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Secrets to Getting Consistent Sales For Your Startup

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getting consistent sales

No matter what industry you’re in, sales is your oxygen.  Without consistent sales, most startups simply can’t function. Unfortunately most startup companies don’t invest enough in their sales process until it’s too late. Here are the strategies successful startups have adopted to consistently meet their sales goals.

Building a Stronger Network

Consistent sales doesn’t happen automatically.  For larger accounts, it’s often best to start with referrals and be introduced organically to your prospect instead of cold calling.  And having a well connected network of friends and peers willing to help support you is the key to getting more organic referrals.  Meeting someone and getting their business card is easy. Maintaining your relationship and keeping yourself relevant is the real challenge. If you’re not already using LinkedIn, now’s a good time to start.

Focusing on Weekly Results

Without setting weekly goals, your team may believe staying busy and filling their calendar translates to sales success. Unfortunately activity doesn’t convert into sales unless it’s focused. Get into the habit of setting achievable weekly goals for your team. Weekly goals provide your team a compass to follow and keeps their attention laser focused on just a few important items. Try to make your goals specific, realistic, and achievable. Ambitious vague goals are often demoralizing instead of empowering.

Do The Unnatural/Uncomfortable

It’s our natural tendency to avoiding people and things that make us uncomfortable. Success is usually found outside our comfort zone, not within it’s confined walls. Having the courage to withstand natural discomfort will allow your team to reach more daring goals and achieve results outside their normal capabilities. Get your team into the habit of doing ONE thing each day that they’re normally uncomfortable with.  Just make sure they’re staying well within the confines of your state and federal laws.

Under-promise Over Deliver

No one likes to be lied to.  And no one likes to be promised something and have it delivered sub-par.  It’s often easy to over promise a customer just to get the sales in and be overly enthusiastic about it.  Be honest with your customer and lay out all the unknowns and what they’re REALLY going to get.  They will trust you more and can feel your sincerity.  Now after that’s done, make sure your team over deliver.  Your client will be 10x happier and be more likely to refer you.

Ask Directly

Ask your client “Are you ready to begin today?  I can have the paperwork ready in 30 mins”.  Don’t be shy or give your client too much time to think over everything.  It may be uncomfortable at first, but asking directly can help you seal the majority of deals that otherwise would’ve been lost. Even the most secure and sure deals can often fall in between the cracks if we missed the opportunity to strike while the iron is hot.

Any startup can learn and adopt many of the strategies above. Despite their simplicity and low financial investment, the strategies above have only yielded success when they’re consistently followed and built into the work culture. As with any sales or marketing strategies, consistency is key to achieving desirable results.

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1 Comment

  1. Judith

    May 20, 2016 at 3:44 am

    Keep on writing and chngigug away!

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Penji Review: Unlimited Graphic Design Service (w/25% Promo code)

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Penji review with promo code

Penji is a relatively new startup based in Philadelphia, PA offering a unique business model. They offer unlimited graphic design services for a flat monthly rate. You can submit as many design projects as you want via their online portal, and they’ll complete your requests one at a time until your queue is complete.

This type of service promises to be a great added resource for teams to improve productivity. Sounds too good to be true? We thought so too, that’s why we decided to sign up and see if the promise is real.

Quick Summary

Don’t feel like reading? Here’s a quick summary of our review with Penji’s unlimited graphic design service.

Pros

  • Easy and quick to create design projects
  • VERY fast turnaround on most projects. I expected just 1 draft in 24 hours but instead received 3 drafts. Revisions were sometimes completed the same day I submitted them.
  • A lot of features such as Revision tool, Invite team members, Brand profile, and more.
  • Upbeat communication from everyone I interact with.
  • Dedicated and responsive account manager that replies within a few hours.

Cons

  • Can’t call or talk to designers

Final Verdict

Penji’s “unlimited” design model turned out to be an amazingly high-quality service at an affordable price that’s backed by a great team. But you need to have the right expectations going in. The experience is entirely online and you won’t get any face-time with your designer.

Compared to designing yourself, hiring freelancers, or using Fiverr, Penji is a much better service and value by a long shot. Their team of designers lived up to the promise and exceeded my expectations.

Penji Promo Code

If you want to give them a try, use this Penji promo code “OWNER25” to get 25% off your 1st month. Full disclaimer, we receive a commission when you use the code.


PENJI FULL REVIEW

Signing Up For Penji

Signing up for Penji was a relatively quick and painless process. Overall, took about 5 minutes to get all of my questions answered by their customer support via Intercom and another 2 minutes to complete the checkout process.

1. Support Chat

This is something I personally test every company for – how fast and reliable their support is. If they’re unresponsive now, it will only get worse once I’m a customer. I hit up Penji’s customer support team via their Intercom chat popup and got a response within 30 seconds, which is pretty good. I asked basic questions and the agent seemed knowledgable

2. Choosing a plan

Clear and easy to understand. All the packages are laid out with monthly, quarterly, and yearly pricing. Each of the features also has a little information icon that explains what it is.

3. Checking out

The multi-step process was easy to follow, and what you pay is clearly displayed. Checking out was also a breeze and took about 2 minutes for us.


Submitting Design Projects

Now it’s time to create my first project. Clicking on the “Create new project” button, I’m presented with a visual chart of all the designs they offer. I personally prefer this, because I can see what the designs look like. They offer a lot more categories than I thought and the list is extensive.

Filling out the form

Similar to most other online design services, I have to fill out a form explaining what I want. The form is intuitive, easy to follow, and doesn’t ask that many questions. Most of the questions are optional.

My test projects

As a digital publisher, we produce content on a daily basis and always have a need for on-brand graphic design. I created several diverse types of projects to test how well rounded Penji is and how they handle both simple and complex projects. A simple banner should be difficult, but can they handle a complex infographic with lots of texts and imagery? Here are my test projects.

  1. Blog Graphic: Best DSLR Camera Equipment For Beginners
  2. Custom Illustration: Best Vacuum Cleaner Money Can Buy
  3. Facebook Post: Isometric Tech Gadget Graphic
  4. Magazine Print Cover (Owner’s Magazine’s 2020 May Edition

Despite creating four projects, the entire process was quick and smooth. I didn’t feel like I spent too much time creating them and their internal platform was lightning fast. At this pace, I can see myself submitting a ton of projects on their platform with ease.

These four projects range in difficulty and should be enough for me to evaluate Penji’s competency. Now that the projects have been created, I’ll wait and see if Penji can deliver on the promise of these being turned around within 24 hours.


Turnaround Time

I expect at least one draft the next day. What I didn’t expect were three projects to have drafts. That’s absurdly fast by any standards. Most freelancers and design firms we’ve hired take at least several days to turn around just one draft.

After reviewing the designs, which were surprisingly good considering it’s the first draft AND were turnaround within 24 hours, I realized how they did it. Every project had a different designer. I wasn’t assigned just one designer. That explains how they get things done so quickly.

Revision Turnaround Time

Revisions were turned around pretty fast. Their support agent actually told me it will take 24 hours to turn around revisions. I found that its a same-day turnaround most of the time. The revisions that took 24 hours were typically much more involved.

Overall, I never felt like revisions took too long. Most came back within a few hours after I submitted them.


Leaving Revisions

Everything is done online so I can’t just call my designer and tell them what I want to change. My one gripe would be that I prefer to have some sort of real-time chat with my designer or at least have a skype call. That’s one thing I like working with my freelancers, is that whenever they were online, we could just have a back and forth conversation to get the revisions across. I can’t do that with Penji.

Built-in Revision Tool (see image above)

Penji has a built-in revision tool that lets me click anywhere on the design to leave a revision. I found this incredibly useful and enables me to pin-point what I want to change.


The Results

It took about 1 week to go back and forth with revisions and edits for all 3 design projects. At the end of the week, I received the final drafts for all three. Here are the results of the three test projects.

1. Blog Graphic: Best DSLR Camera Equipment For Beginners

This far exceeded my expectations and will more than do for the blog I’m writing about DSLR camera equipment. I think most designers would probably just stop with 1-2 icons and graphics for this design. My designer decided to add the tripod, three lenses, drone, backpack, and a whole entire stage lighting kit.

I didn’t ask for those, but I’m impressed with the quality of the design. No revisions needed. I approved this project 1st try.

2. Custom Illustration: Best Vacuum Cleaner Money Can Buy

For this project, I asked my designer (Kei) to do a custom illustration of a man vacuuming his floor. He actually drew it up and then send me a rough sketch first before he started coloring it in. That was an extra layer of care and attention to detail I wasn’t expecting. Needless to say, I approved of his drawing and then he delivered this draft the next day.

Revisions

Everything in this graphic was hand-drawn and then colored. That’s impressive. Like the first project, I couldn’t think of any revisions except asking him to put the texts “Best Vacuum Cleaner Money Can Buy” in. Just when I thought Kei couldn’t outdo himself…

He went the extra mile and designed the text to fit the graphics. See for yourself above. Details like these I would have had to harass my freelancer and he would try to nickel and dime me for every revision. Great work Kei!

3. Facebook Post: Isometric Tech Gadget Graphic

My designer Jave’s 1st draft amazed me because of how many icons and details he put into this graphic. I had asked for an isometric graphic with various tech products laid out on an isometric glass plane. I honestly thought my description may have been a bit too vague, but somehow he understood my vision better than me and made it work.

I left one comment for this project, “Wow.” and marked it as complete.

4. Magazine Print Cover (Owner’s Magazine’s 2020 May Edition)

My designer Billie gave me 3 versions of the magazine cover. I don’t like Version 1 at all, it seems too templated. I personally like Version 2 and 3 and left revisions accordingly. The Corona Virus image was entirely her idea, and I love it.

Revisions

This project took a bit longer than the others because my designer Billie had a lot of questions and we had a lot of back and forth. I didn’t mind at all since she was asking good questions that I should’ve clarified in the first place. Overall, I appreciated the extra time she took to understand me and the project better.

About three days later I got another draft and this one blew everything before it out of the water.


Communication

All communication is done online through Penji’s proprietary online portal. That includes revisions, feedback, and answering any questions my designers may have.

Communication With Designer

I was assigned 1 designer and communication Billie was great. Billie was responsive, attentive, and always seem to have a positive attitude no matter how demand I came off. She had a lot of questions for some of the projects, and the back and forth took longer than I wanted, but I realized she’s just being thorough and wants to get the design done right, which I appreciate.

Communication With Account Manager

I was also assigned an account manager who emailed me the first day. Charmaine was very quick whenever I needed something. It usually takes just a few hours for me to get a reply via email from her. When I had an issue with one of the projects, she quickly stepped in and helped resolve the situation.


Final Verdict

All four projects were completed within two weeks and I was impressed with how they all turned out. See for yourself below. If I had paid hourly or per project, these would’ve easily cost me well above $1200+ to get done, and probably taken weeks.

With Penji, it took less than a week and I paid a fraction of what they should’ve been worth. Definitely impressed with both the turnaround, quality, communication, and value this startup has to offer.

But Penji isn’t without its flaws. The service definitely isn’t for everybody. Their service is more catered to business owners, marketers, agencies, and creatives with consistent design needs. They’ll take all the heavy lifting off of your shoulder. If you don’t have a consistent need, the bill will start racking up after a couple of months and you won’t see the value in the membership.

However, if you do happen to fit their target demographic, then there’s no better replacement out there. The speed and quality of their work easily rivals of not exceed any other services I’d ever used. For $399/month, this is an absolute steal and I can’t recommend them enough.

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Popping the Bubble: How to Escape the Social Media Echo Chamber

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This past election has left most millennials in a cloud of surprise.  I know that on my own Facebook news feed there was a very anti-Trump/pro-Bernie vibe.  In the months prior to the election, my outlets for social media were bombarded by very specific opinions against the reality TV billionaire.  All I heard were calls to “feel the Bern”.  To me, and I think to most people my age, it appeared unanimous that Trump would lose.  However this was not the case.  So what happened?

One issue with social media is that it’s prone to creating echo chambers: places where our ideas are reaffirmed by the consensus of our networks.  Don’t like one particular friend’s libertarian view?  Easy.  Unfollow them.  This ability to unfollow, paired with algorithms that curate content towards to your taste depending on what you like/react to, creates the walls that seal us into comfort zones with like-minded people.  It traps us into a biased reality; a bubble that prevents us from ideas different than our own.  Here are three simple ways to combat the bubble, and allow for the diffusion of ideas.  No one’s saying it’s easy, but those who do are the guardians who keep the dialogue open during difficult times and with controversial ideas.

Actively like and react to diverse new sources and pages

Much of the power and control that users have over their social media is in curation.  Your feed is curated according to the content you interact with.  Simply being aware of this fact can make help make you more conscious about how and what appears in your feed.  If you’re not seeing a lot of diversity in content, maybe try interacting with new stuff.

Watch out for confirmation bias 

Does it always sound like you’re right?  When you log onto your Facebook, does every status update and shared article resonate with your own beliefs?  It’s easy to be drawn by the gravity of people who support your ideas, but to keep an honest perspective on the state of the world, you need to balance out what you expose yourself to.

A wise person once said to me “you like that author’s opinion?  Then try reading their opposer’s book.”

Never Unfollow

The “unfollow” feature is meant to be used in times of dire offense.  It’s understandable that a person be unfollowed because they are insulting or harassing.  The problem is that in some subjects like politics and religion,  people can resort to both of these behaviors.  Because people tend to hold political and religious beliefs close to their hearts, opposing views often respond with even more hostility.  Usually in these cases people unfollow not because of the idea itself but because of the primitive and often negative ways people try to convey them.

What makes unfollowing such a bad option is that it closes the dialogue between big contrasting ideas.  If you unfollow a friend who disagrees with you, you’re basically choosing not to hear their side.  Does doing this really make you the bigger person?  When we choose to stop the flow of information, we are also choosing to remain within the bubble.  Break free by practicing these three simple guidelines.  Humans aren’t always the best at communicating, but at least keeping an open ear and an open heart leaves the door open to a more harmonious reality, one that actually reflects the ideas of the world, and the people who hold them.

 

 

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Working With An Agency? They’re Probably Outsourcing To These Startups

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Agency team sitting at desk planning strategy

Have you ever wondered if the agency you hired is secretly outsourcing the work?

As a digital publication, we’ve hired countless agencies to help code, design, market, and launch products for us. We usually have a Project Manager from their head office as our point of contact. But we’re never sure who is completing the work. Where are they outsourcing them to?

As curious journalists, we decided to find out. For an entire month, we created a fake agency called Flower Pot Media LLC. Then we joined various Facebook groups, forums, private Google groups, and subreddits to chat with fellow agencies. We also interviewed a handful of employees and subcontractors who frequently work with creative firms to learn more about how agencies operate. It wasn’t easy to get people to cough up where they’re outsourcing to, but we eventually got a list of names. And to our surprise, the same few companies keep popping up.

Our goal isn’t to expose agencies or reveal how they make money. If you don’t have the organization or leadership required to manage a campaign, then you’re better off hiring an agency. But if you want to save some money AND are willing to put in the time/energy to coordinate, manage, and execute a campaign yourself, then this list is for you.

Content Fuel (Blogs/content)

Content Fuel landing page

As a writer myself, I know how tricky it is to hire GOOD writers. There are plenty of writers who will produce junk or just “spin” content for $5/hr or $10 – $25 per article for you. None are agency-quality or anything you’d want on your website.

After a bit of digging and asking around in the forums, many of our friends say they’ve either used or are currently using Content Fuel and have a great experience, mainly with the quality of their writers.

Content Fuel is a startup that provides unlimited content writing at a flat monthly rate. The main selling point is that their writers are damn good writers. From my experience, their level of writing qualifies for anywhere from $25 – $50/hr or $500 for a 1000 word article. For the price, I’m not entirely sure how they’re able to afford that kind of talent.

Another nice perk of Content Fuel is that you don’t need to manage the writers. If a writer doesn’t work out, you can instantly request for another writer to be assigned. This saves time, as Agencies often have to manage freelance writers, and that can be time consuming and exhausting.

Penji (Graphic design, Illustrations, Ads, Web/App designs)

Penji unlimited graphic design landing page

We found Penji because their salespeople are constantly writing in all of the forums and private groups. But they weren’t there to sell. Instead, they just help answer everyone’s questions, which we thought was a very smart sales tactic.

Penji uses an on-demand and unlimited service model that agencies often take full advantage of. Similar to Content Fuel, you can submit as many design projects as you want for your clients. Their team of on-demand designers gets to work. And instead of getting billed per project ($300-$500/project adds up), Penji charges a flat monthly rate every month regardless of usage.

We used to hire a local design agency to handle all of our design tasks. We were billed for every project, every revision, and paid an hourly rate of $75/hr. Our monthly invoice was anywhere from $4000 – $6000.

Curious to see if the rumors were true, we signed up. In the first month, they produced 33 completed designs for our team ranging from banners, infographics, and social media posts. We paid $698 for what could’ve easily been an $8000 invoice from a local agency or freelancer. True to their promise, they didn’t charge us extras for revisions or any overage.

We especially like their dashboard. It’s easy for agencies to manage their client’s projects. You can create a brand profile for each client and upload all their logos and brand materials. And any time you need a design job done for that client, just select the brand profile and Penji’s designers will have everything they need to get to work. They were lightning fast. Everything we submitted, they turned around in less than 48 hours. Quality was either the same if not sometimes even better than the agency we hired. Overall, we can see why agencies outsource to Penji.

Upwork (Coding)

Upwork.com

Upwork is a great place to outsource programming and coding work to. You’ll find developers from India, Pakistan, Ukraine, and many other countries from around the world. Rates are relatively cheap, from $5/hr for entry-level developers to $35+/hr for more advanced talents. You can also hire a group of developers/agencies directly from Upwork.

We hired a local agency to code our website (ownersmag.com), however, at times it felt like we were actually communicating with someone from India. It wasn’t a problem for us, because the communication and work were good. But we did wonder how much we would’ve actually paid if we were to go directly to the source.

One caveat you should note is that, unlike Content Fuel and Penji, you’re doing the hiring and managing on Upwork yourselves. Content Fuel and Penji does all the hiring, managing, and finding the talent for you, so it’s pretty hands-off. Meanwhile, on Upwork, you need to post a job, interview the candidates, pay them yourself, and also be up at night to collaborate with them. Keep that in mind, as that level of management alone can be worth hiring an agency for.

The Hoth (SEO)

As a publication, we don’t need to hire an SEO agency to help us rank. However, many of our sponsors and advertisers do. The Hoth is a one-stop-shop for white-labeling SEO services. They offer an internal platform for agencies to keep track of and manage the client’s SEO progress. They handle white-labeled reporting too, so you can send branded reports for an added touch.

Many agencies we spoke to use The Hoth as a reliable 3rd party service to help their clients’ SEO campaign succeed. They’ve been around for a while and although the SEO white-labeling space is fairly competitive, they stand out as one of the more reliable services.

Conclusion

Don’t go firing your agency and try to do things yourself just yet, that might not be a good idea. The real value of an agency is its ability to coordinate, communicate, manage, plan, and execute a successful campaign for you. And that often requires many hours, phone calls, and meetings, which is exactly what you’re paying for.

Agencies outsourcing the workload is completely normal. As a matter of fact, it would be unusual for an agency to do everything inhouse themselves. So before attempting to take over the work yourself, make sure you have the capacity and coordination to manage everything.

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