There sure are a lot of free applications that are well designed for social sales tools that are available on the marketplace these days. With all this free stuff, why pay for anything? The simple answer would be, if you have a specific need that cannot be addressed by something for free, or can be better served by something with a price tag, you need to consider making that investment in efficient social sales tools.
Let’s start with a couple of definitions per Wikipedia …
Expense: In common usage, an expense or expenditure is an outflow of money to another person or group to pay for an item or service, or for a category of costs.
Investment: Investment is putting money into an asset with the expectation of capital appreciation, dividends, and/or interest earnings.
In other words, an expense is a cost as opposed to an investment which is expected to provide you with a return … ROI. The goal is to ensure that your ROI is in excess of your expense. Simple.
I must confess that I am not particularly blessed mechanically. When I watch DIY shows on TV, they make it all look so easy! What do they have that I do not? They have the knowledge and they have the tools. Both require investments. Knowledge requires time and tools require dollars. Of course, we can’t discount the fact that time is also money. Still, properly equipped with both, you can do magical things like … pull a large commission deal out of a hat.
You must be willing to make the investment in yourself if you expect to excel in your profession and that is in both time and in dollars. Would you invest $50.00 to get a $1,000.00 return? I should think so. Please, please do not tell me that “I need this money for beer!” I guess I will see you in the “unemployed sales weasel” line.
My current social sales toolbox is composed of an assortment of free and premium applications. I am very much drawn toward companies that offer a freemium model. In other words, you can start out with a free version and then upgrade to premium for additional features, when justified, without starting all over on a totally new platform. Most of these applications (at least the ones that I need) are also accessible from either my Android phone or via my iPad …
Premium Social Sales Tools
Nimble Social CRM – If you are in sales, you must have a CRM! If you are socially active, you would be crazy not to invest in a good Social CRM. Nimble is available as a free application for a single user or for $15.00 per month per person for their business version. Certainly, Nimble is not your only option and you can expect to make an investment of anywhere from $0.00 to $50.00 per user per month (for SMB) based on your needs.
LinkedIn Premium – I am currently paying $16.00 per month for LinkedIn’s Sales Basic Account. I am constantly evaluating my account level and it may go down but, then again, it may go up. The additional search parameters are nice, you can organize your contacts more efficiently, and the premium badge makes you look a bit more professional. For me, much of it is about being able to offer OpenLink. OpenLink means that anybody can private message me on LinkedIn. Hey, I’m a salesperson and it only makes sense that I want it to be easy for people to reach out to me!
WordPress.org – I started out on WordPress.com which is totally free and later upgraded to WordPress.org which means that you need to have your own domain name and hosting. I pay about $5.00 per month for both. Stick with approved free themes or invest some money for a good one with support and many of those are available for less than $50.00 (one-time charge). I spent $35.00 for mine. By the way, blogging has become my #1 generator for new business opportunities! When I first started to blog, I had absolutely no idea of why I was even engaged in this activity so where it has taken me has been a huge, and very pleasant, surprise! Very few salespeople that I know personally have a blog. This is potentially a very large mistake!
Buffer - Buffer is available for free or for $10.00 per month you can connect additional networks and have an unlimited number of updates in queue in you buffer. I love to share what I think are good articles that are pertinent to, and appreciated by, those who follow me on the different networks. Buffer is hands down my favorite way to do this and Buffer integrates with damn near everything!
Google Apps – For about $4.00 per month I get to use all Google applications (I’ve become a big fan of Drive), have increased storage, phone support, get to use my own domain email address instead of one at gmail.com and … no annoying ads in my Gmail interface. What’s not to love about that!!
Free Social Sales Tools
MailChimp – Newsletters are far from my specialty but, I’m learning. MailChimp is easy to use and very flexible and you get a whole lot for a free account and moving to a premium account, if and when warranted, will be a snap!
Feedly – I’m still in mourning with the loss of Google Reader but, Feedly is a more than adequate replacement. I subscribe to the RSS article feed on a lot of great sites and then have these new articles go directly to Feedly which I can then easily share with followers, read for my own self-improvement, or send to my clients which is, by the way, a very effective and personal “touch”. Feedly is free but, they are introducing a premium version. For my needs, free is good.
SpringPad – Not only do I read a lot of articles, I capture them for reference later. SpringPad is free and very similar in function to Evernote. You can also find my saved SpringPad articles on my website which is one way that I try to provide value to my readers.
Wufoo – This application allows me to create contact forms on my websites and I also have these forms configured to capture and send that information to my CRM (create and tag record), subscribe (with double opt-in approval) to my newsletters, and also deliver a free pdf to the subscriber. Wufoo is free for up to 3 forms and with a limited number of monthly actions.
WiseStamp – If you use Gmail, this is a great free way to develop a kickin’ HTML signature line, with all of your social profiles, and more! WiseStamp’s free version is very robust but, they also offer a premium solution.
Rapportive – This is a great free social add-on for Gmail that was purchased a little over a year ago by LinkedIn. As much as I love Rapportive, I am concerned that LinkedIn may have chosen to bypass on further development. I have a couple of features that are broken right now and I am not seeing them getting fixed. Bummer. Still, even without being at 100%, this continues to be a “must have” and my issues may not affect your account. It is also only fair to say that Gmail has been going through a number of updates recently and whenever that happens … lots of related applications get jumbled up in the process.
HootSuite - I have used the paid version of HootSuite as well as premium only SproutSocial in the past as social dashboards and both are very nice. However, the main reasons for my choosing these upgraded services would be for the ability to handle a large number of social networks. I do not manage other people’s social media campaigns, and I struggled enough when I had two Twitter accounts of my own so, I use the basic gratis account. All accounts will allow you to monitor and manage your networks, to pre-schedule your updates, and even more related to social sales. However, I can also use Nimble Social CRM as a social dashboard to monitor and to engage on my various social networks.
MeetingBurner – MeetingBurner is an online meeting platform similar to GoToMeeting. It is available as a free or as a paid application. The paid version allows for more participants and meeting recordings. I keep a free account and when I have a client who needs the features associated with a paid version, and I can bill them for this expense, I upgrade my account for the period needed and then … I’m back to free. Perfect!
Right now I am paying $50.00 per month for my basic social sales tools box. Do I use other tools? Of course! I’m a bit of an app freak. Would I be willing to invest in more than $50.00 per month if warranted? Certainly! Right now I am in the process of researching and evaluating a number of applications that are specifically designed for prospecting and lead generation. Should I find one with the potential to provide me with a reasonable return, I’ll likely climb on board. I might also add that in addition to not being mechanically blessed, this holds true for my technical skills as well. In other words, if I can do this stuff, you will have absolutely no problems with any of it!
As far as that goes, and as you can see, I have been known to invest in a tool, find that it did not meet my ROI expectations, and then drop back down. How about you? What are some of the social sales applications that you are using and that you could not live without?