Monday, April 12, 2010

To Win the Sale- Win Your Customers Heart

To Win the Sale, Win Your Customer's Heart
4:21 PM Tuesday April 6, 2010
You're unappreciated in your company, and you've begun to doubt your importance there.

Huh? How did I know that? I didn't. But I'm rarely wrong when I make that assumption about people, and especially about potential clients. In fact, that premise is central to my company's approach to forging an emotional connection with prospective customers. Everything that happens during buyers' first contacts with our company counteracts their sense of being undervalued and lets them know how important they are to us.

To get a sense of what we do, imagine that you're a prospective buyer and that you've come to our company, at our invitation and cost, to pay us a visit (we routinely invite customers to our facilities). You're going to experience these seven steps to an emotional connection:

?You get picked up at the airport.

?At our headquarters, you're greeted with a welcome sign listing your name and title and all the names and titles of the people with you, along with pictures of your packaged products (we make cans and other types of packaging). By the way, our employees saw the same sign when they came to work, so they know that your visit is the most important thing going on today.

?At the security desk, the guards tell you that your visit is so important to us that you've been preregistered.

?Our salesperson ushers you to the office of the CEO, who is waiting to greet you.

?From there, the salesperson escorts you to the boardroom, the most important and prestigious room in the company, to symbolize your importance to us. Other management types are waiting to greet you.

?With all of our top managers in the room, you're asked to tell us about your company and to brag about yourself.

?We outnumber you five or six to one, so that you can vividly see how important you are.

Selling is both a feeling and a thinking proposition. Treating people as we do opens their hearts by inflating their sense of importance, and it makes them more receptive to the thinking part of the sales process, which takes place next, in these four steps:

?We begin a series of presentations in which our top people tell you who we are, what we do, and how we do it. These are not sales pitches.

?You're taken to a plant where you can judge for yourself whether we walk our talk. Tours are conducted by the people who would be making your packaging, and you're encouraged to ask any questions you want.

?At a reception in your honor, you meet many more people in the company.

?At a gracious dinner in our executive dining room, the people you would be doing business with engage you in unhurried conversation.

Many sales organizations do little to create an emotional connection with prospective customers and concentrate instead on hype-filled sales pitches. We do the opposite: By conveying our warm feelings, we create an emotional bond without appearing phony or insincere. Then, by making an objective presentation, we show that we respect our customers' ability to make their own judgments. The art of selling is in the heart, not the brain.

Clif Reichard (creichar@ball.com) is a sales consultant in his 55th year selling rigid packaging substrates.

Kevin L. Brown www.stardustspillproducts.com
STARDUST Super Absorbent
STARPOWER Super Cleaner-Degreaser

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Four Fatal Online Writing Mistakes

Steve Strauss - Mr. AllBiz (The Strauss Group, Inc.)
Apr 05, 2010 -

Upon returning from a meeting recently, I received an email from one of the attendees. It opened with “It was great to sea everyone. I hope we can all contine to be so productive.”

Now that is a lesson in how not to impress anybody. But the author of that un-proofread email is not alone. In this age when everyone is self-published via the Internet, there are opportunities galore to blow it. And, while many business writing mistakes are minor, others can be fatal.

Here are the ones you simply must avoid:
1. TMI: Sharing too much information can be a killer. Especially in this age of tweeting and updating, business people increasingly make the mistake of posting too much information. And it is even worse because the very nature of Twitter is that you can dash off a tweet and not really think about its ramifications.

Doing so can not only hurt your reputation, it can even get you in legal hot water.For instance, every year Microsoft holds a summit for its most valuable professional partners (“MVPs”). Much of what these MVPs know is under NDA. Yet even so, at last year’s summit the MVPs tweeted so much confidential info that this year there was a Twitter logo outside sessions with a red X over it. The sign next to it read in part:“All Keynotes and Breakout and Side Sessions are . . . under your MVP Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) . . . Do not share session content from this event in any manner including: tweeting, blogging, posting, [etc.].”Violating your NDA for a tweet is dumb.

And what about tweeting too much personal information? That may be even worse.

How do you know when it is TMI? If you would not say in public what you are about to type, then you probably should not share it.Some things are better left un-tweeted.

2. Forgetting that it is still about business: Social media is the proverbial double-edged sword. On one hand, it allows you to have a more personal connection with colleagues and business associates. On the other, that very closeness can create an illusion of close friendship that may not be real, appropriate, or both.

And the danger there is that we say things to friends that we would never say to colleagues.So the important thing to remember is this: If you are posting about business, remember it is about business. Sure you can be friendly and colloquial, that’s great, but there better be a line.

And because there is no room for nuance with emails, posts, and tweets (since nuance is often expressed with a look or voice inflection), you run the real risk that people who do not know you well may misinterpret an overly-friendly post. If they don’t get your humor, or know your way, your post is liable to fall flat.

3. Not double-checking: Once upon a time, no business communication ever went out without being double-checked for errors; secretaries and aides would make sure of that. These days, with everyone in such a rush, double-checking may seem as antiquated as dictation, but it shouldn’t be because sloppiness can have severe ramifications. As the old commercial goes, “people judge you by the words you use.”

This mistake typically comes in two forms.

First, like my colleague above, it is very easy today to shoot off an email with typos, misspellings, or other grammatical errors. While a friend will forgive your error, colleagues may not forget; your written communication is a main way they form an opinion of, and eventually a judgment about, you.
Proofreading emails is a must, bottom line.

The second way a lack of thoroughness can be detrimental is a mistake probably all of us have made – sending an email to the wrong people, and/or cc’ing everyone by mistake. It can be devastating. Yes, mistakes happen, but creating a habit of double-checking means they will happen less often.

4. Mistaking texting for writing: While using texting language for tweets is at least understandable given Twitter’s truncated format, it should be avoided in business emails. Using “i” instead of I, emoticons, or cute abbreviations are the sorts of things that should only be used for people you know well, if then.

I mean really, how seriously would you take this column if I ended it with, “i hope u c what i am saying! J”

Right – not very.
Kevin L. Brown www.stardustspillproducts.com

STARDUST Super Absorbent
STARPOWER Super Cleaner

Airgas renews rejection of tender offer

Airgas Inc., of Radnor, renewed its rejection of a $60-per-share buyout offer from Air Products & Chemicals Inc. after Air Products on Thursday said it had extended the offer for all outstanding shares from April 9 to June 4.
Airgas said in a news release that its board of directors continues to believe the offer from Air Products "grossly undervalues" Airgas.

As of the close of business Thursday, 12,291 of Airgas' 82.73 million shares had been tendered, Allentown-based Air Products said.

"We appreciate the support we have received and, going forward, encourage all Airgas stockholders not to tender their shares into Air Products' opportunistic and inadequate offer," Airgas said in its statement.

Airgas shares closed Thursday at $63.96, up 34 cents, on the New York Stock Exchange. The market was closed Friday. - Harold Brubaker

Kevin L. Brown www.stardustspillproducts.com

STARDUST Super Absorbent
STARPOWER Super Cleaner

Monday, April 5, 2010

Today's TipWhy Cloud Storage is Feasible in 2010

Posted by: Today's Tip Contributor on March 31
With most emerging technologies, the hype is bigger than the reality. A welcome exception is cloud storage, which is enabling many organizations to achieve major economies of scale and greater control of growing data volumes. We recently polled customers worldwide about their readiness to use cloud-based solutions. More than half of the 535 respondents said they were seriously considering cloud storage now or in the future. Companies of all sizes can reap the benefits of cloud storage for a number of reasons, including the ability to:

1. Access a lower-cost tier of storage and drive down IT costs;

2. Shift storage costs from a capital expenditure to an operational expenditure, freeing capital to support other parts of the business.

3. Offload routine storage operations so IT teams can focus on more strategic technology initiatives that bolster profitability;

4. Replace or supplement tape—with all its management complexities and headaches—by storing off-site data copies in the cloud;

5. Access affordable disaster recovery as data copies stored in the cloud are, by nature, off-site and protected in the event of a local disaster;

6. Lower the costs of remote office data protection and remove the need for separate storage infrastructures because backup data can be consolidated in the cloud;

7. Leverage unlimited storage scalability with a "pay as you go" subscription model for increasing storage capacities as needed, without growing data center footprints.

Cloud storage is the right answer, especially for businesses requiring more space for archiving infrequently accessed data, undergoing infrastructure replacements, or seeking simplified compliance management. The key to the cloud: Secure the proper applications to simplify the movement, protection, archiving, and electronic discovery of all types of data stored there.

Jeff Echols

Senior Director of Cloud Storage


Oceanport, N.J
Kevin L. Brown www.stardustspillproducts.com
STARDUST Super Absorbent
STARPOWER Super Cleaner

Friday, April 2, 2010

Unisource Launches New Line of Protective Packaging Products

Unisource Launches New Line of Protective Packaging Products
By MDM Staff

March 31, 2010
Unisource Worldwide, Inc., Norcross, GA, distributor of paper, packaging and facility supplies, has launched a new line of protective packaging products under the Unisource brand

The line includes bubble cushioning, polyethylene foam and poly bubble mailers. Several of the products include recycled content targeted at businesses looking for environmental benefits.

“In addition to traditional protective packaging products, we wanted to offer our customers pre- and post-consumer recycled content alternatives,” said Steve Mohr, Director of Marketing – Packaging for Unisource. “We also wanted to ensure that these products could meet or exceed performance requirements.”

Kevin L. Brown
stardust super absorbent
starpower super cleaner degreaser

Thursday, April 1, 2010

United Stationers, Deerfield, IL, released its 2010 Green Catalog with 2,700 items, an 8% increase over the 2009 catalog.


By MDM Staff -March 26, 2010

"Our offering of sustainable products has expanded significantly across all popular categories to offer consumers greater choice, and resellers more green marketing power," said Carol O'Hern, director of marketing research, analytics and sustainability. "Every item included as been verified for its green attributes by the manufacturers, who have also sought certification by third-party sustainability organizations."

The 2010 Green Catalog includes larger selections of paper SKUs with recycled content, sustainable binders and writing instruments, light bulbs – including more compact fluorescents, recycling receptacles, ink and toner cartridges, and fully biodegradable and compostable food service items.

In addition, the 2010 Green Catalog offers tips for sustainable purchasing, a guide to greener offices, and a glossary of sustainable terminology.

Kevin L. Brown http://www.stardustspillproducts.com/
STARPOWER Super Cleaner Degreaser
STARDUST Super Absorbent

How Can We Map Social Media to B2B Sales?

We have a great B2B sales team. We've made a couple of forays into social media, and we like what we see! But what tactics are really working out there to draw prospects in—and not turn them off? What are some cool ways to match social with selling?

Expert: Kipp Bodnar

Kipp is Inbound Marketing Manager at HubSpot and the publisher of SocialMediaB2B.com, a multi-author blog for B2B companies planning to incorporate social media into their marketing strategies. He also blogs on technology and social media at his personal blog, DigitalCapitalism.com.

The key to monetizing B2B social media is to find ways to use the Web to solve problems for prospects, Kipp explains. "Problem-solving has always been a major aspect of what we do for our customers," he notes. "Now, B2B companies can use social media to better identify customer needs—and, by addressing them, improve engagement."

Here are a few key steps to take to blend social with selling.

1. Observe
"The first step in this process is to see what others are doing," Kipp advises. "Look to online resources that are B2B sales-focused." Perform keyword searches to find blogs, sites, and communities that match your industry or focus.You may find that industries tend to behave differently online, he notes. For instance, computer professionals such as software vendors "may spend more time on Twitter and message boards, while consultants and others in service-based industries may prefer sites like LinkedIn."

Regardless of the industry, you'll find one common thread in social-media conversations, he observes: "Every B2B customer thinks their niche is a difficult one." And that's a key point of entry, he notes: "You can find an empathy point with any prospect based on the business challenges they face."

2. Isolate
As you listen to the conversations taking place at the sites you choose to monitor, you'll begin to isolate the key questions people are asking. "Hang out in groups dedicated to your target audience," he suggests.
"Start to provide some feedback to the ongoing chats. As people heed your advice, you'll go up the list of folks they may consider calling on for help."

3. Study
How do you learn to solve problems online like a pro? Kipp suggests you check out some trade-organization websites. "You can trust that trade associations have spent time researching what's on their members' minds, what the major challenges are in their industry. Study the topics at their sites, and become familiar with the issues of the day. And observe how they're serving their members' needs." As you become better acquainted with the challenges your prospects face, you'll also naturally begin to isolate ways that your company can help, he notes.

4. Own it
The final step is to create an online presence—to "own some type of Web property"—where you can provide unique solutions that draw visitors in. "Build a hub, a home base, where you address the questions of the day," he advises. For instance, you can "start a blog that's dedicated to answering the questions of the community."

5. Market it
Finally, apply inbound-marketing tactics to your Web entity. "Ask visitors to sign in and provide their email addresses; optimize content so that you'll be picked up by search engines," he suggests. You can then begin to turn the resulting prospects into clients.
"The process behind blending B2B social media with selling is to learn the challenges facing your prospects, create valuable information to address those challenges, share it with folks who think it is valuable, build professional connections, and then begin to monetize your relationships," Kipp concludes.
Problem solved!

Don't miss Kipp Bodnar's session, Driving and Measuring B2B Conversations, Leads and Sales with Social Media Marketing, at the B2B Forum in Boston, May 3-5. Bring your company profile—and your B2B social media questions!
Kevin L. Brown
STARPOWER Super Cleaner Degreaser
STARDUST Super Absorbent

5 Tricks for the Busy CEO Who Wants to be Active on Social Media

Mar 31, 2010 -
Social media is a great tool for connecting with your customers and getting some free PR, but it takes a ton of time to implement an effective campaign. How can you do all that if you're busy actually running your company?

Plenty of well-known CEOs really are the bloggers behind their blogs and the tweeters behind their Twitter updates. Think: Virgin CEO Sir Richard Branson, Marriott CEO Bill Marriott, and former Sun Microsystem’s CEO Jonathan Schwartz.

So how do they do it?

“My schedule is unpredictable at the moment,” says Barry Sutton, CEO of Hellbound Wine & Spirits whose company is in the process of launching a new wine brand. “I take every opportunity when I have any downtime to talk with users on our Twitter page. During this downtime I am swimming in a sea of information: business, viniculture, design, politics, entertainment, so I take the opportunity to post up information that is of interest to me [and] hopefully is also of interest to our customers and fans.”

Here are a few tips on how to manage your time running a successful small business and maintaining an active social media presence for your business. Remember: you want to be efficient, productive, and not waste your time.

1. Allocate designated time to social media. Budget in blocks of time for visiting your various social media sites. For some people it can be a three times a day: fifteen minutes in the morning, afternoon, and early evening. For people who require more time on their social networks for keeping up with customers, business advisors, and various industry innovators, fifteen minutes for every hour or two can be a good on topic break. Keep a timer and stay focused! It’s easy to get distracted by funny unrelated viral YouTube videos and Twitpics. Think of your social media time as little warm ups and sprints throughout the day that ultimately help you keep your business’ productivity up.

2. Figure out what you want to do on these sites. Make lists of which sites you want to focus on and why. While you are monitoring your social media sites for PR, customer service and marketing opportunities, you’re also extending your customer service and client relations.

3. Don’t make that allocated social media time all about you and your company. Spend some of time promoting the content and posts of other people to create dialogue and extend a conversation – just try to do it within your designated time slot!

4. Use social media with an end result in mind. Why are you updating your network? What do you have to share about your business? What do you want from sharing this information about your business? Tweet with new business and career opportunities in mind. Social media sites are destinations to showcase your expertise.

5. Hire a social media expert to ghost tweet and ghost Facebook for your company. “I outsource my social media needs to save time,” says Ted Pratt who operates financial ad network TakeAReport.com. “It saves me time and I benefit from experts from across a breadth of platforms. That way my reach is phenomenal and I don’t end up wasting time playing around.”

Kevin L. Brown
STARDUST Spill Products
STARDUST Super Absorbent
STARPOWER Super Cleaner/Degreaser

Suppliers Must Reposition Value Proposition

The days of sourcing everything in your own backyard are over as 82% of respondents to a Grant Thornton survey indicated that some portion of their supply chain is purchased internationally, up from 77% last year.

By James Ricci, Grant Thornton
March 29, 2010
More News »Outsourcing, off shoring, near shoring, what does it all mean? Is U.S. manufacturing being summarily dismantled and only to be rebuilt in China or India? The answers to these questions are complex and don't lend themselves to readymade sound bites. A recent survey conducted by Grant Thornton suggests that while China tries to meet demand for its own burgeoning market, it will continue to dominate as an origin for exports of manufactured goods. But that is only part of the story as suppliers reposition their value proposition amid evolving manufacturing and sourcing strategies.

For sure, the days of sourcing everything in your own backyard are over as 82% of respondents to a Grant Thornton survey indicated that some portion of their supply chain is purchased internationally, up from 77% last year. China remains the front-runner choice, with 28% sourcing from that country, up from 22% last year. What was the most interesting is only half of the firms surveyed (49%) have found international sourcing to produce a positive ROI.

This begs the question, why did the other half not find international sourcing to be profitable? Three possible reasons come to mind.

First, fluctuating fuel (transportation) and raw material prices increase risk of the return on investment. This risk exists even before production starts as these cost factors can change during the product planning and launch phases as well.

Second, quality and delivery can still be an issue. Companies are recognizing that supply chain reliability and agility are of growing importance to their business. Real costs are incurred when the supply chain breaks down or fails to function as intended. Recovery from offshore quality and delivery issues involves deploying resources overseas to fix the problem and can involve expensive air freight costs to refill pipelines.

Third, firms have varied levels of sophistication with regard to their sourcing criteria, approach and cost modeling. A more nuanced approach is being employed with increasing regularity in some industries though. In fact, the general trend toward using Far East manufacturing or other "low cost countries" to source the preponderance of components is being tempered by a need to provide local presence in each market. For example, more than ever before, automakers are designing and manufacturing global products yet sourcing remains "regional" through larger global suppliers.

As industries place greater importance on flexibility and an ability to react to market changes, suppliers and their supply chains will need to become more focused on supporting local operations. Thus, a migration toward globally sourcing into multiple lower cost regions can support a positive ROI while mitigating risk.

As companies begin to design and manufacture global products allowing for this regional approach to sourcing is key. Returning to the automotive example above, each of the major regional markets is structured to leverage the cost arbitrage compared to the home market. Three examples are cited below.

North America -- Mexico continues to dominate what would be considered the "low cost country of choice" for N.A. manufacturing. While Asia Pacific operations have increased their exports substantially over the past 5 years, Grant Thornton's analysis in the automotive space shows that the sheer number of plants and SKUs supplied by Asia Pacific operations is substantially less than Mexico. On average, Mexico operations supply more than three times as many SKUs from 50% more plants.

Europe -- Central/Eastern European countries such as Hungary, Poland, Russia and the Czech Republic continue to be the locations of choice for Western European manufacturing from both a plant and SKU perspective with supply percentages even greater than Mexico's support of North America.

Asia Pacific -- The Asia Pacific regional low cost sourcing is being dominated by China, India, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines. In fact, inland China is being employed as a low cost source for coastal manufacturing sites.

This sourcing approach incorporates other factors into the equation beyond the traditional definition of a total landed cost. In addition to quantifiable costs (component price including labor, overhead as well as international freight, import duties, special packaging, import-export costs, etc.) that companies evaluate when making a product sourcing decision, many companies are also quantifying supply chain risks associated with a particular region and/or country. These risk factors include but are not limited to:

Currency stability
Infrastructure needs
Inventory pipeline needs
Legislative framework and I/P protection
Management and workforce skills & capabilities
Political and/or societal stability
Quality control
Related industry or customer demand to spur and maintain competition
Reverse logistics requirements

When many of these factors are actually quantified in a sourcing decision, the incremental savings from sourcing to a higher risk region or country is often eliminated (especially when the principle benefit is labor arbitrage). For example, sourcing a product in Mexico versus the United States is very attractive as the wage difference between a typical U.S. worker and a Mexican worker is considerable (approx. $13/hr). The savings from the labor variance alone can often overshadow other cost considerations and risk factors. However, the labor rate difference between China and Mexico is not nearly as great (approx. $2/hr). Thus, when determining a non-domestic source for a particular component the other cost and risk factors have a growing importance as a criterion.

So what about those firms that aren't seeing a positive ROI from an international sourcing decision? Will they move product back to the home market or re-source it to a regional low cost country? In most cases the answer is no. Firms that have swung the sourcing pendulum too far in one direction will not move or re-source mass quantities of product back into a particular region -- it is costly and fraught with risk. What is a more likely scenario is they will revisit sourcing decisions on a case-by-case basis when a logical sourcing change can be made such as a new product introduction or for an engineering change.

So while China will continue to be a dominant player for manufactured goods, Mexico and Central/Eastern Europe will remain long-term partners and benefactors for their respective regions. For these reasons, we see this regional sourcing model continuing for the foreseeable future as manufacturers in mature markets leverage local international sources for cost competitiveness and market flexibility. What will be different is that these supplier firms will have a decidedly global footprint that mirrors their customer needs. Other firms will elect to reposition themselves as Tier 2 suppliers rather than scaling up to compete with these global Tier 1 suppliers.

James Ricci is a Director with Grant Thornton's Manufacturing Transaction Services group in Detroit and a Certified Supply Chain Professional. He assists companies with operational performance improvement and regularly consults on distressed and turnaround matters for manufacturing firms. http://www.granthorton.com

Kevin L. Brown
STARDUST Super Absorbent

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

More Iphone Best Apps

Two of my most valuable Iphone apps for biz are,

Dragon Dictation and Docs to Go

Docs to Go allows me to keep full file folders of word, excel and pdf docs that sync right from my desktop.  I now have pricing, images, credit apps, msds, etc all on my iphone that i can simply email right from my iphone! While a bit pricey as apps go- i would pay far more for this app in the convenience it brings.

Dragon Dictation- speech recognition app that really works!  tap the icon, speak your message, hit the keyboard icon in the app if you need to edit then select to either email, mms/text or copy to windows clipboard.  I use this for emails and have even dictated a letter while on the road that I edited when back at my desk.

Check them out and see what you think!

kevin l. brown - http://www.stardustspillproducts.com/
ecochoice natural sorbent solutions
stardust super absorbent - check them out!

Best Iphone Apps (more best iphone apps)

Best iPhone Business Apps
Mar 16, 2010 -

A funny thing happened with the rise of smartphones, netbooks and ultra-portable PCs: Technical performance quickly took a back seat to widespread software compatibility. While no surprise to industry pundits, who'd long argued that having to support varied hardware configurations and operating systems stifled programmers' ability to innovate, let's be real. The meteoric rise of Apple's iPhone App Store, from which 3 billion programs have now been downloaded, took even the most open-minded critics by surprise.

Credit growing public enthusiasm for "apps"--bite-sized, downloadable software applications capable of extending any supporting device's value by adding countless features that weren't included out of the box. More than 100,000 apps can currently be had for the iPhone alone, the vast majority created by a legion of bedroom coders and small entrepreneurial startups. Having clearly captured the world's imagination, apps can now be found on numerous platforms from Android to Windows 7, handsets like Google's Nexus One or Motorola's Droid, and even devices as diverse as computers, eReaders and HDTVs.

What's more, all it takes is a single glimpse to see why they enjoy such tremendous support from the business community. With a single download, you can turn your cell phone into a portable translator, download photos right to your living room television or manage all your social network updates via a single desktop client. So love them or hate them, there's no getting around it, especially for iPhone owners. Allowing one-touch access to weather and flight updates, inventory management or invoice processing systems, apps are here to stay.

Following are 10 examples of useful apps for working professionals that can help foster communications, grow customer relationships and boost productivity across the board. Consider them strictly a starting point, however. Look closely, and you'll find thousands of equally compelling choices to pick from tailored to a range of businesses and industries, with dozens more being added every day. Now that's what we call forward progress.

QuickOffice Mobile Office Suite--One of the most powerful bundles of productivity tools for the iPhone, owners gain the ability to create and edit Microsoft Word and Excel files, as well as view PowerPoint and PDF documents. The software suite also allows you to turn your iPhone into a wireless storage drive, accessible via Wi-Fi connection, or connect with cloud computing services like Dropbox, Google Docs and MobileMe for sharing creations.

Mobile Roadie--Dream of having your own iPhone app, but can't afford the time or cost required to build a custom project? Try this nifty subscription-based service, which lets you craft individually branded business apps, then populate them with status updates, photos, videos, web links, notifications about discounts and promotions, and details on upcoming appearances. Fans can comment on posts, upload photos and share their activities with other users via their Facebook and Twitter accounts, helping to grow your audience.

LinkedIn--This app allows you to access the most popular social network for business users. Using LinkedIn, you can check status updates, send messages, issue invitations and pull up contact info. Road warriors will find it a handy way to connect with peers, mentors and potential business partners.

Jott--You never know when inspiration will strike. Thankfully, the next time you've got a brilliant business idea, this handy app--which doubles as a personal stenographer--proves a ready-made way to take dictation. Capable of recording audio clips and converting them to text, Jott makes it simple to transcribe board meetings, send e-mails with a spoken command or dictate Facebook and Twitter updates.

XpenseTracker--The name says it all: From taxis to hotels and meals, this app lets you keep a running log of virtually any business expense. Owners can sort by personalized categories and payment types, plus break down costs in various currencies and track mileage reports. Once recorded, expense reports can quickly be exported into a spreadsheet or plain text document, helping speed up processing and reimbursement.

uCharge--Lets you process credit card payments from your handset or empower a sales force to charge customers from multiple devices while on the go. Just enter customer billing info and credit card details, and you can receive authorization and execute transactions in seconds, with support for major credit cards such as American Express featured.

Tweetie 2--The ultimate Twitter client, it gives power personal communicators the option to juggle multiple accounts, makes it easy to process and organize your tweets, and puts a tremendous range of functionality at one's fingertips. There's even the option to read tweets and perform actions such as responding while offline, which then synchronize once you log back in. From a slick, intuitive interface to features that make finding and communicating with contacts simpler, it's a great way to get the word out about your business.

QuickBooks Online--Balancing the books, issuing invoices and flipping through P&L statements can now be done right from your pocket. Armed with this program, you can check account balances and stay on top of outstanding payments/receipts, as well as keep track of client contact info. Consider it your portable accounting department.

Salesforce Mobile--Anyone who plans on fielding a mobile sales team should make a point of keeping this customer relationship management tool in their arsenal, which lets you stay abreast of quotes, leads and client relationships. While you'll need a salesforce.com login to access the app, it provides a superb way to stay informed on recent account activity, track outstanding RFPs and monitor breaking opportunities.

FlightTrack Pro--For road warriors, the friendly skies can prove a hazardous minefield of delayed flights and missed connections. Happily, this robust domestic and international flight tracker keeps a close eye on your itinerary, delivering updates and notices in the event of late arrivals or cancellations. Weather forecasts, live flight maps and detailed flight info (speed, arrival time, altitude, etc.) are also available.

5 Tips for Nailing the Sales Visit

By Barry Farber
March 18, 2010
One of the best parts of my job is not the speaking or writing, but traveling in the field and selling. Sometimes my own products, and sometimes with sales reps from a variety of industries. When going on sales calls for the first time, there are a few things you can do upfront that can make a big difference later on in the sales cycle. It's not rocket science or some kind of magic sales secret, just plain common courtesy and common sense.

1.Introduce yourself around the office. Common sense says that you should introduce yourself to the receptionist or anyone else you pass on the way to your sales call. But it doesn't always happen. Many salespeople will ask to see the person with whom they have an appointment without giving the person they're talking to the time of day. Yet the receptionist has valuable information about the company and people who work there. Always remember to say, "Thanks Steve, I appreciate your help." It sounds like a little thing, but ends up going a long way. Great salespeople end up knowing a variety of people who work at the client's company because they understand that you never know who's going to be promoted and can assist you in the future.

2. Break the ice. Do you know what gets your prospects excited and passionate about their work and life? Did you notice the family pictures they have around their office or the plaques hanging on the wall? Or maybe it's the signed football sitting in a glass box. Ask them about the things they find important enough to have surrounding them all day. Those objects are there for a reason. Or do you really believe your prospects wake up in the morning and just can't wait to see your presentation?
Let me give you an example. The other day I was sitting in on a follow-up sales call. There were at least 30 pictures hanging on the walls, but one stood out. It was a picture of two people skydiving, taken from the plane.

I turned to the owner of the company and asked, "Who's the skydiver?" At that his eyes widened with excitement and his face lighted up with enthusiasm. "That's me the first and last time I jumped out of a plane!" I asked him what it felt like the moment he was airborne (sometimes these things take a gentle prod). He then went into a big story about his post-jump excitement; his euphoria was palpable. The transition to the sales call was easy, "Well, that's how excited you'll be when we install these six machines," I said jokingly. We all laughed and the meeting continued, but the atmosphere was quite different from when we started.

3.Review your time frame. Even though you might have confirmed the length of your sales meeting before the call, it's always good to do it again. You might not be aware that timing has changed for the customer. The following statement will set you straight: "I know we set aside an hour for today’s meeting. I just want to make sure that still works for you."

Now, some people might be saying, "Why are you asking that again? You already got the time, and the customer might tell you that now he only has 30 minutes." The answer is courtesy. Also, if the customer's had a crazy day, his attention is not going to be focused on you. I've gone on calls with reps who dive right into their presentation, no nod to time, no ice breakers, and I'll watch the customer squirm in his chair and look at his watch as if wondering; "How long is this going to take?" When you value the customer's time, it shows that you also value your own.

4.Ask, "Do you mind if I take some notes?" Before going into your qualifying and fact-finding mission, ask permission to take some notes. First, the customer will be impressed that you want to learn about his goals and needs. Second, it tells him that what he says is important, and you don't want to miss any key points. I sometimes put the word "LISTEN" in big letters at the top of the page to remind me that no one ever listens themselves out of a sale.

5.Say thank you and follow up. After the meeting, face the customer straight on, look him in the eye and say thanks, and mean it. Also, e-mail or mail him a follow-up letter going over the meeting points from your notes and next steps.

Sometimes we forget how important common courtesy is, the basic little things we should do that can make a big difference in the way we sell and the relationships we build.

"Knowledge, ability, experience are of little avail in reaching high success if courtesy is lacking. Courtesy is the one passport that will be accepted without question in every land, in every office, in every home, in every heart in the world. For nothing commends itself so well as kindness; and courtesy is kindness."

-- George D. Powers