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What Does a Great Business Workflow Look Like for a Speaker?

What separates a speaker at the top of their game from one who is kind of middling or just getting by?

There are a lot of factors we could point to – connections, marketing, global footprint…but one less talked about is the workflow the speaker uses to keep their business ticking.

Managing the “business side” is often less appealing to a speaker, or perhaps outside of your usual wheelhouse. However, having a well-managed business workflow is what keeps the opportunities coming and your profile growing.

Let’s break this down, beginning with…

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What do you mean by “workflow?”

We like to keep it simple (much more simple than what you’ll find with a dictionary definition anyway!). A workflow is how you get your work done. Usually, you create a process map or series of steps which outline what you need to do in the order that you need to get it done.

The term workflow dates back to early in the twentieth century, where it is thought to have originated with Frederick Taylor, Henry Gantt and the Scientific Management movement. Workflow and the process management ideas developed within this theory are closely intertwined.

Workflows are involved with any process that is necessary to keep your business running optimally and might involve just one person, multiple people, or interacting with some kind of tool to get the work done.

As an example for a speaker, let’s say you have a workflow for following up with your leads or contacts (an important workflow to have!). At a very basic level it might look something like:

Workflow for a speaker

Workflow automation

One of the cool things about the tools that we now have available to us is that there are plenty of opportunities to automate either entire workflows, or key parts of workflows so that you don’t have a “human” bottleneck.

In fact, where possible, we would put workflow automation in place as a best practice. Anywhere you can replace manual processes or actions within processes with an automated response makes it less likely that you miss important tasks. For example, if you had to individually write an email to each lead in your database, how soon would it be before you couldn’t keep up with the job?

Workflow automation helps you to improve your everyday business practices by not only getting important tasks done, but freeing you up to focus on the most important things. For example, rather than sending individual emails to everyone who is top of funnel in your sales cycle, you can be focusing on making the booking with those who are already at the bottom of your funnel.

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What makes an effective workflow?

Effective workflows come down to a couple specific questions:

  1. What do I need to achieve?
  2. What is the most efficient way to get this done?

Getting back to Henry Gantt and Scientific Management, he broke down that question of efficiency by looking at:

  • The exact jobs that needed doing
  • Who was responsible for the task
  • The time taken to complete each task.

The answers to those questions can help you to structure a chart or process map (Gantt was the inventor of the Gantt Chart), giving you a basic workflow.  With those factors in mind, let’s now look at a few best practices for creating those workflows:

Brainstorm the workflow

Are you working on your own, or do you have team members who work with you? Either way, getting the elements of the workflow down on paper (or a shared tool) helps you to stand back and examine it for efficiency. Be sure to involve your team members if you have them.

Are there any parts of the process that are ineffective or clumsy? Is there someone else who can look at your processes and give a perspective as to what might make them more efficient? What parts typically cause bottlenecks or other issues?

One of the secrets to building a business that is scalable is to have processes in place that are clearly defined. This includes anything that you need to have going to keep your business running – marketing, sales, accounting, customer support, etc. When you brainstorm your workflows, don’t leave out any steps. For example, if there’s often a holdup at some particular point, what happens then as a result? You need the bigger picture to look for improvements.

Many speakers don’t have any processes for their business. If you’re starting from scratch with formalizing processes, that’s a good place to get going from anyway. Top workflows which we suggest a speaker needs include:

  • Obtaining leads
  • Nurturing those leads / keeping your networks “warm”
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Gathering feedback
  • Planning presentations and/or events.

Examine any flaws

Where do the inefficiencies or flaws lie in your processes? As an example, a typical issue in a speaker’s business might be that their referral pipeline has gone quiet or completely dried up. On closer inspection, you might find that there is little follow-up with those contacts. Perhaps they are entered into a contact database but then rarely hear from the speaker, putting them out of sight and out of mind.

Some other typical flaws you might find include:

  • Time-consuming, manual processes that could be automated
  • Degradation of information transfer, meaning that something gets lost along the way. A typical example is when you call a customer service line, then have to repeat your problem every time you get transferred. In your business, are you recording key information about contacts, such as where you met them, what their interests are and who they work for?
  • Following that last point; information that is kept in different places, making it difficult to bring together. For example, contacts, history, and customers.
  • Steps that are duplicated or unnecessary
  • Steps that aren’t clearly assigned to a person (where you have a team)
  • Lack of oversight or reporting on progress.
  • Tasks that can be completed simultaneously being recorded in the process as being sequential. If it’s just you in the business, this isn’t such a big deal, but in teams this can create unnecessary bottlenecks.

Streamline and document the processes

With all the parts of your processes laid out in front of you, what can you now do to streamline them? As a first step, we would look to automate anything that possibly can be taken care of that way.

This may mean investing in the right tools for your business; for example, if you’ve been managing contacts via a spreadsheet and a scratched-together system with email, you might consider putting in place a CRM software which keeps all of that information in one place, and can automate sequences for you.

Documenting processes is also an important step if you have goals for growing your business or delegating more tasks to team members. This helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that team members can pick up where someone else left off. You reduce back-and-forth, or training time needed when processes are clear and accessible.

Lastly, be clear about who is assigned to what wherever there is a task that requires review or cannot be automated. This leaves nothing up to chance within your system.

Review processes

As a final best practice, to ensure that you keep your business running as efficiently as possible, review your processes every now and then. Sometimes you will find a new technology has arrived which will help to automate something that you couldn’t previously. Sometimes processes become obsolete or unnecessary (paper-based files have fairly rapidly been replaced by cloud solutions).

Sales workflows

Let’s talk briefly about sales workflows. If there’s any particular workflow that a lot of speakers need to improve, it would be sales. Specifically, often there is an issue with following up with leads and ensuring that people remember who you are. Sometimes this happens when the sales system is an ad hoc activity, or sometimes it’s because the workflow is not set up well, or does not have automation where it could.

What do you have to lose when you do things ad hoc? Well, speaking gigs for one! If you’re not managing your leads and continuing a strategic program of following up, then you are potentially missing out on a lot of opportunities.

An effective sales workflow is about smarter selling of yourself. It’s about having an understanding of the right timing to reach out to people and how to market yourself to capture their attention. The thing that a good sales workflow delivers is consistency. You can systemize your sales process so that your pipeline is kept busy.

If you’re looking for a place to start with assessing the efficiency of workflows in your business, we’d suggest that sales and lead follow-up is it. Don’t let those opportunities go begging!

 

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Final thoughts

At a glance, the very word “workflow” sounds like, well, work! In breaking it down however, it’s an efficient way to ensure that you have clear processes in your business that keep it powering forward.

A common worry for speakers is that they aren’t managing leads and contacts as they could be, which potentially means they’re missing good opportunities. A sales workflow might sound a little daunting, but it is a friend to the scalability of your business.

If you’d like to know more about a scalable sales process for speakers, we wrote a brief ebook on the subject. You can download The Professional Speaker’s Sales Blueprint for free here.

I’ve been hacking at various business ideas since I was 16. I’m a full stack developer and love crafting user experiences. I’ve been nose deep in code since I put the legos down, and built several successful businesses in the process. I’ve lost some hair, gained some experience and throughly enjoyed the journey.

Why “Ease of Use” is the Most Important Feature of CRM Software

What are the most important features of your CRM? You’re probably thinking customizable contact fields, analytics, or being able to email from right inside your contact screen. But you’d be wrong. The single most important feature of your CRM is ease of use.

A little over 70% of senior executives would trade functionality for ease of use. Too many features can be overwhelming. We may think we need the app with all the bells and whistles, but when we look practically at how we use our software, extra features can really get in the way. Muck up the works.

Ease of use, on the other hand, is one feature that will help make your team’s day-to-day workflow simpler, happier, and frustration-free.

So, just what are we talking about when we talk about ease of use?

Here’s a great breakdown of some of the hallmarks of primo usability:

  • Simplicity. Is it so straightforward your technophobe uncle could use it?
  • Speed. Is it quick as a bunny after downing a shot of espresso?
  • Lack of Disruptions. Is it a smooth operator?
  • Ease of Integration. Is it BFFs with your favorite sales tools?
  • Consistency. Is it as reliable as Old Faithful?

With those things in mind, it’s a little clearer why ease of use is so important. That list is pretty much everything you could dream of in a new tool for your team.

But there’s more!

Here are three big benefits of top-notch usability.

User adoption

When a CRM is easy to use, it’s its own best advertisement. It sells itself to your team so they want to use it. This helps you get over the initial hurdle of convincing your team that they need a new system to begin with.

The tools your team uses should make their job easier. And if learning your CRM is a job in itself, your team is going to take to it as willingly as a kitten to water.

An easy-to-learn, intuitive CRM, on the other hand, makes for smooth and happy sailing.

Satisfaction

And speaking of happy, an easy-to-use CRM is integral to your team’s overall job satisfaction. Your team will spend a lot of their time each day interacting with your CRM. For most teams, especially in client-facing businesses, their CRM is one window on their computer that’s  always open.

And as with any window you gaze through day in and day out, your team will notice the little imperfections in your CRM. The little daily frustrations, hiccups, and confusions in a difficult-to-use CRM are like the cracks, nicks, and bug guts on your car windshield. They make you a little less adept at getting where you need to go, they impede your ability to see the whole picture accurately, and they make the job of going places less fun.

With an easy-to-use CRM, your team can just cruise on through their work days. An easy-to-use CRM, like a spotless windshield, facilitates a big-picture view, helps your team focus on what’s most important (your clients and contacts), and makes them that much happier at their job.

Productivity

Happiness isn’t all you have to gain from a simple CRM. Your productivity will increase as well, because happy people work harder.

In a recent study, 70% of staff said poorly performing technology is a drain on their productivity rates. Poor technology is also demotivating and results in higher employee churn.

You may not think a complex piece of software would trip up your team’s smooth functioning or even contribute to turnover. But technology is, in many ways, another member of every business team. Overly complex tools impede performance — much in the same way a difficult teammate would.

An easy-to-use CRM is a team player. It does what a CRM does best, and it does it well: it speeds connection, streamlines workflow, and keeps your team organized. Above all, it supports your team to focus on what it does best: grow your business, build relationships, and get stuff done.

There you have it — the power of ease of use in a nutshell!

Looking to get down to basics? Check out our blog on all you need to know about CRM, geared right toward CRM newbies.

Caitlin got her roots in inbound marketing before it got its name. As a teenager in the 90s, she promoted her independently published magazines by writing about the importance of indie publishing all over AOL. Now, Caitlin is passionate about moving people and society forward. She follows thought leaders in the National Speakers Association, the staffing industry, and all human rights movements. She loves learning and helping people learn.

Six actionable tips to help you capture the power of relationship building in sales

Sales seem to be an arcane art at times but the truth is it usually boils down to the value you can provide.

This doesn’t only apply to your product. It applies to your ability to craft value in the form of meaningful relationship building.

Every marketer knows that their product succeeds once they put the right message in front of the right target audience. If you know who you’re selling to and exactly what they want, you should strive to know who they are and what pain they’re looking to solve.

This isn’t a one-way street either. Building a meaningful relationship implies a level of trust and commitment that can help you close present and future sales. By crafting a finer understanding and empathy with your customer, you can get them to open up and be genuine with you.

By offering honest feedback, you can listen to the customer and get not only a sense of what they want from you, but also you will be able to confidently gauge what step in the selling process they are. You’ll get more sales doing so because you’ll be able to get real feedback at every step in your process.

You’ll also get something more than a sale: you’ll get a lasting commitment to one another. One successful sale can often lead to a lifetime of value building.

The power of relationship building

We live in an age where technology has helped reveal innate needs. Personalized ads help drive 10 times more action than conventional digital ads.

74% of people get frustrated when a website offers them content that doesn’t fit their needs. If people are expecting websites to know enough about them to be relevant, the bar for personal knowledge and empathy has surely risen for interpersonal contact.

The need for building and maintaining valuable relationships has never been higher. The Gallup group has come out with research that indicates most Americans don’t trust other people or institutions by default. The youngest generation of Millennials shows that this trend is getting worse as time goes by: while 40% of boomers think people around them can be trusted, only 19% of Millennials think the same. With a gradual erosion of social trust in individuals and institutions, those people who can build and inspire trust will be able to easily differentiate themselves for decades to come.

It’s a timeless truth, one observed by Dale Carnegie decades ago:

“Instead of condemning people, let’s try to understand them. Let’s try to figure out why they do what they do. That’s a lot more profitable and intriguing than criticism; and it breeds sympathy, tolerance and kindness.”

That doesn’t mean faking it. It means taking the time to put in the hard work of genuine relationships that provide lasting value.

As Dale Carnagie put it:

“The difference between appreciation and flattery? That is simple. One is sincere and the other insincere. One comes from the heart out; the other from the teeth out.”

Here are the six actionable tips you need to build powerful relationships from the heart out.

1- Provide value before you ask for it.

Neil Fogarty has been building business relationships for 20 years. His first actionable tip for relationship building is key: provide value before you ask for any.

It’s the same thing Steve Blank says for getting meetings with people too busy to see you.

Neil has a close personal relationship with Richard Branson. Many emails have been sent to him ,intended to ask for an introduction to Richard Branson and nothing else. None of them have been read.

A concrete example: Consider mapping out the industry beyond your product so you can provide value to your client before you ever pitch them anything. If your sales instincts are right, the lead you’ll have hit will be inclined towards the differences in your solution and you’ll have given your customer something before you ever asked for anything.

2) Be an active listener.

Go beyond nodding and smiling: ensure the conversation flows where it needs to. Listen and provide feedback on what you’re hearing. Figure out what your customer is objecting to and tailor your process so that those objections are met.

A concrete example: Ask your customer what their pain points are and focus your pitch on how your solution helps those problems.

3) Be proactive.

If you can see a problem, reach out. If your client starts hinting that there are issues they face with another department, budgeting, compliance–try to make an effort to see if you can help. That effort will go a long way towards building meaningful relationships.

A concrete example: If you’re able to help with a customer problem, reach out. Let’s say your customer really likes your solution but has a hard time pitching it to a superior. If you can sense that, offer to write out a template for them they can use.

4) Be emotionally aware

It’s not enough to just be a listener. You should also be aware of the context of the words and the person who is expressing them. You can take that awareness and translate it into action by focusing the energy and tenor of the conversation towards a mutual win-win feeling of excitement rather than a competitive atmosphere of buyer vs seller.

A concrete example: Rather than driving a hard line over pricing and haggling over every cent over a matter of ego, take your conversations towards a positive win-win atmosphere where you want to provide as much value to the customer as possible. Use your emotional intelligence to assert that your goals clearly aligned, and move towards a resolution once you’ve discerned that the timing is just right.

5) Don’t sacrifice the long-term for the short-term

One of the most damaging stereotypes of salespeople involves the desperate closer, somebody who is going all-out to achieve that sale. That type of mentality can easily burn bridges, especially if a salesperson focuses away from providing value and focuses on providing as much pressure as possible. Sometimes, the timing is just not right, or the return on getting a sale right now might not be worth damaging what could be a long-term win-win relationship.

A concrete example: If you find yourself pushing the customer at all costs to get a short-term sale, step back and think it through for a while. Are you promising things that you won’t be able to deliver? Are you putting undue pressure on a long-standing client? Scale your approach back if so.

6) Prove that they’re not just a number.

You want to be there when it matters, not just to close sales. The best salespeople remember birthdays and events. They remember to send Christmas cards. That’s because, at the end of the day, sales are human-to-human connections built with empathy and maintained with value.

A concrete example: Use a CRM like KarmaCRM to record the birthdates and important events for your clients, then make sure you reach out at exactly the right time.

Want more advice on relationship building and personalization?

Check out this CrazyEgg blog post on personalization, and this post by Jeff Haber.





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I’ve been hacking at various business ideas since I was 16. I’m a full stack developer and love crafting user experiences. I’ve been nose deep in code since I put the legos down, and built several successful businesses in the process. I’ve lost some hair, gained some experience and throughly enjoyed the journey.