3 Ways to be a Kick-Ass Sales Rep at your Workplace

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Sales SuperheroAt some point in our lives we all dreamed of possessing superpowers to do extraordinary things, just like our favorite superhero.  We’d love to fly over the traffic to our workplace, multitask in a jiffy and close deals in a snap – in short, we’d love to be that kick-ass sales rep at our workplace! But wait…you don’t have to be born in Krypton or be bitten by a radioactive spider, or possess hi-tech gadgets to do all that. Like Mjollnir is for Thor, your reliable tool is a good CRM system that’s flexible and does most of the sales automation, leaving you to just focus on customer interaction and closing deals.

And with Zoho CRM, here’s how you can become the kick-ass sales rep at your workplace:

Be notified about important customer emails

You’re at work on a fine Monday morning, running through your emails and replying to the ones that are most important. By noon, you find out that you had missed reading an important email from a hot prospect. The reason: your Inbox is cluttered with business emails, personal emails and pesky emails!

The rule of thumb to be a smart sales rep is to attend to your prospects ASAP and to get there, you need a filtered view of your prospects’ emails alone. With MailMagnet, you’d not only receive emails within Zoho CRM but also get a filtered view of your prospects’ emails. The best part of this integration is that you don’t have to keep a check on your emails all the time, because each time you receive an email from a prospect, you’d be notified by a batch right on the Zoho CRM home page.

Mundane tasks keeping you busy? Just Automate.

You love your job. But you also dread the ‘manual data entry’ that comes along with it. All day long you’d type thank you emails, welcome emails, reminder emails and introduction emails, leaving you very little time to do what you are hired for…selling!

Email Template in Zoho CRM helps you get rid of this mundane task. Just personalize emails for each activity, and send emails to individual prospects or mass emails to a list of leads. Say, you’ve imported leads from a trade show and you want to send them a thank you email. All you need to do is select the leads list and blast a mass email.

Go Mobile. Carry Zoho CRM in your pocket

To all those field sales reps, this one is for you. We know you work almost round the clock, attending customer meetings, conferences and events. But at the same time, you can’t carry bulky laptops with you, to update and keep your team in sync with the latest happenings. You need a CRM system you can carry in your pocket. And Zoho CRM for Mobile provides just that. From adding leads to creating tasks, and from receiving email notifications to finding nearby customers, Zoho CRM Mobile App provides it all.

These are 3 quick ways you could become a kick-ass sales rep at your workplace. What are your tips and tricks? Do share them in the comments below.

- Radhika

Finding Time for Vacation as a Small Business Owner

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iStock_000011860951Small

My father is a small business owner. He’s been a small business owner for eight years now. His small business is a lawn care and landscape company in my hometown just outside the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

What started as a three-lawn, single-mower operation back in 2005, has transformed into a full-time job with over 60 yards a week. Mostly from referrals, my dad was getting new yards and expanding on a weekly basis. For a while, I couldn’t talk to him on the phone without the conversation going something like this:

“Picked up another yard today.”

“That’s great!” I’d say. “More business.”

“Yeah. Better than the alternative. Gonna have to start working Saturdays.”

Like most small business owners, my dad’s company is a 24-hour-a-day job. It’s constant planning and working to make sure he gets to every customer, every week. It’s his life.

This is the story of the small business owner. Weekends barely exist, let alone vacation time. In fact, a recent study reported that 41 percent of small business owners take vacation time less than twice a year, and 18 percent never take vacation at all.

Another survey, from Sam’s Club in 2008, reported that 50 percent of small business owners only take major holidays off. To put that in perspective, that’s less than half the number of vacation days the average professional takes every year. (The average number of vacation days outside of holidays in the United States is 13).

But does it have to be like this? We know that for some small business owners, taking vacation time is simply not an option. However, it’s important for not only your own health and success, but also the health and success of your business, to take some time away from the daily grind of dealing with customers or creating a marketing strategy. You have to get away and recharge.

Fortunately, advancements in technology have made it easier than ever to get away from the office while also staying close and “connected,” from your mobile device. Years ago, vacation time meant you were away from the office, and therefore, away from every aspect of the business. You had no idea what was going on until you returned.

Not anymore. With cloud technology, you can access anything you need as long as you have an Internet connection and a device — laptop, smartphone or tablet.

“Small and medium-sized businesses have clearly confirmed the growing importance of mobile services accessed via phone, smartphone and tablet devices when it comes to operating their business,” senior director of product management at Cbeyond Bill Thomson told Business News Daily.

Cbeyond, a cloud and communication services provider, conducted research highlighting the importance of mobile services in running a small business. They found that 42 percent of small business owners would have trouble operating their business without mobile technology. That’s almost half of all small businesses in the country that would lose business and profit without the luxury of working on-the-go.

Additionally, the survey reported that a third of all small business owners claimed their business would not just suffer, but would not survive without mobile services.

Look outside. The sun is shining (at least in Austin, Texas), the weather is warm, and a body of water is calling your name. Trade in another two days at the office for a long weekend at home, in the mountains or on a beach with friends or family. You deserve it.

And remember, with mobile and cloud technology, you’re never more than a few clicks or swipes away from your business. Just in case of an emergency.

How do you handle passwords when an employee leaves the organization?

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This question may sound trivial. Before discussing further, let me narrate an incident:

About three years ago, on March 17, 2010, at Austin, Texas hundreds of cars purchased from a particular car dealer went honking uncontrollably. Still worse, the owners were not able to start the cars as the ignition system had been disabled. Car owners had no clue as to what was happening. They had no other option but to disconnect the battery.

cars-honking3Following hundreds of such complaints and anxious moments, the car dealer carried out an investigation with the help of police and found that a sacked employee had gained unauthorized access to an internal IT application and turned on the web-based vehicle-immobilization system normally used to draw the attention of the customers delinquent in their auto payments. The techie had apparently taken revenge on the dealer for laying him off.

Soon after sacking him, the car dealer had promptly terminated all access, including the one to the vehicle-immobilization IT application. But, he had known the credentials of a colleague, using which he gained unauthorized access to the application.

Now, coming back to the question: How do you handle passwords when an employee leaves the organization? Does your organization have an effective ‘de-provisioning’ process in place to ensure that the former colleague will not continue to access your applications or data?

The saying ‘out of sight, out of mind’ might not hold good in all cases. Most of the employees leaving the organization will forget their former employer and start concentrating on the happenings in the new organization. Rarely, a disgruntled ex-colleague or a sacked employee or a terminated contractor or a greedy techie might turn bad and you will have to encounter problems.

The Austin cars honking incident is a classic example for the kind of insider threats organizations are prone to. A single disgruntled employee leaving the organization can wreak havoc to the very business or cause huge financial loss, if user de-provisioning is not handled properly. De-provisioning includes not just terminating access to key IT systems and applications, but also resetting the passwords.

Conversely, certain online accounts might be ‘owned’ by the person leaving the organization. If he fails to ‘hand over’ or ‘reveal’ the account details to someone else, the account will practically become an orphan posing a different kind of problem.

Tracing Access – The Key Challenge

When an employee leaves the organization,

  • it is essential to carry out a careful review of the access permissions granted to him/her
  • access has to be terminated and passwords must be reset
  • passwords owned by the person should be transferred to someone else
  • the password sharing scenario has to be reviewed. Users often tend to reveal passwords to their colleagues for some reason or other. The most common reason for such an ‘unofficial share’ is to cater to an emergency on one’s absence – Manager revealing the password of an application to a senior member when he has gone on vacation.

The key challenge here is finding out the list of all applications and resources accessed by the person leaving the organization. With the proliferation of online applications, it is indeed a daunting task to trace all the applications to which the person possessed access. Tracing the ‘shared passwords’ is another tricky scenario.

If you can’t trace access, the safest option is to change the passwords of all applications, sites and resources. Needless to say, this is cumbersome, arduous and time-consuming.

Centralized Password Repository – The Ideal Solution

The ideal solution to tackle this problem is establishing and maintaining a centralized password repository using a Password Manager. You can keep all your logins in the centralized vault and grant access to employees selectively based on job roles/responsibilities. By looking at the dashboard, you will know ‘who’ is having access to ‘what’ applications and accounts. When an employee leaves the organization, within minutes you can take a report on the applications accessed by him/her and change the passwords of those sites or applications alone. You can also overcome the sharing-related issues by using a Password Manager. In addition, you may even restrict the passwords from being shown in plain-text to the users while sharing passwords with them. The users will just be allowed to launch a direct connection to the site/application without viewing the password.

If you are wondering which password manager to use, take a look at Zoho Vault, an online password manager that serves as the centralized repository for all your passwords. It helps you securely store, share and manage your passwords and other sensitive data and access them from anywhere. Try Zoho Vault, now!

Build Financial Security with a Business Retirement Plan

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This is a guest post by Shabana Shiliwala, who owns The Financial Sort, a financial planning company based in Austin, Texas.

Congratulations! If you’re reading this, it must mean your business is generating enough profit to afford employees, require tax planning and give you the prospect of a healthy financial future. When you have more profit than you need to run your business operations, it’s time to start a business retirement plan.Businessman Investing

Just like parents tend to put their children first and take care of themselves last, business owners have a tendency to place the needs of their businesses before their own needs. Starting a business retirement plan is usually a low priority not only because of the effort and expense involved, but the benefits to the business aren’t obvious. Some business owners think that retirement plans only benefit employees. The reality is that they mainly benefit the business and the business owner. Most employees don’t contribute or contribute very little to retirement plans, whereas business owners who take full advantage attract higher-quality employees looking for comprehensive benefits, get large tax deductions, and build financial security for themselves and their families. The money you deposit in your own business retirement account is deductible, but unlike other business expenses, you’re not actually spending the money. You get to keep it–so not only are you saving on taxes, you’re also building a nest egg.

An accountant and broker/financial advisor can help you determine and set up the right plan for your business:

Self-employed: The SEP (Simplified Employee Pension) IRA allows you to deposit up to 25% of net earnings (net profit minus half of self-employment taxes and your deposit amount). Consult your accountant to help you determine your allowable contribution each year. Expenses are minimal and there are no required contributions, so you can skip contributions in slow years. If you need a higher tax deduction, consider the SIMPLE (see below) or the solo 401k, which has higher expenses but allows an additional contribution of $17,000 in 2012 (or $22,500 if you’re over age 50).

Small businesses with under 100 employees: The SIMPLE (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees) IRA allows you to contribute up to $11,500 in 2012 (or $14,000 if you’re over age 50) as long as you make an employee contribution as well. You can choose from a matching contribution of 3% where you only have to contribute for employees who contribute themselves or a 2% contribution to all employees regardless of whether they make contributions on their own. Expenses are minimal. If you’re willing to pay higher expenses for a higher tax deduction, see the choices for large businesses below.

Large businesses: A multitude of plans are available including pension, 401k and profit sharing. Expenses are higher but so are the contribution limits and the flexibility to design exactly the type of plan you want.

Now that your business is growing up, it’s time to start taking care of yourself too. A retirement plan can benefit yourself and your business. It’s important to stay on top of your financial game throughout the entire life of your business, so plan smart and plan ahead.

Grades Measure Test-Taking Skills and Interviews Measure Interviewing Skills

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Today Google dropped a bombshell: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/06/20/business/in-head-hunting-big-data-may-not-be-such-a-big-deal.html

They’ve made some significant changes to the way they recruit – no longer looking at things they were previously famous for, like asking a 30-something professional for his GPA and college transcript. Google, being Google, collected lots and lots of data and ultimately determined that these signals are more noise than signals, and have since discontinued using them.

At Zoho we reached the exact same conclusion many years ago, but how we got there was entirely different. Let me tell you the story.

When we got started with this company, I had fairly conventional beliefs about the value of college education, the importance of academic performance and GPAs and so on. I come from a large family, with 3 brothers and a sister, all younger than me. Academically, our family spanned the spectrum – I had a really stellar academic record, while my youngest brother, Mani, had a fairly mediocre one. I got to attend the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology and later Princeton University, while Mani enrolled in an unremarkable “evening college”, basically a place to go to avoid being called unemployed. School held no interest at all for him and I would wonder what would become of him.

He joined my brothers and co-founders Kumar and Sekar, as a junior technical assistant in the very early days of the company, when our development center was still operating out of our parent’s home in India. Kumar would conduct C programming classes for fresh recruits and Mani sat in on them. To our surprise, he showed deep interest in programming and picked up fairly quickly, quicker even than some of the engineering graduates Kumar had hired. He got assigned to write code in one of our early products in network management and within a couple of years he was able to lead that product to profitability. He started to display a natural talent for understanding what customers want, and before long, he was managing products by himself. Mani is shy and prefers to stay in the background, but internally he leads teams that deliver Zoho CRM, Zoho Projects, Zoho Support, Zoho Recruit (yes, all of them!) and he is the Chief Operating Officer of Zoho.com. If I get hit by a bus, the company would run fine, but Mani is absolutely indispensable to our continued product execution. People who work with Mani in our company know his contribution, yet, I doubt a Google or Microsoft would ever have hired him (and I am glad they didn’t!).

As the eldest brother, I have watched Mani closely from childhood, and his blossoming into a leader taught me to question everything I thought I knew about the value of academic performance, grades and degrees.

What do those things measure anyway? I came to the conclusion that degrees measure college-surviving skills, grades measure test taking skills and interviews measure interviewing skills. As you can see, they are not completely useless, they do measure something, it is just that what they measure happens not to correlate much with real world performance on the job. I am happy to see that Google has validated these observations with lots of data.

We believe in education, we just believe the higher education establishment is serving the cause of education poorly and expensively. We do not believe college is the only way nor the best way to get a good education. We believe it is a travesty for the academic establishment to encourage young men and women to pile up so much debt in the pursuit of a college degree. The higher education system is a bubble that deserves to burst. We believe it is the vital responsibility of employers to help young men and women avoid debt, and the way employers can help is to not ask for college credentials during hiring.

It is heartening to read that Google has a lot of employees without a college degree now. At Zoho, nearly 20% of our people do not have a college degree, and our long term goal is to get that percentage to 50% or higher. We encourage every company to try it, it really, really works. It is good for employees, it is good for society, and it is good for companies.

 An overwhelming majority of our people (over 95%) join us with no prior work experience, either fresh out of college or fresh out of high school. After a period of training, which varies, they tend to start out as generalists, get exposed to a variety of functional areas and over time they tend to specialize in areas such as product development, frameworks, security, design, quality assurance, support, product management and so on. We are fortunate that our people tend to stay with us, which allows us to invest in them to develop specific skills. As an example, in the past 3 years, we have grown our mobile team from a standing start to nearly a hundred people. We have not only developed mobile software development skills and shipped cool products, we have also developed a cohesive product strategy and vision in mobile.

It is not just in hiring that we are different. We do not have formal performance reviews.  It is natural for people to postpone giving bad news, and managers are people too. This means managers tend to store up negative feedback for review time and inflict negative surprises, which is deeply frustrating. Instead, we ask our managers to share any negative feedback immediately, and only keep positive surprises during pay revision time. This system has worked well, both in terms of increased employee satisfaction as well as by reducing the endless amount of review-writing that managers have to go through.

All of these ideas come from a fundamental philosophical belief: human beings are intrinsically unmeasurable. Trying to measure and classify people will ultimately lead to dissatisfaction and failure. Instead, we have noticed that small groups of people, with leaders who are directly connected and aware of the work each team member does, can achieve tremendous productivity and job satisfaction.

 

Introducing #recipeforsuccess: Pinspiration for your Business

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We’ve been sharing one piece of inspiration every week for the past eight weeks. These consist of thought-provoking bits of wisdom from business leaders, entrepreneurs, famous personalities, Zoho customers and employees. Note: these are not your typical boring business–speak quotes. Each is handpicked and crafted into a poster, ready for you to use as artwork in your workspace that will help you stay motivated and on the path to success!

We’re calling this mix #recipeforsuccess and we’re thrilled with the responses we’ve gotten to the eight recipes that we’ve shared so far!

Take a look at the first 8 recipes, with some of our customers’ comments about them.

Today Quote

Stay on track. Is what you’re doing today going to help you get to where you want to be? If not, it’s time to revisit your goal and the actionable steps it will take to get there.

Genius Quote

Hard work pays off. Having a good idea will start a journey, but elbow grease is what’s going to help you reach your destination.

One of our users, Thenamuthan Atm, had another idea of what constitutes genius. The formula? “Confidence + Being Smart.”

Limitations

Jump over obstacles. Don’t let negative scenarios that run in your head paralyze you. Keep your goals in mind and keep pushing forward.

Procrastinate Quote

Remember what you’re passionate about. Passion is a serious driving force! Ask yourself why you do what you do, and keep that in mind when you hit rough patches on the road.

In response, Mark Roberts wrote “We started FirstLight HomeCare WestIndy, a veteran owned home care business helping veterans!!! If you never take a leap of faith you never will know!!!”

Meetings

Change things for the better. If you notice that meetings or any aspect of your business is not working out well, find out why and set an action plan to increase productivity.

Plan A Quote

Don’t give up. Or be discouraged. No one said running a business was built from a first idea or one brainstorming session. If a plan doesn’t work out, be flexible and try another one.

In response, Kashif Tufail Bhatti added, “If all 26 plans fail, try other languages. :)”

Twitter

Strive for good. There’s nothing like building a business that you’re passionate about that also solves a problem that society has. If you share your passion with others, you’ll have strong supporters.

Entrepreneur

Make it happen. After all, the best part about a business dream is seeing it become a reality! Get busy and take action.

Mark Brutus Thurman emphasized getting a head start at doing. “Start early. Its amazing how much you can get done before 9am when the phone starts ringing…”

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What happens when you collect such inspiration onto a Pinterest board?

Pinspiration – that’s the best way to follow our weekly series of recipes. Watch this board for a fresh, new recipe for success every week. Happy pinning!

Do you have your own words of wisdom to add? Feel free to share them in the comments below or on our Facebook page.