into self employment. They knew in their heads that with over 20 years at the pinnacle of their career, they could do it. But they needed their coach to be the one that took the training wheels off and said “let’s do this!”

We don’t all take the risks we should in life. What makes a risk feel too big? What external impactors change our perception of risk and what’s the difference between good risk and bad? When should we be risk adverse? And how can we work out the difference and step up to take the risks that could change our lives (for the better)?

What is calculated risk?

Let me ask you:

“Would you cross a 3 lane road of fast moving traffic?” The answer is likely to be “no” right?

What about if I asked “Would you cross 3 lanes of traffic at night?” Still a “No?”

What about if I said “Would you cross 3 lanes of traffic that had a pedestrian crossing?”

Look how the risk changes. It is the same road with the same cars, but we’ve gone from a risk that we are unprepared to take to one that has an element of control and expected outcomes. That is what a calculated risk is.

Would you quit your job right now and set up in business on the street corner in an hour’s time? No of course not. However, would you quit with a plan of action in a set period of time? Possibly?

The thing about calculated risk is that humans have to deal with their perceptions or reality, their emotions, feelings and even beliefs to be able to take on risk. And that is why you may see 100% of people saying “Take the risk”. However if questioned further, I could probably find at least one occasion where every single person should have taken the risk and they didn’t.

I’ve seen people turn down contracts, delay travelling, delay saying “yes” to marriage, delay quitting their job and even delay having their hair chopped off because they’ve not been able to calculate the risk with an outcome that they deem will be satisfactory.

Is all risk calculated?

In a speaking engagement, I once re-enacted the moment when the hero of the film is hanging on for dear life to the side of a mountain. There’s no hand places left going up. They can’t go down and there’s no way out, the baddies are shooting at them from every angle and you think “there is no way out of this!” and then miraculously they let go tumbling through the air, landing in a helicopter that flies into view being flown by the gorgeous incredibly clever side kick.

Risk is a bit like that.

The first time James Bond, Jack Reacher or Lara Croft let go and went in a new direction, they were probably experiencing massive levels of fear. However, by overriding that fear, they were able to create a new definition of what is possible. It’s not called mission impossible for nothing.

But how can we know it’s a good idea to jump and when it’s going to lead to impending doom?

Interestingly, children seem to be risk blind for a while. It is adults that stand behind them shouting “don’t do that, you will fall and break your neck!” Do children stop doing stupid things? A and E departments would argue no.

But if we didn’t take on risk we’d never learn to walk. The first time you pulled yourself up on to your legs and stood there jumping up and down with a grin that says “Look what I can do” was sheer joy, not so much fun the next time you tried it and nearly removed your nose. Most parents will have a story of how their child made their hearts leap with absolute terror as they did something stupid, but risk needs us to test its limits or we will all be still sat in baby gyms unable to reach the cool toys.

The reason some people achieve great things is because they are prepared to test their risk limitations.

How to grow your risk tolerance to achieve more?

Here I’ve aimed to break down what you need to keep your eyes peeled for, how to fix what you find and what you need to do so that you can calculate risk and achieve more with the following methods:

The RRIS method

R – Research everything you aim to achieve.

But also know when to stop researching and get on with it. The amount of clients I’ve worked with who are so ready they could be the most intellectual person on the planet on their area of expertise.

It’s easy to get in the trap of “doing just a bit more research” to get you out of taking action. So do your research and use the other tips to help you to take action on your knowledge.

R – Rationalize your reality.

I often hear clients say things that once said back to them they can quickly (and often embarrassingly) see that it’s just not true. They’ve twisted reality to enable them to stay safe.

Question what you believe to be true and the results you perceive to be impossible to avoid. Do you have evidence to prove your reality or are your thoughts just enabling your comfort zone to stay the same size?

Comfort zones are like big thick duvets. Glorious in the middle of winter with the rain battering the windows and you are curled up safe and warm, but hideous in summer, when the same duvet can wrap itself around you becoming a sweaty trap for your legs to get caught in.

If you know that a comfort zone is twisting your reality, you can be like two versions of my clients:

  1. They like to get so far out of their comfort zone that they can’t see it any more. They do big actions putting into action the right support to achieve them. Learn and move on.
  2. They would literally feel stuck in fear if you offered them option 1, therefore they like to do things in small tiny morsel sized bites. If this is you, arrange to challenge your beliefs around anything in your life (not just related to the calculated risk to achieve more).

If you like structure, start the day in a way you wouldn’t. Get dressed before you brush your teeth, listen to a different radio station, choose a different route to work.

Silly things that make you think about what you are doing can help you see that different is not bad. Different can be exciting, new, rewarding and so much else. And tiny steps can be right for some.

I – Ideas can reduce or inflame our capability for calculated risk.

Before you do anything, somewhere in your head it was a thought. When you really appreciate this, you are able to see that before you take on any risk, you have to have the ideas behind it to achieve.

Ideas like this will be exciting, life changing, and will work and make my career. What phrases would you create to describe the result of your idea?

If you notice they are negative, where’s your evidence? Clients often tell me that I make them take risks. As a coach, that’s impossible. My job is to enable them to see what they really want and overcome the beliefs and obstacles towards going for it.

Once we are faced with our facts on our skills, past successes and capabilities, we can’t help but ask “what is stopping you?” By doing this, you are creating solid foundation to get great results because your ideas are positive and not made up of illogical untruths like “it won’t work”, “what if I fail”, “it’s not done like that”, “I will end up looking stupid”.

S – Success over scares

It is a calculated risk and therefore something that is worth investing in and going for when our level of fear is reduced and our belief about success is raised. Where do you stand on this scale?

Scared! vs Success!

Now add in the following words to the above scale. Where would they sit?

  • Staying safe
  • Stuck
  • Self esteem
  • Stopping myself

Can you start to see how there is a big gap between scared and success? And between the two there will always be elements of feeling safe or stuck and worrying about whether you can do it. The important thing to remember is that you will never completely bridge the gap between scared and successful. A little fear is really good for you.

I’ve never had a speaking engagement where I don’t feel a little nervous. 9 years ago that wasn’t nervousness that was absolute terror. And I once read “it’s not stage fright, it’s performance energy.”

What description would you like to use do describe your calculated risk? If you were to say it out loud, would it be a positive sentence or one that reduce you to fear? Your words and finding your place on the scared to success scale could define your likelihood of success.

The know-it kit

Taking the risk is scary, from the client that wanted to confront their boss of 10 years and make a suggestion that they knew flew in the opposite opinion of their boss, to the singer who is too scared to stand in front of an audience. The important thing is to remember that you are in control of the risks you take and a know it kit can help.

Know the times you’ve been successful.

Lot’s of clients will tell me that their fear is overriding their beliefs about what can be achieved. At times like that it’s no good to think something different and expect it to magically make it seem easy.

Get the facts on your side. As much as you heart will fill your head with negativity, hanging on to the facts of what you’ve already done in life is something you can’t argue with.

Know the skills you have.

As above, when we take on a risk, we need to know we’ve got what we need to get the results we want.

Know that mistakes are good.

No exceptional rise to success didn’t have set backs, no great inventions didn’t have failures (with many of those becoming inventions in their own right) knowing that mistakes are an opportunity to learn and good for the end results can ensure you take action even when the fear is raising its ugly head.

International Vocal Coach Gemma Milburne shared,

“I think many of the greatest singers are the most willing to take risks. You have to risk going out of tune, making mistakes, sounding awful, in order to get REALLY good at singing. As a vocal coach a lot of what I’m doing is helping singers to face that ‘mental’ risk that’s in a person’s head.”

Know the people you can trust.

When everything is in place, you’ve got the evidence, you’ve done your research, you are accountable, focused and ready for action, sometimes just a chat with the right person can be all you need.

Who is in your Know it Kit? You can trust them to say what you need them to say. And not just “you will be great dear, go for it.” Having the right people there that will challenge, empower and ensure you’ve ready in every capacity to make it happen.

Before a petrified public speaker has taken to the stage or a client has walked into a room to go for their big dream, I’m often the one they text as they walk in for that last minute reminder that they’ve got this.

Know the way you have to feel.

And lastly, don’t forget that even with the right words from the right people, it is still down to you.

Sometimes cultural beliefs and feelings can slip into our mindset, other people in the same industry can tell us “it’s never been done like that” and it can knock our focus and derail our thoughts.

How do you need to feel to get the results you want? If I told a person from 200 years ago that they could fly anywhere on this planet in the same day, I’d likely have been locked up. Our beliefs change with time and experience. Do you want to be the person that creates the thoughts and beliefs of the future? Or wait for someone else to have taken the risk (and the glory!) and to leave you wishing “I wish I’d taken that risk”?

Face your fear and take risks

Looking back to myself years ago, Mrs. Nervous Wreck lacking in confidence…

She looked up at the chandelier that was taller than her house and tried to focus her thoughts. No amount of “thinking positive” was working and she just wanted her spleen to burst so she could end up in hospital safely away from this extravagant room and all these people. How could she ever have thought it would be a clever idea to speak to a room full of her peers?

Less than 5 months prior to this moment, she’d stood in front of just 25 business owners and faffed, and fumbled through her words, feeling like a complete fake wishing to never see any of these people ever again. Heck even a career in a local fast food place would be better! She’d made a memorable impression but for all the wrong reasons and one of the audience had taken great delight in reminding her of her epic fail, so what had driven her to do it again?

That was me but for some reason, I’d decided to take the risk and speak on another stage in front of more people.

In many ways, I was hardly recognizable from 9 years ago to today when I’m described as “one of the best speakers I’ve ever heard” and “changed my life in one hour.” Clearly my ability and attitude to speaking to an audience changed but what else?

It was how I faced my fear and how I grew my risk tolerance to achieve more.

By taking my advice on how to take calculated risks, you will gradually find yourself becoming braver and embracing more opportunities. You’ve got this!

Source: lifehack.org ~ By: Mandie Holgate ~ Image: pixabay.com

4 Branding Tips That Will Make You Stand Out

For my fans and followers, this list may be familiar territory, but that doesn’t mean you are successfully applying the advice to your business—and, more important, the list can be a reference point to ensure you are not developing bad branding habits that will make you disappear in the sea of sameness of your industry.

Collected here are four brand tips that are essential to developing a brand that gets noticed, remembered, and shared and doesn’t just blend in with the competition.

Not included here are the metaphoric meanings of different colors (red is urgent, blue is calm, blah blah blah…) or lessons on design of any kind. Design is crucial to having an effective brand, but your visual brand is a small, albeit important piece that should come much later in the process of developing your brand as a whole (like choosing a font or determining whether your logo is text or an image), especially when you have successful servicebusiness where you are making sales person to person. Nice-looking, consistently colored brands that promise “better” results are more than a dime a dozen.

These tips address the more important question that your brand ought to answer if you want it to help you get the right clients, which is “Why you?”

1. Don’t be about “good customer service,” “having knowledge and experience in your industry,” or anything else that any client would want from any company they hire for anything .

Who is the client that is not interested in good customer service? Who sells something they don’t know a lot about or have experience in? Don’t sell what customers already expect from all services. You might as well say “trust me,” which might be the most untrustworthy statement there is. Why do you have to tell me to trust you? I wasn’t even skeptical before you said that!

2. Ignore your favorite big box brands like Nike, Apple, and Starbucks.

If you are unsure of what to say, how to look, or how to market, do not use successful global companies for inspiration! First, these are product companies, so they are not comparable (just one of the millions of differences between Apple and your IT services company). Second, you should not be emulating the ways their brands speak and operate if you are a small business or—especially—an individual selling your own services.

If you’re seeking out ideas, look toward businesses with which you have more in common. Is another creative freelancer or high-end consultant in your area or industry achieving the things you want? Whose copy, look, or attitude is inspiring or attractive to you? Break down what you like about them and what draws you to them in detail so you can actually get some useable ideas on what you could do in your own brand. Then, don’t copy them, but do find your own way of applying those ideas. If you copy them you will reek of inauthenticity.

It’s okay to look for ideas outside of yourself—after all, you’ve gotta start somewhere, but it ain’t with Apple—so forget about the big guys completely and look for inspiration in your own stratosphere.

3. Find your haters.

Most of us avoid hearing or finding negative feedback about our service, but if the way you do things is not a turnoff to at least some people, then you don’t have anything to offer  (beyond the hundreds of others just like you selling a service without any style or angle). Of course, your service is not hate-able, but what could reasonable people dislike about your methods?

The trick here is not to just write off completely those who would dislike your style as jealous haters. If everything you do is an attempt to be appealing to potentially everyone (which is impossible), you will end up with a useless, stale, generic brand message and you will be forgettable and have a difficult time closing potential clients.

Finding what is unlikeable about your way of doing business is the key to finding who would love to work with you—and pay handsomely for your services—because you are speaking directly to them in their exact language.

4. Have a brand goal.

Goals are great, right? We have them for our finances, business, and relationships, so why don’t you have a goal for your brand? Why do you have a brand and what do you want to get from it?

The hard part is getting granular because—sorry to tell you—“getting more clients,” “making more money,” or “growing” are not goals. They are hopes and dreams, unless you get specific. “More money” is a hard one to reach—how much more until you’ve made it? You probably already have a vague idea in mind, so just say it out loud or better yet, write it down. Have the guts to admit to yourself what you want.

Your brand goals should be no different. If you’ve only sold by referral up to this point, maybe you want at least four potential ideal clients to call you out of the blue every month because you have a noticeable, memorable, shareable brand. Maybe you want your brand to be able to justify raising your price by 25 percent. Once you know what you’re aiming for and what your brand is supposed to be doing, you can make the right decisions on how to invest your time and money in it, and have a brand that actually works for you—not one that just looks nice or, worse, looks like all the other guys.

These brand tips are simple in theory but often difficult in practice. They require going beyond website copy and elevator pitches that sound “correct” but are actually boring and generic. They mean ignoring the opinions of others and believing in your own abilities and expertise. And they require you to get real with yourself about what you really want. But that’s the work necessary to separate yourself from competitors and the sea of sameness.

Source: Forbes.com ~ By: Pia Silva ~ Image: pixabay.com

 

7 Tips To Properly Manage Your Sales Funnel

Whether you’re just getting started in business, or have a successful business up and running the fact is that sales are your company’s lifeblood. In today’s digital world, creating a website that convert’s visitors into leads is only the first step. The inbound marketing/sales process is exactly that… a process, one which involves moving a lead from first contact, through to the close in a series of steps.

Lead nurturing requires management. Using various methods to continue to build trust, keep your business top of mind, provide prospects with specific valuable information, and finally offering solutions, takes time, tools, and proper management for success.

Here are some tips and tools for properly managing your sales/lead funnel in order to maximize conversions and gently guide your best prospects from first contact to the close!

What is A Sales Funnel

Ok, so this was probably covered in inbound marketing 101, but let’s recap. Your sales funnel is a “visual” representation of how you generate leads and nurture them through the sales process. If you imagine the nurturing process as a funnel, the widest part is at the top. This is basically the earliest and broadest approach you take for generating leads.

As you move through the funnel and the opening gets narrower, you are taking those original broad based leads and further defining them. By refining your approach as you learn more about your prospects, the information you provide becomes more directed and personalized. This builds trust and guides your prospect through their buying process as they gather information and seek solutions.

Managing your sales funnel is about providing exactly the right information at exactly the right time in the process to move prospects forward, towards the sale.

Improving And Managing Your Sales Funnel

There’s often more than one right answer and different solutions to common problems, some may work better for different organizations depending on their structure. Here are some tips for managing your sales funnel more effectively.

1. Don’t Lose Focus!

Many organizations center their sales funnel management on their need (sales) rather than on the customer’s wants and needs (solutions and results). Effective nurturing centers around asking the right questions, at the right time, to the right people. Sales managers need to ask their team the right questions, and salepeople need to be comfortable asking tough questions of their customers.

Once a lead has moved through the marketing process to “qualified” status and been passed to sales, nurturing needs to continue. The right questions can lead to the right solution, but the focus needs to remain on the customer, not the sale!

2. Don’t Neglect Payment Options!

Adding a simple way to purchase your product or service once your prospect has gone beyond the initial stages of contact can accelerate the buying process. By giving customer’s the option to buy early, using technology like Paypal or GoogleWallet can sometimes trigger sales.

Once you’ve established the lead as qualified, (second or third contact) offering an easy way to pay can often bypass the later stages of your funnel and prompt a sale earlier in the process. Of course, avoid the hard sell! You’re still providing information at this stage, but a customer may make an impulse purchase early if the email content is targeted and a payment option is offered!

3. Don’t “Turn-On” Your Sales Team Too Early!

One of the biggest mistakes companies make is “releasing the hounds” too early! The first two-thirds of the nurturing process belongs to marketing! At this point your funnel should be called a “marketing/sales funnel!” Your two teams need to work together during the nurturing process. Aligning the tasks and goals of marketing and sales can increase your close rate significantly!

Have a logical transition point. Marketing’s job is to provide useful information and guide a prospect through your funnel until such time as they indicate that they’re ready and willing to buy. At this point, the “qualified” lead should be turned over to sales for the close!

4. Your Marketing/Sales Funnel Doesn’t Address A Prospects “Fears”

This is relates to item one and item three. Your job in the initial stages of contact is to understand your prospect’s fears, needs and pain points and then work to address them. Their fear is what stalls them from puling the trigger. Each step of the process needs to be well thought out. Is your team:

  • Talking features and benefits too early instead of addressing your customers pain points and goals.
  • Not actively listening to a prospect’s concerns.
  • Not mirroring the customers words and instead using long sentences and jargon.
  • Avoiding their objections instead of seeing them as opportunities to offer solutions!

Like item one, this happens when your sales team loses their focus on the customer and instead focuses on their own fears or goals.

Tools To Help Manage Your Sales Funnel

We’ve all heard the phrase “the right tool for the job!” This applies when managing your sales funnel too. Providing your sales and marketing team with the proper tools is a key element for aligning your teams efforts. Here are a few great tools to help manage your sales funnel.

5. CRM: Customer Relationship Management System

A good CRM is the most important tool to manage every stage of your sales funnel. Using it can help you to track leads, open deals and your current customers. By cross sharing CRM data between marketing and sales you can effectively track customers from the marketing stages of your funnel and turn them over to sales when they meet certain pre-determined thresholds.

6. Email Tracking Software

Today, it’s getting harder to reach decision makers and get their attention. They’re probably receiving hundreds of emails every day, and you need to make yours stand out! You need a strategic approach with your content and to provide maximum value in every email, but you also have to be creative enough in your approach to get your emails opened.

The best way to accomplish this is by tracking your email’s open and click rates. This is pretty standard from a marketing standpoint, but these numbers were often segregated from the sales team. Part of aligning your sales and marketing teams is information sharing. By notifying sales each time a piece is opened, you give them the ability to structure their approach by understanding customer triggers. For example, offer A is generating 50% more opens than offer B. Your sales team can then focus the proper offer to the proper prospect, showing how your product can meet their needs and provide viable solutions.

7. Scheduling Software

This is a great tool. It used to take multiple emails to get a meeting booked. You sent your availability, they sent theirs and it went on and on. A scheduling tool can help you sync directly with your clients calendars and scheduling a meeting is as easy as clicking a button.

With the proper focus, alignment between marketing and sales, and the right tools you can effectively manage your sales funnel to create more leads, better qualified leads and close more sales. Aligning your marketing and sales efforts is an important step. Share data, goals and process and watch your conversions turn into customers!

50 Proven Ways To Grow Your Email List

1. Add a lightbox form to your site: One company experienced a 99% increase in subscriber growth after adding a pop-over opt-in form.

2. Create an amazing, value-packed opt-in incentive: A 1-page report just won’t cut it anymore; try a full-length eBook or white paper.

3. Host a free webinar, and make signing up a requirement for registration.

4. Offer the webinar recording as an opt-in incentive: Make signing up a requirement for downloading or viewing the recording.

5. Create multiple offers on your site to improve your segmentation: Offer several different opt-in incentives for different segments of your audience. This will increase the number of people who sign up, and improve the relevance of the emails you send to your subscribers.

6. Add a call to action at the end of your YouTube videos.

7. Link to an old newsletter on social media: Show your fans and followers what they’re missing out on by not subscribing to your emails.

8. Offer an exclusive subscriber-only discount and promote it on social media.

9. Mention an influential Twitter TWTR +0.94% user in your newsletter, and then tweet about it: Hopefully that influencer will then retweet it to his or her followers.

10. Amazing blog content + clear call to action = massive email list (source: BufferSocial)

11. Include a subscriber testimonial alongside your opt-in box.

12. Add a sign-up form to your Facebook Page.

13. Mention the benefit of joining your list: Make it clear what’s ‘in it for them’.

14. Hold a contest, and make joining your list a contest requirement.

15. Make your opt-in box a feature, not an add-on: Don’t hide your opt-in box in your sidebar…put it in a prominent place so your visitors can’t miss it.

16. Collect emails at offline events like tradeshows: Hold an on-site contest and make providing an email a contest requirement.

17. Include a call to action to join your list in your guest post author bios.

18. Cross-promote with a complimentary business in your niche: Agree to promote each other’s newsletters.

19. Offer must-have content via your newsletter: Be sure to offer exclusive, ‘hot’ content in your newsletter, and then let your social media audience know about it.

20. Ask your social media followers to join: Asking nicely never hurts!

21. Ask for as little info as possible: Include as few fields as possible on your sign-up form. This will increase the chances of someone actually signing up.

22. Be regular in how often you send out emails to your list: When people see that you regularly send out great content, they’re more likely to recommend your emails to their friends and colleagues.

23. Use a sponsor offer to entice people to join your list: If you offer advertising on your site, kill two birds with one stone…Promote a sponsor offer (like a discount or giveaway) in your newsletter, and let your followers and website visitors know about it.

24. Use a call to action after blog posts: Using a plugin like WordPress Calls to Action can help with this.

25. Offer an email course: Offer a multi-day email course like ’10 days to rock hard abs’.

26. Add a QR code to offline media like business cards and tradeshow posters.

27. Use a plugin like WP-TopBar to show a special opt-in message at the top (or bottom) of every page of your site.

28. Make your homepage all about the opt-in: Your homepage likely gets more traffic than the rest of your site, so make sure you showcase your sign up form in a prominent place.

29. Use the new Facebook call to action button to drive email sign-ups: According to Marketing Land, using this button has increased conversions for Dollar Shave Club by 2.5x.

30. Offer transparent segmenting: Let your subscribers choose what types of content they want to receive from you.

31. Create opt-in landing pages for social media referral traffic.

32. Include an opt-in radio button (checkbox) on your website’s contact form and About Us page.

33. Offer customers a discount on their next purchase with email sign-up.

34. Provide social proof alongside your opt-in box: “Join the # subscribers who already enjoy this newsletter”.

35. Incorporate social sharing buttons alongside your newsletter content, not just at the top or side of your site.

36. Gate some of your content: Show excerpts of this content, and then require email sign-up in order to view the whole article.

37. Offer PDF versions of popular blog content in exchange for email sign-up.

38. Provide your credentials when asking for opt-ins: What qualifies you as an expert in your field? Why should people trust you?

39. Offer flash discounts for new subscribers: This is a common tactic used by online fashion retailers. Offer a % discount for new, first-time subscribers.

40. Offer bonus information at the end of popular blog posts with email sign-up: For instance, if you have a blog post of the Top 10 Ways to Find New Clients, offer an additional 10 tips with email sign-up.

41. Offer the first 50, 100, 200, etc. subscribers a bonus gift or discount, and promote this offer to your social media followers.

42. Be relatable: Let potential subscribers know you’re a real person, not a nameless, faceless brand. This will instill trust and increase the likelihood they’ll hand over their email.

43. Make the sign-up as quick and painless as possible: Use a sign-up form rather than a link to a sign-up form, wherever possible. Every additional step you incorporate into the process is one more chance to lose your subscriber.

44. Add a sign-up radio box if you require blog commenters to sign in: This is risky as it may detract some visitors from commenting, but the payoff may be worth it.

45. Give potential subscribers a sneak peek of what they’ll be getting: Offer a sample newsletter or a screenshot of a typical email you send to subscribers.

46. Add an opt-in radio box in your e-commerce checkout.

47. Let potential subscribers know exactly what they’ll be getting and how often they’ll be getting it.

48. Ask…again and again: Buffer doubled their email list in 30 days by adding 9 additional opportunities to sign up. Before, they asked for sign-ups in a slideup form; after they also asked for it in a HelloBar, on their homepage, in a postscript, in their sidebar, on Twitter, on their SlideShares, on Facebook and Qzzr.

49. Include an anti-spam policy: Assure potential subscribers you’ll only send relevant info, and will never sell or share their personal info.

50. Run a survey, and gate the results: Pull the results together, add some graphs and charts, and then release it to your audience…with email sign up, of course!

Source: Forbes.com ~ By Jayson Demers