Analysis and Opinion

82090013 520x245 Why you should pay attention to these 8 emerging tech hubs

This post originally appeared on the TransferWise blog. TransferWise is the clever new way to transfer money between countries, from the people the people who built Skype and PayPal.

From Silicon Valley to Silicon Alley, and Berlin’s hip coffee shops to East London’s Silicon Roundabout, the world is well versed in the global innovation boom towns. But have you heard of what’s going on in Cyprus, Sweden or North Carolina?

Today, with the decentralising nature of the Internet, distributed cloud technology and a growing sentiment toward entrepreneurship, the global startup ecosystem has never been so dispersed.

What’s the magic formula that helps a city to incubate innovation? Is it the low rent prices, stable infrastructure, education facilities or weather conditions? Perhaps it’s a complex algorithm of all of the above?

From the Far East to the Mediterranean, we found eight cities where technology’s influence is growing by the minute, and the world should start paying close attention.

1. Eindhoven, Netherlands

bikes 520x347 Why you should pay attention to these 8 emerging tech hubs

Dubbed by Forbes as the most inventive city in the world due to its “patent intensity”, Eindhoven is a hotbed for hardware design and high-tech innovation.

In the future, biodegradable implants known as Bioneedles may replace the syringe, needle and vial vaccination – a reduction of HIV infection and hepatitis are among the benefits attributed to this cheap and safe technology. And this is just one of the many pioneering technologies surfacing out of this mid-sized Southern city of the Netherlands.

It’s home to hot startups like leading 3D printing marketplace Shapeways, interactive education service Gynzy and real-time advertising platform Flxone.

2. Pune, India

Move over Bangalore, there’s a new Indian metropolis evolving with its finger on the pulse of cloud, mobile and digital technologies. With its young demographic, acclaimed university, flourishing nightlife and convenient connection to the financial centre of Mumbai, Pune is attracting a pool of startups and fresh IT talent.

Startups range from award-winning data software Druva to telecommunication hardware Swipe. Known as India’s first ‘Wi-Fi City’ after the Unwiring Pune project was instigated in 2006, the city’s Wi-Fi coffee shop culture and affordable standard of living add to its entrepreneurial appeal.

3. Nicosia, Cyprus

city 520x265 Why you should pay attention to these 8 emerging tech hubs

Despite its recent financial crisis, the WIPO cites Cyprus as a country showing great potential in intellectual property and technology output. Companies like NCR and TSYS have caught on, choosing the Mediterranean island capital for their regional headquarters.

With its high per-capita income, favourable tax system, sophisticated infrastructure and low business set-up costs the possibilities are prime in Cyprus. Bitcoin marketers Neo & Bee will open their first real-life branch in Nicosia later this month, a place where the use of the virtual currency is already creeping into everyday life.

4. Dublin, Ireland

Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Linkedin have all established their European headquarters in this Irish capital. Lower taxes and living costs, in comparison to its English neighbour, are what urged this move originally.

But now more and more tech companies cite a pool of talent and the Irish Venture Capital Association’s investment tendencies as reasons for the city’s appeal. Accelerator facilities like Dog Patch Labs, launched by leading US venture capital firm Polaris Venture Partners, host music discovery platform Seevl, Guitar Hero-like software Riffstation and big data management tool Logentries, to name a few.

The city also hosts the must-go tech conferences Web Summit and F.ounders.

5. Raleigh, North Carolina

Affordable housing, short commutes and the title of No.1 U.S. city for young families are all triggers for the flock of technology companies and university graduates to Raleigh.

Over the past two decades, Raleigh has experienced the third-highest job growth and second-highest population increase in the country. It’s also part of the North Carolina Research Triangle, one of the most prominent U.S. research parks pioneering in IT and biotechnology.

The region (known as Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill) is anchored by cutting-edge research institutions from surrounding universities, growing high-tech companies like Bandwith and Yealink as well as Fortune 100 companies IBM, Cisco, Sony Ericsson and many more.

6. Hong Kong

hk 520x346 Why you should pay attention to these 8 emerging tech hubs

Beijing may be the historical innovation hotspot of the Far East, but recently this focus has shifted to Hong Kong. Its easy-breezy business climate paired with incredibly fast Internet speeds, a lack of censorship and plenty of trading tycoons are all contributing factors its growth.

Hong Kong is a booming breeding ground for startups, with global venture programs like StartMeUpHK offering resources and companies such as Burg Limited paving the way for wearable tech.

7. Malm , Sweden

Ranked as the fourth on the list of cities with most patent applications per 10,000 residents -after Eindhoven, San Francisco and San Diego- this southern Swedish city is both young and diverse. Almost half of Malm ‘s population is under the age of 35 and boasts the highest proportion of foreign-born residents in the country.

The third largest city in the country, it’s situated between the European capital Copenhagen and Swedish university town Lund. The region is teetering on the forefront of IT, mobile technology and life sciences.

Once an industrial town transformed into a nucleus of young innovation, Malm has attracted startups such as live video-streaming service Bambuser, stock photography platform Foap and micro-donation tool Flattr.

8. Tel Aviv, Israel

Perhaps its no longer as surprising, but with 5,000 startups the Silicon Wadi (colloquial Hebrew for ‘Silicon Valley’) of the Mediterranean is certainly worth a mention.

It has the highest density of startups in the world and 61 companies in NASDAQ. From BillGuard’s crowdsourced personal finance security to Wix’s web publishing tool and Cardboard Technologies’ biodegradable bicycle, the startup landscape has a reputation of being the most inventive in the world.

It’s no wonder Google invested top dollar in its 8,000 sq. meter Tel Aviv offices.

What other global cities are being put on the map of innovation? Where in the world will the next hotbed of tech or financial genius emerge?

Perhaps we’ll be looking to Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro, Luxembourg, Toronto, Auckland, Beirut or Lagos?

shutterstock 142997428 520x245 User hostile vs. user friendly email signup tactics: Which works best?

Javier Sanz is a marketer at Woorank.

After going viral with one of my personals posts, a growing community of Web designers pointed fingers at my site because I was using an aggressive pop-up to grab emails. It’s a similar method used by sites like NYTimes, Forbes or Quora.

Here are some of my findings based on the data collected from 21,000 unique visits.

From the beginning…

Earlier this year, one of my posts about my experience working on remote +1200 hours in 2012 got featured in Wired, BuzzFeed, Jezebel, and HackerNews. In other words, this meant a huge traffic increase.

If you are a data freak and want me to be more specific:

  • 14 hours in HN front page
  • 11 minutes server downtime
  • 21,062 unique visitors
  • 1 mom that still is trying to understand what is a “news aggregator”

image11 520x228 User hostile vs. user friendly email signup tactics: Which works best?

When I wrote the post, I conceived it as a way of engrossing a list of people interested in my experience working on remote. Having an audience interested in a certain topic, makes it way easier to write content about it:

You know the audience > You know what you can write about & what they want to read > You just need to give it shape.

Nothing new under the sun, right? Patrick McKenzie and Nathan Barry – among others – have talked widely about the benefits on growing up an email list that can help to target your audience.

For that purpose, I implemented several email signup forms through the text in order to give the opportunity to the readers to receive more selected and detailed info via email. Signup forms between paragraphs, non-interrupting the reading flow… if you want a descriptive term for them, lest say ‘user-friendly signup forms’.

The plugin I used for it was a simple one created by an indie developer to grab emails from WordPress blogs by using the Mailchimp API.

As soon as I saw the post started to rank in HN, I decided to implement a side-product we are working on, in order to give it some promotion and try to have feedback about it and gain some traction.

First complaints: I was being “intrusive”

Among all the comments received in the HN thread, there was one topic flourishing faster than others. It was not something treated in the post, but about the layout that helped me collect some emails of readers interested in further info about what I was writing about.

Some even took to Twitter with a direct allusion to this post where its author stands for avoiding the use of this new ‘wave of second pop-up war’ because they don’t contribute to the user experience, but obstruct it.

imagetwitterreply1 User hostile vs. user friendly email signup tactics: Which works best?

The tool that most people referred as user-hostile is the one my colleagues Gary and Alex are working on. It has a feature that allows you to expand a layout once a visitor access to your site, encouraging them to share their email in exchange of something (a .pdf, a discount, whatever).

It’s not setup by default, and it’s up to you if you want to use it. If you don’t decide to use this feature, you will see just a top bar with a layout that you can hide by clicking wherever in the page.

imageflow 520x329 User hostile vs. user friendly email signup tactics: Which works best?

On one side, I’m conscious about how annoying can it be to have these kind of layouts in every website you visit. If you work with a laptop and Internet, I’m sure you are experiencing them as much as I am.

On the other hand, I also know that it is increasingly difficult to grab the attention of an Internet user. The Web is so overwhelming that you need to make sure that he person behind the computer (no matter if it is just a visitor, recurring reader or user) is aware of what’s your final goal.

Mine, as I have expressed above these lines, was growing an audience.

Numbers don’t lie

The difference between user-friendly and user-hostile signups speaks for itself. In the first four hours, there were only user-friendly signups forms – email signups forms between paragraphs.

But in the first hour of having both kind of forms, the ‘user-hostile signup’ provided almost three times the signups in respect to the other.

chart 520x271 User hostile vs. user friendly email signup tactics: Which works best?

Perhaps this isn’t a huge figure of signups. That’s not what matter for me in this case. I’m more concerned with how many visitors didn’t sign up cause they were annoyed because of the aggressive layout.

Was it dissuasive? Did the visitors understand that there was content behind the layout?

Hostile vs. friendly

In order to find an answer, I installed a heatmap tracking tool. For those unfamiliar with heatmapping, let’s say it tells you how your visitors (users, readers, whatever) interact within your website: where they click, where they hover their mouses, etc.

I’m sure the picture will be more illustrative than my explanations:

imageheatmap 520x383 User hostile vs. user friendly email signup tactics: Which works best?

The image above illustrates how 500 of the visitors clicked within the post and its layout. A 500-visit sampling heatmap above the fold, the visible part of your website if you don’t scroll.

The results are somewhat like a forecast map: Areas highlighted in blue represent clicks, and if there were many clicks in one specific area, it will be coloured yellow, passing by a green-gradient.

As you can see two spots in the top right corner stand out from the rest of the clicks. Essentially both spots match up where the close buttons are located.

Around 80 percent of the clicks were made wherever above the fold, the button that deactivates the layout for the current visit and any future visits you make to the site.

After being “hostile” to 21,000 readers and seen these data, my question is: Is this the best way of grabbing your future attention if it’s done to create useful content for an audience pre-interested in it?

As content marketers and consumers, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Samsung 520x245 Top smartphone dog Samsungs explosive growth period is over

Despite posting record net profit for the second quarter of 2013 that was up 50 percent year-on-year, Samsung spent its earnings call assuring investors that the company is poised for further growth with its “competitive” line-up of products.

The reason for its defensive stance? There have been lingering concerns that the Korean company simply cannot maintain its explosive pace of growth any longer. In fact, Samsung warned that growth in its mobile business will slow in the third quarter due to the onset of more competition as more products are being rolled out.

Record profit not enough

Samsung announced its 2Q 2013 earnings today with KRW57.46 trillion ($51.7 billion) in revenue, in line with its earlier estimate of KRW57 trillion. Operating profit stood at KRW9.53 trillion ($8.6 billion), also in line with the guidance of KRW9.5 trillion, while net profit was seen at a record-high figure of KRW7.7 trillion ($6.9 billion).

Samsung has experienced phenomenal growth to date over the past year – its revenue increased by 21.9 percent from 2011 to 2012, while its operating profit jumped 85.9 percent and its net profit surged 72.5 percent. This was largely attributed to the roaring success of the Galaxy S3 phone – which hit 40 million channel sales in just seven months. Back in January, the company announced that Galaxy S shipments had topped 100 million, with the Galaxy S3 alone contributing 41 million units.

According to a Guardian report in 2011 citing IDC figures, Samsung shipped just 7.3 million phones in Q3 2010. Fast forward to Q2 2013, and IDC estimates that Samsung – which hasn’t provided figures publicly since Q3 2011 – shipped 72.4 million smartphones during the quarter.

Screen shot 2013 07 26 at PM 12.21.55 Top smartphone dog Samsungs explosive growth period is over

The Galaxy S4 and marketing expenses

This piled on expectations for the Galaxy S4 phone, which has not disappointed – it became Samsung’s fastest shipping device ever when it topped 10 million “channel sales” (aka shipments to retailers) within a month of its launch, and reports from Korean media claim the device has already tipped the 20 million shipment mark.

163703721 730x485 Top smartphone dog Samsungs explosive growth period is over

However, how much goes into pushing these products? A lot, it seems. Samsung acknowledged in its earnings call that the increased expenditure related to promoting its products and tie-ups with distribution channels has taken a toll on the company’s financials, though it did not disclose any figures.

In 2012, Samsung spent $401 million advertising its phones in the U.S. compared with Apple’s $333 million, according to ad research and consulting firm Kantar Media, the Wall Street Journal reported in March this year.

The Korean firm is known for aggressive marketing and advertisements whenever it rolls out a new phone. For the launch of its flagship Galaxy S4 phone, Samsung held an over-the-top press event at New York’s Times Square featuring a live orchestra and a long series of skits.

Worries over market share

Many analyst firms have pegged Samsung as consistently having the greatest market share in smartphones. Strategy Analytics noted that Samsung was the world’s number one smartphone seller for the first quarter of this year in terms of revenue, while IDC has just pinned Samsung’s market share at 30.4 percent for the second quarter of this year according to shipments. However, in its latest report IDC noted that Samsung’s share of the market has receded slightly, going from 32.2 percent last year to 30.4 percent in Q2 2013.

During its earnings call, Samsung executives acknowledged that they see intensifying competition among vendors, resulting in “a certain amount of uncertainty.”

An ABI research report released today noted that feature phone shipments declined 20% year-on-year in the second quarter to 195 million units, as low-cost manufacturers continued to penetrate the up-market with increased device specifications. Senior Practice Director Jeff Orr says:

The second half of 2013 will be defined by fierce competition between price-aggressive OEMs moving toward the middle tiers for increased margins while at the same time top tier OEMs are diversifying portfolios into the middle in search of continued growth.

It is not only Apple that Samsung is facing off against – that analysis would be much too narrow-minded. Indeed, IDC noted that LG’s record haul of 12.1 million smartphone shipments represented a 130 percent year-on-year improvement, while Chinese firm Lenovo charted 130.6 percent year-on-year shipment growth.

Samsung said it would be likely rolling out more mid-to-low-end smartphones during the second half of this year, which may be targeted at keeping its hold on emerging markets. In the first quarter of 2013, Samsung sold a record 12.5 million smartphones in China alone.

Samsung has already been taking steps to cover as many aspects of the smartphone market as possible. Its Galaxy S4 has been rolled out in various versions – the Mini, the Active, the Zoom and the LTE-A.

GALAXY S4 zoom 4 730x486 Top smartphone dog Samsungs explosive growth period is over

Concerns over stock price

Samsung executives also addressed the worrying issue of the company’s stock price, which has underperformed the market recently. The Wall Street Journal has reported that brokerages have been downgrading the company’s stock and revising downward their shipping and earnings forecasts, with Samsung’s market value since mid-March declining by nearly $30 billion.

They argued that the current situation is a reflection of global macroeconomic issues that have affected the Korean stock market rather than company issues and that industry experts believe its stock is undervalued, but that the management will closely monitor the stock movement and strengthen its competitive advantage to improve the stock performance.

Future growth opportunities

With the smartphone market approaching saturation, Samsung executives identified the tablet and business-to-business (B2B) market as future growth opportunities. Samsung’s tablets have been posting solid mid-10 percent range growth, with 30 percent quarter-on-quarter growth expected for tablet shipments in 3Q 2013, according to the company. IDC noted that Samsung grew its share in the tablet market to 17.9 percent in the first quarter of this year, taking second place after Apple.

Samsung has also been on a drive to garner more market share in the B2B space, launching a global marketing campaign for business users and getting security approval for the Galaxy S4 from the US Department of Defense (DoD), clearing the way for the device to be used as part of a new policy for US government staff.

Samsung says it has one further flagship device to launch this year, and that’s almost certain to be the Galaxy Note. New versions of the tablet-cum-smartphone device has typically been launched at the IFA trade show in Berlin in previous years, and it is expected that the latest version will be unveiled at IFA 2013 which takes place next month.

The firm says that with this planned launch, it expects to see demand for its products increase and growth to sustain in the third quarter. Will Samsung’s growth ever be as rapid as the past year though? That could be hard to achieve given the amount of competition in the smartphone sector – what with Apple rumored to roll out a lower-priced iPhone and other players coming up with more products.

Samsung may just have to settle for slower growth – which is actually a natural progression after its spike over the past year, but this means investors will have to adjust their expectations accordingly.

Image Credit: Kevork Djansezian via Getty Images

australia 520x245 25 Mbps broadband speeds by 2019: The stupidest policy ever?

With an election one week away in Australia, the incumbent Labor Party’s latest piece of propaganda is a spoof of the opposition’s proposed broadband infrastructure policy – one that replaces the well-underway gigabit National Broadband Network with a plan to ensure speeds of 25 megabits per second around the country.

Abbott’s Internet shows faux salesmen pitching the proposed plan by the current conservative opposition, lead by Tony Abbott, to deliver these speeds by 2019 in random street encounters in various countries. The reaction is generally one of laughter or shock – that the speeds are so low compared with what is currently available throughout the world, that the plan to deliver those speeds is going to take until the end of the decade, or that the proposed costs to consumers are ludicrous.

Residents of Bucharest and New York alike mocked the pitch.

Tested on social media among Asian and US markets, the response was by and large some sort of variation on the question: is this a joke?

Even within Australia, 25Mbps isn’t a big deal. I’ve enjoyed 115 Mbps in the past. Moving into a large apartment building knocked my standard speed down to a paltry 30 Mbps – a line speed still faster than the 25 Mbps guarantee. Realistically, access to Telstra’s “Ultimate” cable product – the one that increases cable speeds from a 30 Mbps standard to 100 Mbps+ – is available only in certain metropolitan areas. Outside of rural Australia, most of us have access to ADSL2+ speeds, though there are suburbs around that don’t have access to anything faster than 8 Mbps ADSL1 speeds.

According to a Akamai’s quarterly state of the Internet report earlier this year, the average peak connection speed in Australia is already over 25 Mbps, though the average connection speed is still 4.5 Mbps. Meanwhile in Hong Kong, the peak connection speed is over 60 Mbps.

Forget wired, though. My phone doesn’t have to contend with the pressures of a home Internet service: streaming TV shows and movies on the Apple TV; uploading large files, whether that’s putting a video on Facebook or uploading gigabytes to work servers; sustaining a good connection for each member of a multi-resident household, each of whom might have a laptop, a tablet, a smartphone; and use of the communal Xbox or other home entertainment devices.

A quick speed test – from Surfers Paradise, a metropolitan area albeit in one of Australia’s smaller cities – on my iPhone 5 running on Telstra’s LTE network gives me speeds of 39 Mbps. That’s more than what I get on any given day through my $90 per month cable service. It’s a hell of a lot more than what the Coalition presents as a plan for the future. 25 Mbps is already in the past – it’s not even maintaining the status quo, let alone preparing for the next 100 years, which is roughly the current age of Australia’s copper network.

TonyAbbott 25 Mbps broadband speeds by 2019: The stupidest policy ever?

Tony Abbott during the last election in 2010.

A solution is definitely required, but simply making the average peak connection speed more widely available isn’t a particularly inspired idea, nor one that sets Australia up to viably play in the same pond as other countries. There’s a huge difference between promising to bring less populous areas of Australia up to the metropolitan standard and providing gigabit bandwidth to the majority of Australian households and businesses.

Fiber to the premises is future-proofing. The assertion that 25 Mbps is a good enough baseline for Australians is ludicrous. One argument is that it won’t be enough in 2019, but I believe we’re already long past that point. An infrastructure that matches and competes with other Western nations is essential to keep Australia competitive as non-localized knowledge jobs become increasingly prevalent.

Remote employment is more common. More and more people are using the field-leveling attributes of the Internet to employ themselves as free agents and some have predicted that with time this, and not traditional employment, will be the standard way of operating.

Anyone who has worked in online news, where the cycle of competition is measured in minutes, knows that uploading a video package or even a bunch of images while trying to beat others to a story can be a real wildcard. Similar situations can be pointed out in many web-enabled industries. Even when time isn’t of the essence in a competitive sense, infrastructure can be a bottleneck as time that could be spent completing a project and moving on to the next task is spent waiting.

The National Broadband Network’s history has, of course, been fraught with mismanagement. Australia was well-positioned to leapfrog ahead of other major nations with the NBN, which was first made a central part of Labor’s election campaign policies in 2007 and delays and problems have plagued the project since. Still, by December 2011, 18,200 Australian premises were passed by real, in-the-ground fiber; the most well-known fiber-to-the-home project in the US, Google Fiber, announced pricing for their first rollout cities in July 2012.

While Australia got the jump on the concept of making fiber widely available to consumers, the offerings available now only reinforce just how far behind the country’s mentality is. If you sign up through Telstra, for $100 you can get 500GB of data per month… at the whopping speed of 12 Mbps – half that of a good ADSL2+ connection. You have to pay another $20 to bump it up to 100 Mbps. By contrast, Google Fiber will take $70 per month from you for Internet that not only doesn’t artificially cap speeds (up to one full gigabit of upload and download speed is available), it doesn’t put a cap on data usage, either.

GoogleFiber 25 Mbps broadband speeds by 2019: The stupidest policy ever?

The best of the web, 100 times faster. Courtesy of Google Fiber on Facebook.

That’s enough to blow Australian expectations away, of course. But perhaps more interesting, and in keeping with the 2012 United Nations motion that deemed Internet access to be a human right, Google Fiber offers free Internet. There’s a $300 installation fee, and after that the user pays nothing – the 5 Mbps download speed limit isn’t huge, but we’re talking about Internet access that is available to anyone in virtually any economic situation wherever there is fiber in the ground.

And then there’s the question of other infrastructures that are becoming obsolete. The Internet has radically transformed almost every industry on earth in a span of time that is mindboggling when you look at the rate of change in the pre-connected era. IPTV is kind-of-sort-of a thing in Australia; Google’s Gigabit + TV plans are clear evidence that the Internet is the inevitable replacement for many other means of information transfer.

Hell, I haven’t watched TV that wasn’t sourced digitally since 2007. Many people have completely replaced traditional SMS with iMessage, Facebook Chat and other Internet-based alternatives. Calls, to a lesser extent, follow the adoption pattern, with services such as FaceTime that run over data and audio-only FaceTime calls coming with iOS 7.

simple 25 Mbps broadband speeds by 2019: The stupidest policy ever?

The future of calls, according to Apple.

It would be ideal if capitalist competition drove ever-improving infrastructure and ever-increasing speeds, but between the problems of an entrenched monopoly and a low population density discouraging the few big players from reaching beyond their comfort zone, treating Internet connectivity as public infrastructure is the only way to ensure Australia isn’t left behind, tattered in the dirt, as other nations dominate one of the most important growing markets in the world.

This election, Australians are more dissatisfied than ever with the major party candidates they have the option of electing and for good reason. The fact remains that overlooking the importance of a world-class Internet infrastructure is a major mistake. The mining boom – not unaffected by technology and presumably in need of good broadband infrastructure – is over, Tony, and we can’t be rednecks forever.

Note: I don’t have a political allegiance, nor do I believe there’s enough of an ideological difference between the two major parties to be considered a legitimate choice. This is a criticism of a policy, not a piece for or against either the current government or opposition.

sales 520x245 Why sales is going inbound - and how to do the same with your sales strategy

Pete Caputa is the VP of Sales at HubSpot, an inbound marketing software company that just announced a sales tool called Signals.

The sales world has changed dramatically over the last thirty years.

In the 80s and 90s, sales reps had a huge advantage: they held the vast majority of the cards, information, and power. If a prospect wanted to talk to a senior exec? Go through the sales rep. Speak to an existing customer? The sales rep got to qualify them first before offering it. Large accounts asking for volume discounts? Reps could share comps that worked best for them.

The advent of social media and technology has fundamentally transformed how the modern buying process works, and it’s time that sales people adapt accordingly. 21st Century selling replaces short-term gain with long-term perspective, secrecy with transparency, and “always be closing” with “always be guiding,” creating a more relevant sales experience for the buyer and a long-term partnership between the prospect and the rep.

ITSMA estimates that 70% of the buying experience consists of attending industry events, staying informed on current trends, and reading relevant information on available products versus a hard sell. At HubSpot, we’ve leveraged that statistic and the changing dynamic of the buying process to make a strong case that marketers should adopt inbound marketing, but I believe that’s just the first step.

Let’s say, for example, that you’re an entrepreneur and you craft the seminar blog entry for your industry. It goes viral: people read it, share it, and promote it on social media. Your marketing team maximizes the reach of your piece by adding effective calls to action throughout the piece, delivering prospects and leads who are not only energized by your company’s vision, but ready to take a next step by learning more, trying out your product first-hand, or actually making a purchase.

This is a sales person’s dream right? High quality leads delivered right to your desk-no cold calling required, and a great starting point for a conversation. Unlike an old-school rep, who would have to rely upon the weather, world news, or what he could find out from the newspaper, your sales rep has access to current, relevant information about the prospect and a natural inflection point to reach out to that individual. What’s not to love?

The problem is that the exceptional content and context that brought this prospect in to your organization disappear as soon as your rep gets on the phone. If your sales and marketing technologies are not linked, the rep likely begins by asking some of the very same questions that the individual answered on a landing page form. Pressed for time, the rep also likely doesn’t have time to track down the prospect’s Twitter handle or LinkedIn profile, so instead of arriving at the call armed with every bit of publicly available information on the prospect’s career and company, he or she starts at the very beginning, asking introductory questions that don’t actually help inform the buying process.

As sales people, we can and should do better, but who has the time? Below are my recommendations for sales managers and reps to become more inbound, significantly improving the first impressions your prospects have of your sales team and ultimately augmenting your connect and conversion rates by providing a more optimal experience for everyone who interacts with your brand on a regular basis.

Master social media in your sales process

Social media has long been billed as a marketing tool, but in reality, Twitter and LinkedIn specifically can be incredibly powerful tools for your sales team. While most reps already use LinkedIn to do quick research before connect calls, very few use it proactively and well to generate additional referrals, leads, and traction. All the while, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and blogs are jam-packed with people having relevant conversations to your business. Being active should be a job requirement for sales reps.

Social media isn’t the place for a hard sell or to constantly be promoting your offering or product. Your sales team should spend as much time listening on social media as they do talking, and your company should provide them with a simple, easy to use vehicle to monitor the most important people to reps: their prospects, leads, and customers.

Involve your sales team in crafting your content

Chances are, on any given day, your sales reps can rattle off the top five to ten objections they hear on the other end of the phone when connecting with prospects. And yet, when it comes to crafting blog entries, op-eds, and offers, far too many companies leave the ideation and creation to marketers.

Some of your most prolific ideas can come from sales managers and reps who live and breathe the challenges of their prospects on a daily basis. They work collaboratively with our marketing team to highlight prolific customer success stories, position products in a manner that resonates with our target audience, evolve messaging so that it fits the language of our existing customers, and sometimes even handle objectives proactively at the top of the funnel, removing friction from the sales process before it starts.

Arm your sales team with customer-facing technology

There are countless projections for the growth of cloud technology spends for marketers, human resources professionals, and finance folks alike. And yet outside of CRM tools, there is very little discussion of additional technology that sales reps need to more effectively engage with prospects.

Most sales tools ensure that your prospects aren’t getting called multiple times by the same people in your organization, manage quotas, and help reps organize their day from one portal. All of that information is incredibly valuable, but it doesn’t reflect the daily interactions of your prospect and highlight high opportunity inflection points your sales team can use to be more timely and contextual with their outreach.

Regardless of the tool you choose, arming your sales team with proactive technology to improve their connections with leads provides measurable impact on your organization and a highly lovable experience for your customers.

Make your sales reps solvers, not sellers

Not everyone is looking to buy your product today, but everyone has a problem they need solved more efficiently. The best sales people in the world proactively eliminate challenges for their customers in the pursuit of achieving their important goals. Approaching it this way generates not just high-yield connection and close rates, but also long-term referrals and reference accounts for repeat business.

Just as inbound marketing has replaced loud, interruptive advertising with content and context that people can actually use in their daily lives; inbound sales is fundamentally about understanding the challenges your prospects are solving on a daily basis and giving them the tools to solve them.

As Daniel Pink correctly points out in “To Sell Is Human,” the knowledge economy has essentially made the bait and switch sale extinct: the proliferation of information has made a complete set of information available to the buyer. Inbound marketers establish their companies as trusted and credible experts by creating and sharing educational content.

Therefore, your sales team must be transparent and consistent with your marketing, by guiding your prospects through the final stages of their buying process as a helpful and trustworthy expert too. Otherwise, all of the trust your marketing content creates is quickly destroyed. This fundamental change in the buying process should transform how we sell, and modern sales reps need to be social, solutions-oriented, and armed with the context buyers need and expect at every stage of their interaction with your company.

The marketing world has already shifted to inbound; now it’s time for those of us in sales to disrupt our routine as well.

Image credit: Thinkstock