5 Things I Learned at the Sales Hacker Conference: Part 2

I was lucky enough to attend my second Sales Hacker Conference. The first time around, I learned some of the most valuable “sales hacks” in my career.

This time around, I learned a few more! As our CEO TK always says, “Don’t be lazy. You’re in Sales.” Here are my notes so you can hack be a Sales Hacker yourself:

1. What type of emails do executives respond to?

John Barrows breaks it down best…

2. Always use humor

No joke. Carolyn Betts (CEO from Betts Recruiting) got 250 salespeople laughing with this video: S*** Not to Say In an Interview.


3. Do your research and keep it personal.

I try to always have a personal “talking point” with each customer. Whether that’s knowing where they’re from, which school they went to, or their favorite sports team.

3 personal hacks that will cut down your time:

  1. Setup LinkedIn saved searches to catch trigger events right away
  2. Feedly will aggregate all your news
  3. Use Gagein for instant company alerts

4. Collaborate

I loved Sales Hacker New York, but one of my top takeaways from Sales Hacker San Francisco remains true.  Post-it advice from Doug Landis.

5. Become a Superhuman

Be personal on a large scale. How? TK’s 5×5: Personalizing Relationships at Scale.

Quick tip for sales emails:

*Bonus Hack: Love your team and customers

Stay tuned for Customer Success Hacks at the GainSight Pulse Conference!


Why you should come to the Sales Hacker Conference this week

This week, the ToutApp team is gearing up for the first ever Sales Hacker Conference in San Francisco where we are marquee sponsor.

It all started when a couple of months ago, Max Altschuler, the brains behind the Sales Hacker Conference, approached our small Sales Hacker group and told us about how he wanted to hold a broader conference. The rules were simple:

  1. We're going to get the smartest and brightest sales hackers together in one room
  2. We're going to talk about actionable insights instead of jargon
  3. Sponsorship will not guarantee a speaking spot. Speakers will be chosen based on their merits. Absolutely no pay-to-play advertisements.
  4. Maybe, just maybe, we're going to make the conference invite only

I heard the rules, and I blurted out: We're IN.

Why The Sales Hacker Conference Is Different

Why? For a number of reasons, but the #1 being of authenticity. I loved the idea of getting a bunch of DO-ers into a 1-day conference and getting everyone talking about actionable insights on how to do sales. I loved the idea of doing a conference where its not one of those all-sponsored events. I loved the idea that Max wanted to put together a mix of both industry veterans and up and coming startup founders. All in all, the concept fell a heck of a lot more REAL.

The Sales Hacker Conference is hopefully going to be one all about authenticity: from its initial design to its execution all the way to the content and conversations that will hopefully take place the day-of. Its going to be the conference for those that usually don't go to conferences. Its hopefully going to be the conference that drags out the unsung heroes of Sales.

Authenticity in Sales

As the Founder & CEO of ToutApp and as someone that does NOT have double digit years of sales experience, I've been forced to think on a first principled basis about what is Sales, how Sales works and how it is changing.

When we decided build software to empower salespeople, I made it a plan to buy as many sales books as possible, subscribe to as many sales blogs, and get lunch, drinks or dinner with as many sales leaders as possible and say: “I know nothing about Sales. Teach me.”

As I grew my own understanding of Sales, I came to understand and embrace one key insight which existed across all the books, meetings, and blog entries: Authenticity.

We all know this: Buyers are more empowered than ever before. With the power of Google, LinkedIn, Online Marketplaces and peer-to-peer reviews, they have more information than ever before. With the consumerization of IT, they also know the difference between shitty software and great products. 

While we all know about the shift in buyer behavior, we ourselves might not be getting rid of old sales habits yet. I feel this every day as I interview experienced salespeople to join our sales team.

With all of this powers that Buyers now hold, the only real way a salesperson is going to be able to connect and engage is through authenticity. If you're still trying to do sales using the old playbook of heavy handed-ness, relying on the lack of information distribution, or just pure trickery: the status quo is about to rule you out.

So how do you effectively sell in a world when the buyer potentially knows more about YOU the sales person about your space and your competitors? Authenticity. And unlike a lot of other sales skills, you can't fake authenticity, you can't use a software tool to “do” authenticity. It comes from within. And its what will build the top sales performers and leaders of tomorrow.

ToutApp + Authenticity

Interestingly, “Authenticity” is going to be one of the core underlying product themes going forward on our sales platform as well. I won't speak too much about that now, but I will be announcing some new exiting directions for our company on Thursday at the conference.

So in conclusion, authenticity is a hugely important theme to me. And it is a hugely important theme to Max and the other Sales Hackers I work with. So, I'm excited about whats ahead. I hope you'll join us.

Did you get your tickets yet? Join us this Thursday for the first even Sales Hacker Conference


How We Made our Customer Support Kickass

A customer-centered company

Here at ToutApp, we’re really dedicated to making our customers happy. My job title as “Happiness Officer” is a fairly excellent example of thisA month or so ago, though, as we amped up our marketing efforts, we started to experience some growing pains – especially in customer service. We’d been having trouble listening to our customers, responding as quickly as we used to, and making necessary improvements within the app – all while staying friendly, accessible, and helpful. It felt like a compromise to some of our ideals. To that effect, we decided to make some important changes to our support structure that I’ll talk about below.

Though none of this is directly sales-related, I hope that at the very least it’ll spark a discussion about how to best communicate with customers, as well as how to structure customer service at a growing company.

Here are some important changes and realizations we made where it comes to support:

1) “Customer service” is NOT a happy term.

Before doing any real restructuring of our support system, we meditated on our methodology and language for working with customers. “Customer service” is reminiscent of being put on hold and transferred, having to answer the same question over and over, or getting a nine digit case number to reference. Not the sort of experience we wanted to provide to ToutApp customers.

Since we’ve never been fans of doing things the old fashioned way, we’re throwing these terms out internally. If you want to get in touch with us, you can contact the happiness team to ask a question, report a problem, or talk to our enterprise sales team. No fuss.

2) Support tools can actually hurt productivity.

One of the biggest challenges I personally have been up against is the juggling of many different platforms in my daily workflow. At one point, I sat down, mapped out what I was using each service for (it looked something like this [right]), and decided things needed to change.

Here's all the tools I was using for support....

Now I’ve got Hipchat, Pivotal Tracker, Salesforce, Google Docs, Salesforce, and our internal database all hooked up to Zendesk and everything is finally in one place. I know when new cases come in through Hipchat, I can log bug reports easily, record user requests in a spreadsheet, and, most importantly, easily reference our customers’ data while chatting with them. Even if it takes some effort to build a custom setup like this, I can guarantee that the final result is worth it. Your customer support, service, or happiness team – whatever you call it – is not one size fits all. And your internal chaos will likely reflect itself when dealing with a customer. Your zen is their zen.

2) Your feedback mechanisms should be customized.

After a ton of research, we decided to migrate from Desk to Zendesk as our help desk platform.

Ask a Question

Zendesk provided some standard forms for submitting tickets. However, after looking over them we realized these were too generic for our business. So we decided to design our own forms.

Our main reason for this was the need for two very different forms: one that allowed customers to get simple questions answered (e.g. What’s included with your free plan?), and another for more in-depth problems with our product (e.g. Why won’t my templates load?). We’re a fairly complex platform that has a lot of different integrations, so we built up a really comprehensive “Report a Problem” form that asks as many questions as it can so that we can minimize back-and-forth exchanges by grabbing a ton of information up front.

Check them out:

3) Showing is telling.

Our new FAQs!

Throughout this support facelift, it had become fairly apparent recently that we’d outgrown our

homemade help/FAQ pages, so I completely redid these. Our two worst problems with these FAQs were a lack of up-to-date information and too much text. Rather than spend the necessary time updating these FAQs, I typically ended up communicating one-off with customers to show them a feature or walk them through a necessary process.

I’m cringing a bit as I write this, because we all know that’s not a sustainable process. Investing the time to make your help pages great and create good articles and video content goes a huge way in making any support organization successful. After just a week on our new FAQ pages (using Zendesk’s framework – thanks!), I can already notice a lot more customers educating themselves about the product, which makes everyone’s lives happier.

4) Our customers’ priorities are our priorities.

We previously asked customers “How are you feeling?” in our customer forms. This was a suggestion that Wufoo made at Userconf (a conference that was really helpful in us defining our support priorities!).

In the end, though, we made a basic realization: customers who have to fill out a “Report a Problem” form usually tend to be annoyed – who wouldn’t be?

We wanted to have a more meaningful way of humanizing communication with our customers, so we took a tip from Zendesk and added in a “Priority” field instead. Is this a low urgency issue? Or is it highly impactful? Now we can determine if something needs to be solved right away or in the near future.

In conclusion….

We realized we weren’t scaling something well, so we fixed it. It was this realization that allowed us to create an even better experience for our customers. ToutApp customers can now get help more easily and quickly – with a friendlier face.

I’m sure we’ll continue to have challenges as we continue to scale, but now our revamped infrastructure will better scale with them. If your company is experiencing anything similar, I’d love to talk about ideas, techniques, and tools. If you’re a user, I hope you notice the improvements. We’re here for you guys!


Ditch the Business Cards – How to Network More Successfully at Conferences

Any experienced businessperson has attended their fair share of conferences and tradeshows. They’ve networked, they’ve delivered their pitch, and they’ve handed out and received endless swathes of business cards. As our society continues to talk about going paperless, the fact that business cards are still prevalent seems a little outdated.

At Tout, our mission has always been to make emailing simpler and more efficient by providing features like templates, tracking, and easy-to-message groups. Still, our product is flexible and ever-changing; we hear about new use cases from our customers every day. So when we heard about users relying on Tout as a replacement for business cards, we had to share it!

Tout solves a key problem for any salesperson:  following up.

Picture South by Southwest in your mind: It’s a time for concerts, panel sessions, parties, and endless, endless amounts of networking. And with networking comes business cards. And with business cards come dead trees. All that aside, though, keeping track of the sheer volume of contacts met during SXSW is a daunting task.

We caught up with Vivek Sharma of Movable Ink who attended South by Southwest this year to get some insight into his use of Tout.

What was life like before Tout?
VS: [Before Tout, I would] carry a stack of business cards and do a card exchange.  No one ever follows up on collected business cards.  One could spend hours sorting through cards, transcribing data, and following up. Why not skip the steps and go directly to a personalized email? I've saved hours and hours of time with this streamlined process.
My inbox is also searchable so I'll always be able to go back and track older communications with someone I met.  I love Tout!

How did you use Tout at SXSW?

VS: I used Tout to send people my contact information, follow up with them, and demo my company's technology.  My company, Movable Ink, delivers live and streaming content in emails.  Tout's the perfect solution to demo this to people I meet.  I send people I meet a personalized email with an example of Movable Ink technology (see below).

It's the perfect tool to get people to experience what we have built on a visceral level.

Have you recommended Tout to anyone? How did you describe it?
VS: I do… in fact I describe Tout to anyone I've met and I'm about to send an email to.  I tell them it's like a Mailchimp for personal use.

Bonus: What are your favorite Tout features?
VS: Tout's delayed send is an awesome feature.  People are very busy during SXSW so its useful to auto-send the follow-up three days after the event, when they can actually absorb it.
The iPhone app is very easy to use when you're on the go.  Finally, being able to track whether your email was opened or clicked on is a big benefit.

You can learn more about Tout on our homepage – and be sure to look up our iPhone app as well.


We’re at Under the Radar!

We’ve been selected to present at this year’s Under the Radar Conference in Silicon Valley!  Out of over 500-companies, we were selected to hit thestage and show the judges what we’ve got.  We’ll be updating you all as we present, so check back for more info!

About Tout!

Crystal, touting Tout

We <3 our customers… some of them are at Under the Rader with us! Here’s Justin from Sprout Social
Safe to say we’re in some pretty good company.