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When I think about prospecting, I work from four fundamental steps:
There are numerous approaches to segmenting a territory and multiple tools and experiences to draw upon. Thatâs in addition to historical territory ownership and sales success data.
We can even move the thinking above segmentation to an overall business strategy into the territory under which you will have specific account strategies. Once again, there are numerous models that can help you build out your strategy, such as Porterâs Five Forces.
Also, from a segmentation perspective, there are any number of heat map configurations to use and some more sophisticated models such as the approach offered in âThe Granularity of Growthâ. This model invites accounts in the territory to be compared relative to market indices and shareholder return. As a way of building an objective and repeatable view of a territory (or multiple territories for a sales manager), I like it simplicity and fact-based categorisation.
Any of these approaches will work and you will find they deliver a wonderful governance framework that serves an element of success in growing your business but the overwhelming value is in the governance of a territory and a sellerâs effectiveness.
An alternate and profoundly more effective way to segment a territory and pathways into an account is to centre all activity associated with understanding what business value actually looks like in the eyes of the buyer, their customers and shareholders. By focusing on business value, you will permanently have a finger on the pulse of what matters most to your prospect.
This is an uncommon approach amongst sellers due to the potentially broad range encompassed by business value, including:
Leveraging existing investments.
Making new investments.
This focus works, especially for:
People new to selling as it rewards you for understanding the customer at a level at which they would communicate internally.
Tech savvy sellers with a deep understanding of the product or solution but lacking the confidence to go up against experienced sellers.
Business consultants wanting to move to a selling role but arrive with a jaundiced view of the existing wash of sales methodologies.
Anybody looking to sell a product or service by establishing their value to the prospect up front through investing the time to translate the value of the product or service in solving a business problem that you have identified and can measure the benefit to the buyer in solving.
Relationships can be simplified as:
Those you need to maintain; and
Those you need to establish.
Put around the other way though, it becomes the prospect determining which relationships they need to keep and they need to make. It is a certainty that their decisions will be based upon a sellerâs ability to deliver business value so why wouldnât you as a seller approach and sustain your engagement built on the very thing that matters most to your prospect, business value.
Your relevance, or more particularly your unique business relevance has four levers:
1. Incumbentsâââwho could be competitors and/or partners to you.
2. Existing contracts and agreements with particular reference to their duration and conclusion dates.
3. Business assets that you can deliver such as CRM and cloud platforms.
4. Strategic assets which are products or solutions that help deliver:
Customer service; and
Are difficult for your prospectsâ competitors to replicate.
This becomes a powerful cycle that links segmentation, business value, relationships and crystallises with you having established your unique business relevance to a prospect.
If that isnât the outcome, you have been able to segment your territory based on your ability to deliver business value and avoided creating a territory on some arbitrary measures that mean little to your prospects.
If learning is created by, or can be accelerated by creating, then Udemy should be a part of your development plan.
Around 2 years ago I stumbled upon Udemy. Wasnât looking for an online learning environment and canât remember my path to the site, but there I was. I was immediately attracted to the wide array of courses and the âpractitionerâ level instruction. I was an instant customer and have been ever since. My experience with the courses was mixed. A number were outstanding and a small number missed the mark.
My real learnings have happened since I made the decision to create a Sales Prospecting course and publish it on Udemy.
The learnings happened on a number of levels, starting with the determination of what I knew enough about, that warranted publishing.
That aside, I signed up to Udemyâs Facebook forum that is specifically designed for course creators (not Udemy employees) to provide advice, tips and support. This forum is informed and responsive – I was gaining so much knowledge simply by reading the threads.
In constructing my course, I needed to gain a level of understanding and proficiency in audio and video production. On the surface I figured this was no more than getting the right gear and starting. Turns out I was a little wrong. Equipment matters but there is a whole lot more to it as I soon realized. In summary, it is all to do with preparation and technique. Seems a bit obvious as I write the statement.
I know have a published course, but most significant to me is I now have a level of understanding and skill such that I have produced and published an online course and a number of podcasts.
If you have the inclination, I can only suggest you set a publishing outcome to drive your focus. That decision made, I encourage you to get onto Udemy and build out a course.
Working in small teams and often in isolation creates a dependence on yourself and also opens up the possibilities in using productivity tools and your personalized techniques.
I have been in a selling role for some time and largely dependent on my own activities to develop opportunities for my sales pipeline. This involves a lot of face-to-face as you would expect but I also create targeted communications to attract prospectsâ attention on the path to gaining executive access.
In broadening my capabilities I have added a few tools which I will reference in this article:
9. Vimeo – video storage and sharing subscription.
I will explain my workflow from brainstorming to outline to content development through to text and video production.
Have you ever been in a team session with a flurry of ideas and a whiteboard and post-it notes and a facilitator and you donât have a way to recreate this environment on your own – well there is an option.
I didnât buy MindManager, Dragon or the ATR2100 for personal brainstorming sessions but it is a great combination. I was brought to this solution out of my frustration with the broken flow of thought, stop and write or key into software and start againâ¦then to recover from the pause.
The way that I tackle this task now is to:
Open a MindManager document.
2. Attach the mic to the PC.
3. Start the Dragon software.
4. Double-click in an open space on the mindmap and start brainstorming into the âbubbleâ on the screen.
5. I press âenterâ and âenterâ again which closes the first thought and opens the next âbubbleâ and I say the next thought and watch it converted to text.
6. Which means – at a level of pace – it goes:
Repeat until you are finished.
You now have a screen of thoughts which you assemble into logical groupings as branches of the mindmap. From there you can prioritize.
The beauty of this personal brainstorming approach is that it is equally effective in a group if you have the mic and repeat the words from the team member and watch the screen fill up in front of the room. There is an immediate productivity gain when you and the team move seamlessly into the topic grouping and prioritisation.
With this step complete, I know move to content creation.
I wonât go through the mechanics of creating the content but MindManager offers efficiency when moving from the brainstorming to outline to publish.
Before going to this step I would like to share an element of the software that can play a role on a personal level, when managing team input and when communicating your plan with managers or collaborators. That is to create a timeline.
MindManager is able to treat each element of the mindmap, from the subject through every branch level if you want that level of granularity, as a task that can have project attributes associated at any and all levels.
To go seamlessly from ideation, to outline to content creation with project attributes is powerful and the mindmap can now be published in a variety of formats:
1. As a project plan in a Gantt chart that can be exported to an actual project planning application.
2. PDF for general status viewing.
3. To a Word document with each of the branches as a sub-point.
When I reach the actually writing, I mostly use Evernote to capture my first draft content (actually doing that right now) which gives me access across multiple devices and I take the content and paste it into the mindmap notes field associated with the relevant mindmap branch as in the screen shot below.
By repeating this process I have an automatic backup of content via Evernote and a composite document as created inside MindManager.
This method also lends itself to external content creators – you paste their input into your single mindmap outline document that is now becoming more than the outline with each additional piece of content.
In addition, you are able to update the progress against each element/task in the project plan.
Whilst this is my approach in the creation, when it comes to publishing, I take one of the following approaches.
Publish to Text
Barely warrants a heading? Probably, though there can be an efficiency based on the mindmapping software. I rely on MindManager for most of my mindmapping and the structure as detailed above can be achieved with other applications I expect, but I will explain the MindManager steps from creation to publish.
You go to the âFileâ menu then to âShareâ then to âWordâ. From there you can choose from a few output subtleties – export – you now have all of your mindmap content down to the text under each heading in a single Word document.
Publish to Video
As a writer, you may want to approach a certain audience using video. If so, you will firstly need some extra tools. At a minimum you will need software. I use Camtasia but have used Screencast-O-Matic which is an excellent application at a different price point and will meet a large number of use-cases.
At a base level, I take screen grabs of mindmap branches and paste onto a PowerPoint screen and repeat. I then use the text at a detail level and use this for my narration script associated with the relevant slides. I have recently taken an approach where I use a teleprompter app on my iPhone or iPad to lay the narration down and then associate the PowerPoint slides to deliver a smooth and professional representation. Well worth a try – I actually recommend it as an effective method.
My next step is to publish via Vimeo. I am able to make the access private and as such create personalized messaging through the narration for prospects and clients.
Ultimately I have a process with simple and repeatable steps that support my own work requirements and is easily scaled to include team activities.
I am sure there are many varied workflows and I would be keen to hear how other people assemble their favorite tools into a content creation process.
I grew up in an age when shorthand was quite a standard high school subject. Some of my sisters were proficient at shorthand as they were expected to have this skill to progress a secretarial career in an office environment. No shorthand – no job.
For me, like many others, we had to develop other note taking skills as we worked our way through our own high school experience and then into university and ultimately the workforce.
My note taking skills were never exemplary and my handwriting was at a level of beauty where I was the only who could interpret the scrawl. Nevertheless, I was able to take sufficing details out of my university texts and my ongoing personal book selections to make progress.
Whilst I havenât pursued more effective note taking methods, I have always been on the lookout for a better way of finding content that I had produced, including notes, for review or reuse. This search has given me a deep appreciation for tools such as Evernote but this still didnât offer me a step change in the note capture process.
I am a strong proponent of mindmaps for the widest range of tasks and I have used mindmaps to organise notes but this still wasnât delivering an advantage in the capture of notes.
My 4 Methods
In the last 12 months I have used 4 methods for note taking with very different experiences and advantages.
Pen & Paper
Not much to say here and for me this is the worst method. Very stilted and I often feel I am jarred out of the reading flow to capture my notes. A proven method no doubt, but I wasnât landing on this as my preferred method.
Digital Pen & Paper
I was a Kickstarter buyer of the Neo Smartpen. A really interesting development and I bought into the idea of pen on paper and content retrieval through the Neo app. A variety of paper sizes also offered the right amount of flexibility from A6 to A5 to A4 paper sizes. When the pen arrived, I was totally on board and stocked up on replacement nibs and paper.
Where it fell down for me was the consistency of content reproduction into the app. This was a huge disappointment and after multiple troubleshooting attempts and nib and paper swaps, I have retired the Neo.
I didnât stay with this too long but was enticed with the thought of using a Fiverr service to transcribe -I balanced that thought with the rapid realisation that my notes are not that important.
Audio – but speech to text
This was a great accident.
I have Dragon speech-to-text and a decent microphone (ATR 2100) which I use to do the occasional podcast and screen-casts for communicating with clients and prospects. I had just finished using this combination one afternoon and decided to start reading Leading Digital by George Westerman. As I started to read, the note taking reflex hit and I reached for my pen and had the distraction of thought that introduced the microphone.
My curiosity got the better of me and I turned the microphone on and had the Dragon software ready for speech capture. The beauty of this set-up is the notes are only taken as you speak so there isnât an ongoing recording happening between notes.
This turned out to be the step-change that had previously eluded me.
Over the days that I read Leading Digital, I would simply:
Open Evernote as my note capture software.
Start the Dragon software; and
Turn on the microphone.
From this process, I end up with notes that matter to me and without needing to physically shift, I am not losing my flow. The bonus is by capturing in Evernote, I can have the notes available across multiple and synced devices with the ability to search 100% of the notes I have taken.
My advantage was having the software and the microphone. My recommendation is to get the software and a microphone. The advantage far outweighs the cost.
I have always loved reading. Starting when I was a lad growing up at a time when a trip to the public library to select your next 2 books for the coming week was a treat.
That love of reading has stayed with me and has broadened to be categorised as content consumption be it text, video or voice aloneâââor any combination of all of these elements. It isnât unusual for me to shift between modes on my Kindle as I shift through a truly seamless experience where I can read on my iPhone, then pick up reading where I left off on my actual Kindle device and if I have also purchased the audio version of the book, I now have a seamless transition to listening from the very point that my reading left off.
No doubt you now have a picture of my attachment to consuming stories be they fiction or nonfiction.
A recent experience shifted my consumption workflow for the better because I discovered a choice that I understood but didnât know how best to leverage it for my benefit.
I was moving through this well-worn flow of book consumptionâââread, shift device, read, listen, shift device, read and so it goes. The problem on this occasion was that the listening was âstickingâ. It was so frustrating as I kept retracing and re-listening, but still I was finding my concentration slipping.
At this point I decided to try a little experimentâââto increase the audio reading speed. At first, I found the experience a bit jarringâââa bit like putting too much vinegar on your chips and getting that first taste assault. But then you get to enjoy the change.
Which is exactly what happened with my audio speed increase. More specifically, these are the main steps and my realisations:
I started listening to an audio version of a nonfiction book at normal speed. This continued for about 5 minutes.
At this point I moved up to 1.25x audio speed. My first reaction was the disappearance of the relaxed reading style and pace that has now become a bit hurried in its delivery. This ran for another 5 minutes.
I now notched up to 1.5x audio speed. At this point I had a âfight or flightâ moment where I was deciding whether to extend or abandon my experiment.
I extended my experiment and what happened next surprised me.
At 1.5x it was immediately off putting to me. Fast, getting a bit squeaky and seemingly no gaps. After another few minutes though I started to catch up to the speed. Not only did it start to sound somewhat normal, it also became more comprehendible to me as the increased speed had eliminated the normal speed rhythm and with it the normal speed gaps between sentences and paragraphs.
My discovery was that the elimination of gaps eliminated the space in audio where my mind would start to wander.
I have pushed the speed up to 2x and whilst it works, my comfortable pace is 1.5x. Dual benefits are that I have made a step change in my comprehension and increased my content consumption pace by 50%.
If this sounds to you like a win – I am in agreement.
This might not be for everyone but it warrants your own experiment. But donât forget to acclimatise yourself to the speed increase as jumping straight to 1.5x or 2x might have you prematurely killing your own discovery path.
A Google search for âcommunicating valueâ produced 106,000,000 results in .58 of a second. For someone who is constantly investigating methods of measuring and communicating business value, my first reaction was relief but only for a moment. That many results indicates we should not be surprised that there is no agreed, simple and repeatable way to discuss business value.
After looking through a few of the Google links I decided to expand my catchment to take in peer reviewed research and business magazine articles. This was a rich vein of content and I was especially drawn to a paper in MIS Quarterly Executive from March 2011:
This paper discusses the transitory path in large companies where IT continues to move from being almost exclusively a âcost outâ discussion to one of value adding and enabling growth.
As with any conversation that is 2-way, there is need for clarity of communication and the following construct allows for great flexibility and adaptability of dialogue that enables business owners and enablers such as IT teams to be clear on their focus.
As the language of business has moved from being about IT to being about digital and digitalisation, the need for a single framework is even more important for technology practitioners through to the Board. This has been understood by the business savvy B2B selling companies for decades and now the opportunity exists for the B2B buyers to bring a consistent value dialogue to the table.
Over the last 5 years there has been an increase in the use of the term âDevOpsâ which shares a lot of common language with the âPortfolio of Metricsâ above. Important to this conversation are the four types of work as explained in The Phoenix Project by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr and George Spafford as being:
Â· Business Projects.
Â· Internal IT Projects.
By establishing four categories, you immediately eliminate noise and share responsibility for clarity amongst all participants both internal and external.
Also, a model that I have used over the last decade is my Business Value framework which is similarly designed to simplify communication.
This model drives the conversation in directions that are about decisions and actions that will change metrics:
Â· Ratios: affect financial or operational ratios.
Â· Compete: win against traditional or emerging competitors.
Â· Leverage: drain the maximum value from sunk costs.
Â· New: make new investments that effect ratios and competition.
My closing two points are:
1. Settle on a single model that will enable your designers, business unit leaders, technologists and procurement teams to have a single language.
2. Expand that single language to include you suppliers.
All too often there is a barrier between buyers and sellers that the seller works to break down or at least through. If the buyer establishes the value measurements then buying decisions can truly be about business value.
Have you ever been building a presentation where you new your subject matter so well that an outline was all you needed, if in fact you needed any props at all?
For a long period of time I was absolutely of that belief and then a single change and its knock-on effect made an impact on me.
I was invited to speak at a global conference. Big hall, lots of people, many of whom could impact my career and at the time I had a career that I wanted impacted..and possible needed a little impacting.
So the conference looms and I start to piece the presentation together. Pulling together key facts and color of the experience I was to discuss. Making sure I was reflecting the right order of happenings so as to build the story in the right sequence.
I now have a rough draft in a âWordâ document and begin to work through edits and markups all the while being conscious that this is a âPowerPoint freeâ zone – me, the microphone and the audience. No fancy special effects, crazy builds, just me and the story.
Transition from Word to a Mindmap
I was at the point of a fairly advanced draft and could have stopped at that time but I was playing with the structure and decided to move from âWordâ into a mindmap structure.
The single reason for doing this was not to do with the content creation but purely the sequencing as you can move blocks of text that might have been across multiple pages, now from within a single screen view.
To Illustrate my Workflow
For my example, I will use the text from a recent post here on Medium as my content – if I was doing this now, I would start with a mindmap, but for this example I am starting with two pages of text. Either way, my real learning is and would be the same.
I find this âtext onlyâ mass useful as a means of capturing content, but not for ease of restructuring the flow – whether it is for a final written form or to support a verbal delivery.
The next step in this example, as it was when I was producing the presentation I referenced at the start of this post, is to move the text content into a mindmap. It is no more complex than:
Copy text from âWordâ.
Select the centre of the mindmap and paste.
Then drag the paragraphs to be connected with their headings.
It is at this stage I keep important detail and trim to a point where I still have sufficient to guide me through the presentation, but more importantly, to simplify what I need to remember by way of:
What I remember with the greatest clarity from the first time I used this method to create a presentation was that I recalled the clockwise flow. As I was finishing a thread I was visually taken to the next as I worked around the map in a clockwise direction.
This also means you donât need a sophisticated mindmapping tool such as Mindmanager to achieve this outcome and gain this benefit. You can produce your final output with pen and paper if you choose, or rely on a wonderful yet simpler mindmapping tool such as Simplemind.
Interesting thing about perspective is that it can simply be influenced by the position of the eye and the object being viewed. Not much to it when considered under those two parameters. Not so simple when it is your business value that you are wanting to put in perspective as you now incorporate a range of people with different business needs and content consumption preferences.
Consider your value proposition and the need to expose it to a range of people at your prospectâs company. You go through the discovery and research to finely tune your pitch and then set out to convey said pitch to your prospects. To do this, you wouldnât stand in a doorway and yell it out hoping that a single delivery would be meaningful to all prospects.
Absolutely not! Especially with such a range of message delivery channels at your finger tips.
The tools available to refine and deliver targeted messaging are varied and vast – in some ways, the real problem can be selection – when to stop looking for an answer. For a seller, there are some straightforward choices that will support a multi-pronged messaging strategy and execution.
I wonât discuss the social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter but I will discuss distribution services that I have found to be well designed and as such, easy to use with minimal education.
Hootsuite and Buffer are both excellent platforms for the scheduling of social media distribution. I have found Buffer to be a simpler tool for the distribution but Hootsuite as a stronger offering for the aggregation of your own social media channels and for social listening. I have a leaning toward Hootsuite and it also has an extensive range of learning modules.
I have used YouTube and Vimeo to distribute videos privately to prospects as a way to add a dimension to my prospecting and it also deepens the engagement. At an additional fee, Vimeo provides a richer range of viewing stats which is useful with feedback on broader campaigns and targeted messaging. I rely on Camtasia to produce my videos and whilst it isnât the cheapest or dearest, I have found it to be an excellent tool.
There is choice on this front as with the other elements discussed here. I have mainly used Libsyn and Soundcloud with the latter being my preferred platform. If you are looking to periodically create voice files for occasional podcasts or small group voice distribution, which has been my main use, then Soundcloud is excellent. You will also be able to distribute to the main podcast distribution channels with a very rapid curve to proficiency on your education path. I rely on Hindenburg to produce my voice files and the elegance and simplicity of this software for a true novice or expert alike, has continued to encourage me to develop more voice communications.
There are more means of communication, but those discussed above will equip you to move from an orthogonal view where you see all message recipients as the same to a truly perspective view where you are placing your message in a way that is easier to consume for your prospect.
One of my favorite podcasts is â99% Invisibleâ which is hosted by Roman Mars. An outstanding podcast whose Episode 185: Atmospherians introduced me to an interesting discussion on the role of central casting as a fulfilment channel for films of all types.
The podcast starts with the audio from this video clip from the first time President Barack Obama was about to fly on Air Force One for the first time and as he was about to board he met the Pilot and commented that he looked like he was straight out of central casting.
The story then goes on to talk about the other side of central casting which is to provide actors to support the main characters in a scene and to have a certain look which creates the target atmosphere, hence the name atmospherians.
This gave me a frame of reference for account managers and the teams they draw upon in prospecting and sales pursuits.
Account Managers and their Currency
So, are you an account manager out of central casting – before you answer, consider the following:
If yes, are you current or film noir?
If no, is it because of your currency i.e. you havenât kept pace with the change in techniques and methods used by your prospects?
If the latter, consider your workplace or that our your prospect. What era is governing your behavior and equally what era is governing theirs. Once that is clear, you have a basis for adjustment. it might be as straightforward as developing your social media savvy through a only course from Udemy or Hootsuite.
The gap may also be in part or whole to the leadership team above you in the org chart.
If you are from central casting in 2017, then are your support team members from central casting in 2017. If not, does it matter? If it matters, who is responsible for driving he change?
They equally might find a Udemy or Hootsuite intervention will help your clients and their own careers.
Probably the bigger question is determining how many are fringe players providing atmosphere to your sceneâ¦and how many you need. If they are meant to be in the frame with a âtalking partâ, then your job is to tighten the choreography.
One way to achieve this is be very specific in roles and responsibilities. In this instance, I would use a mindmap to solidify the actions, owners and flow for a meetingâââagree the script and publish. A spreadsheet will give you same capability and in many cases Excel or Google Sheets will be a more accessible tool.
Depending on the importance of the business meeting, a high yield form of performance review is to video the rehearsal and playback. This isnât meant to panic you or your team but it is a clinical and pragmatic means to an improved performance. It also allows your team to reach beyond the content and structure and uncover subtleties such as body language and voice inflections.
You can effect this step with your webcam and audio recorded by your smartphone – small investment with potentially huge returns.