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SalesLoft Review from a New User

My goal here is to give you a SalesLoft review and some high-level best practices as a SalesLoft user.
I’ve known about SalesLoft for quite a while now as one of the premier Atlanta Startups. Over the last few months, our team at IT Hands has worked on implementing SalesLoft into our process of reaching out to prospective clients.

Interested in more effective #SalesDevelopment? Here’s a #SalesLoft review. Click To Tweet

Introduction

Let me preface my SalesLoft review with a more theoretical discussion on Sales Automation. Sales Automation is a term that has been used a lot in the last few years. There are endless tools and software that all promise generally the same end result: less work and more deals closed.

Sounds amazing, right? Sure does, but this is the common misconception with Sales Automation. The reality is that there is no single tool nor suite of tools that is going to do the full job of a salesperson. We have to remember that these tools are inherently meant to make salespeople more efficient and effective, but they aren’t meant to do the job.

At IT Hands, we take pride in a personal and genuine approach in our outreach to prospective clients. Our goal is to make it clear in our first email to a web company, marketing firm, or ad agency that from a 10,000-foot view we have a valuable service that will support their growing business. Honestly, the prospect that we are reaching out to might not be a fit, which is why it is so helpful to have a conversation to make that determination. It all starts there.

I won’t take you through every step in our process, but the end goal is to have a meeting with our prospect and determine if IT Hands can help or not. SalesLoft helps us to do this with ease and efficiency.

SalesLoft Review

Now, onto my thoughts and SalesLoft review as a user:

  1. I fell into the trap of thinking that SalesLoft was going to do my job for me. I quickly realized that in order to maintain our genuine approach, it takes a lot of time, effort, and experimenting to set up SalesLoft properly. The great thing about this is that the team at SalesLoft is with you every step of the way.
  2. It takes a few months to get your feet under you with the platform. There is a ton of functionality that will ultimately prove to be very helpful, but for now, we are only using probably 50% of the full functionality. If you have an existing sales process in place, you’ll most likely have to adjust to fit SalesLoft, or get up to speed quickly to figure out how to customize SalesLoft to fit your needs.
  3. SalesLoft makes automated emails much easier than mindlessly sending those types of emails in Gmail or Outlook. I’ll admit, there are some emails that I am perfectly fine with being automated. For example, meeting confirmations or basic email follow-ups.
  4. SalesLoft has a strong dashboard that will show you all of the cadences that need to be done for the day. “Cadence” is SalesLoft’s term for the outreach steps or process. We haven’t gotten to the place of being able to fully use the Dashboard as our sole mode of operation, but that is the goal for the next few months. This feature is a powerful time-saver once you get used to the platform. It’s also is a way to make sure your prospects get the adequate touch points without letting them slip through the cracks.
  5. The analytics are powerful and informative. You can see what emails are catching on with people, and which ones are being ignored or deleted immediately. Let’s face it, no one wants to get the same junk email that we are all accustomed to. As a salesperson, it can be hard to take an objective look at the content you’re sending to prospects. SalesLoft will give you loads of data that will help you make informed decisions.

Summary

The short summary is that SalesLoft offers everything we, as an IT company, need in a platform. It would add more efficiency and effectiveness to any company willing to take the time to learn how to use this tool. We have a long way to go until we are operating at full capacity in SalesLoft, but we are making progress.

More Advice

Here are a few words of advice for new users:

  • Expect a few months of ramp-up time before you fully understand the basic functionality of SalesLoft, and a couple more months to understand the advanced functionality.
  • Know that you might have to adjust your existing sales process to make it work with SalesLoft. In the long run, you’ll be more efficient so don’t worry too much about this.
  • Fail and fail fast. Pick yourself up and start experimenting again to determine what works.
  • Use your resources. SalesLoft offers a ton of online training and even in-person meetings in select cities to help you navigate the platform and share best practices.

As they say at SalesLoft, “Happy lofting!”

Need help ramping up your outbound sales process or looking for some advice on sales tools and processes? Email us at solutions@ithands.com.

3 Do’s and Don’ts for RFP Responses

As a child, did you ever play the game where you guessed how many candies were in a jar? Usually, there were two ways to guess: blindly write down a number that seemed close or make a somewhat educated guess by counting or multiplying. In the end, it was just a guessing game. RFP responses can feel the same.

Nailing down eye-catching RFP responses can be very similar. Only the owner knows the exact answer. There are multiple companies competing. You can’t ask many questions and there is always a deadline. It’s intense. But just like in the candy guessing game, the key isn’t to guess the exact number. The winner is the person who can guess the closest approximate answer. Knowing that relieves a lot of stress.

These 3 Do’s and Don’ts will change your #rfpresponses and help you #winbusiness Click To Tweet

In my previous blog, I mentioned how to write effective proposals by understanding client needs, having a quick turnaround time, and using templates. However, RFP responses are a completely different playbook. I’ll explain in a minute. A proposal is not an RFP, and an RFP is not a proposal.

Getting started with RFP’s

First, try to understand why the company put an RFP out there. Look for these things in the RFP:

  • Is there a picture of the anticipated result? Look at it closely, even if it is vague.
  • Does the deadline fit within your team’s schedule?
  • Is there a budget mentioned?
  • Does your team meet the requirements listed?

Over the years we have been effectively responding to RFPs for various issuers and clients. Through the process, we have learned that it is a dance you have to learn, in order to understand the style and match your steps to the variations of each client.

RFP responses can take up lot of your time. So to help you quickly assess and effectively respond to an RFP, I’ve provided some Do’s and Don’ts for the process:

Do’s

1. Read the RFP Instructions

By reading how the potential client is writing, you can pick up on their tone and style of communicating. For example, do they use bullet points or write lengthy requirements? Be sure to mention how you stand out from the competition both in pricing and quality of work. Remember, this is your job interview. Be sure to provide samples of work that are similar to the project you are trying to get.

Understand what they are looking for in a project partner. Then write, edit, review, and repeat. Read their RFP document. Then write, edit, review, and repeat. You can see why this takes a long time.

2. Answer Questions Directly

If there is a requirement for their project, they want to know whether you can handle it. Make sure your response is legible and understandable to anyone who reads it. If you are not direct, you can forget that RFP. It also won’t cut it for you to write on a high-level that sounds positive, but isn’t specific (see the example below).

proposals

3. Make a Checklist

Once you have everything in place, cross reference it against your RFP checklist. Be sure you have all the supporting documents ready. It is very important to read the guidelines and documents closely so that your team thoroughly understands the company’s values and expectations.

Don’t’s

1. Don’t Use Templated Answers

Do it because it is relevant, not because it sounds good. Proofread your document rigorously. You are under the microscope here. RFPs can not be reused. Don’t write just to fill space.

2. Don’t Rush

No matter when you send out the response it will be opened along with the others on the due date. Don’t submit your response until you have everything in order. If the RFP desires a printed response, make sure that all the pages are correctly printed, and the text and images are aligned. Do not hurry in sending out a response that is sloppy.

3. Don’t Submit an Incomplete or Out of Order Response

Most RFPs request a desired format. A vendor who doesn’t follow the format is quickly disqualified. Don’t skip on the requirements. Review all the details and answer each one of them in the manner requested. Don’t miss out on any additional documents.

Conclusion

Writing an effective response to RFPs can be really tricky and requires a lot of patience and discernment. The issuers usually don’t have all the requirements sorted out and that’s ok. Remember: The goal is to get as close to the target as possible.

Don’t like writing detailed RFP responses? IT Hands offers Proposals as a Service. To learn more, contact us at solutions@ithands.com.

Breaking Down the Cost of a Full-Time Employee

You have faced the problem of the unpredictable workflow in the web and mobile development industry. You are not alone. Many web shops ride the month-to-month roller coaster of productivity. Your web company needs to be ready to take on more projects during an influx, but also hold on to valuable employees during slow months. Just hire, right. First, count the cost of a full-time employee.

Before hiring in-house, CEOs should consider these additional expenses. #employmentcost Click To Tweet

How do you decide whether to hire full-time staff or find an outside partner to help out? The reality is that it’s expensive to hire full-time, in-house staff. As a business owner, you may have calculated the cost of a full-time employee. Here I have listed a few line items to consider when you’re making the choice to hire an in-house employee.

Cost of a Full-Time Employee: Computer and Office Supplies

  • According to a few different sources, this number is about $200 per year for each employee*. Tack on the developer-worthy laptop, and you’re looking at close to $2,000 in the first year. Also, who doesn’t want a few t-shirts, mugs, and other gear when they join a new team? This might be the one small expense that is always justifiable.

*https://lac-group.com/average-office-supply-costs-per-employee/

Cost of a Full-Time Employee: Software Licenses

  • Software and tools are always being developed and being updated. To stay relevant, web companies have to use the latest and greatest. For commonly used development and design tools like PhpStorm and Sketch, it will be several hundred dollars a year per user. It is safe to say that the number of tools hitting the market will not be decreasing, so business owners can prepare for their top developers to keep asking for the next best one.

Cost of a Full-Time Employee: Market Rate Salary

  • PayScale recently published that the median salary for a PHP developer in the United States is just over $61k*. Of course, this can change from city-to-city depending on the cost of living and the demand for developers. Also, some technologies warrant a higher-paid developer, so take this into account as you’re thinking about expanding your tech expertise to include mobile apps, progressive web apps, etc.

*http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=PHP_Developer/Salary

Cost of a Full-Time Employee: Health Insurance

  • A rule of thumb to obtain this amount is by multiplying the base salary by 1.25 to 1.4 to determine the cost of healthcare over a year*. Yes, it’s expensive. This has become an ever-increasing recruiting tool as well, so more than likely you are not going to get by with the cheapest group plan.

*http://web.mit.edu/e-club/hadzima/how-much-does-an-employee-cost.html

Cost of a Full-Time Employee: Human Resources

  • With more employees, you have to consider the need to hire an HR professional who can handle internal policies, implement initiatives, and process employee suggestions and concerns. This is another salary to factor in once you have several employees under your roof.

Here are a few other costs to consider: office space, recruiting, and training new employees. Anything else come to mind?

Don’t get me wrong, there is a ton of value in building your team internally when the time is right. As Jim Collins says in Good to Great, you have to get the right people on the bus to advance your business. Before you make the final decision to hire internally versus finding an outsource partner, make sure you take a comprehensive look at the total cost. I meet with business owners all of the time who have learned the negative side of high overhead the hard way. They bit off more than they could chew.

Also, don’t forget to take a look at the other side of the coin. If you’re considering moving to an outsourced model, onshore or offshore, it is well worth it to invest the time and resources at the beginning to find the right partner. It’s helpful to go into this process with patience. Try not to make these decisions when you are trying to hit an upcoming deadline or a huge project just walked in the door.

Once you do find the right partner, the benefits can be endless. You can build a remote team who is eager to do great work for you, while you focus on gaining new clients and keeping your existing clients happy.

IT Hands has been working with web companies since 2001. We bring quality development and affordable rates to businesses balancing an influx of projects and a few in-house employees. Our co-founder published a blog recently explaining the value of hiring a Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) with an outsourced team. Learn more what an FTE Model looks like.

Contact us with any questions at solutions@ithands.com.

ReactJS vs Angular 2.0+

If you are comparing ReactJS vs Angular 2+ you are thinking about the future. That’s great! Let’s clear up a few things first. React is a library and Angular is a framework.

If you know what an MVC architecture is, it will be even easier to understand. MVC stands for Model View Controller. So, where Angular has everything built in, React is just a V, the View layer, and you have to hook it up with your models and controllers.

#Angular vs #React - what’s the difference? Click To Tweet

You will first want to understand the fragmentation of Angular before digging into details on the topic. Google refers to Angular 1.x as “Angular JS” and Angular 2 and higher as “Angular”. Where Angular JS was doing all the rendering on the client side, both Angular (Angular 1= Angular JS) and React (React = React JS) handle rendering on the server side.

When it comes to the web, picking either one of the options is a smart choice. There is not much of a difference between how they perform, but there are things that one does better over the other when comparing ReactJS vs Angular.

ReactJS vs Angular: A Comparison

Scalability

Angular, as a framework, is easier to scale. It has its own boundaries and checks on how things are done. With its clearly-defined boundaries it is easier to understand the right way of doing things. Following the best practices is easier in Angular, compared to React. In React, there are a lot of ways to do things that make it confusing to follow best practices. There are a lot of parts that you need to figure out yourself when using React, parts which are much more clear in Angular.

Compatibility with 3rd Party Libraries

With Angular, if you have an existing code with a lot of 3rd party libraries, you might have to rebuild everything, whereas React is very flexible. React can be used wherever you need it.

Community Support

React is easier to use than Angular. This makes it easier to contribute to the framework. React is one of the most popular frameworks on the web, and Angular is trying to catch up, but it is easier to find reusable code for React than for Angular.

Beyond the Web

React has React Native and Angular has Ionic for building Native apps for mobile devices. One can argue which is better than the other, but they are relatively similar. React Native is still considered faster and more stable.

Simplicity of Code

Angular goes with the template approach with HTML, which makes the code shorter and easier to understand. React, on the other hand, has the HTML written in JS, which can be confusing at times. Here is an example of how both approach the same problem:

React vs Angular in handling HTML

Loop through an item in React

https://gist.github.com/larryparitosh/54ea49565ec9ac1870c5a04381a02f48

Loop through an item in Angular

https://gist.github.com/larryparitosh/1ce65584e007b8344004e00dfe74b233

With Angular, there is a lot of boilerplate that goes into every component, which is lesser when using React.

React vs Angular Component

React Component

https://gist.github.com/larryparitosh/4aadf43bca3e481da1e9176d8da10fdf

Angular Component

https://gist.github.com/larryparitosh/cd6bdb6ebdac4d92ee9a9b0a71b751ae

Development Time

Development time in Angular is relatively fast, mostly because of the way it is structured. There is less confusion about the best approach to do certain things, whereas in React this can be tedious at times. Setting up a new project is faster in Angular with its boilerplate and CLI.

In React you can find many resources and projects that can help you do it faster, but it will still require a lot of experimentation. If you are planning to setup everything from scratch in either of the technologies, you will have to dig into a lot of things and get your hands dirty.

Code Size and Tweaking Performance

The size of React’s core file is smaller than Angular, and Angular (being a framework) contains a lot of code out of the box that you might not even use. React is a library, so optimizing the code is more flexible than Angular.

Debugging the Code

Debugging the code in React is much more effective because it catches errors with line numbers while compilation and Angular only breaks while it runs on the browser, which can be difficult to debug. Angular has two-way data binding, which can be helpful as you can send data from children to its parents, but it can give a lot of headaches while debugging. In React, the data flows just one way, making it easier to catch the break with ease.

Future

Angular 4 is the latest version for Angular. This is a huge step up from Angular 2. Most of the changes are behind the scenes. The update from Angular 2 to Angular 4 did not change how we code. So, what happened to Angular 3? Google internally faced a versioning number mistake in their build so they decided to skip the confusion and jump to version 4.

Facebook is working on React Fiber, which is an update to their core algorithm. This will improve the performance of React, add more support for animation, layout, and gestures by adding a lot of new functionalities for developers.

ReactJS vs Angular: What to Use
Both Angular and React are great with their component structure and the problem they are trying to solve. The choice between both can be based on your existing code, your needs and your developer preference. If you want an all-in-one solution, go with Angular, but if you want to incrementally improve your existing codebase, go with React.

At IT Hands we work with Angular and React. Got a project in either one? Contact us at solutions@ithands.com.

What is Your Company’s Average Project Velocity?

Project velocity is the speed a project will get completed. For example, a 1000-hour project can be completed in 10 weeks at a velocity of 100 hours/week or 20 weeks at 50 hours/week. Project velocity varies from project to project and client to client. Always choose an approximate velocity at the beginning of a project, or you will have poor expectations for your team and your client.

5 key factors to estimate and enhance project velocity. #projectmanagement #scrum #agile Click To Tweet

One of the important factors in closing a deal is to determine project velocity. Estimating project velocity will depend on the stakeholders and several other factors in the project. These factors will change the project timeline and the overall project budget! It’s important to consider these following factors that can affect the velocity of a project:

  1. Product Owner’s Involvement
  2. Understanding Scope and Requirements
  3. Design Iterations
  4. Budget Realities
  5. Team Availability

When you have an approximate idea about the project investment, you need to breakup the hours per week depending on the following factors.

Product Owner’s Involvement

Product Owner
The Product Owner is the single point of contact on the client side. This contact gives direction to the team and makes the quick decisions. The team requires a response from the Product Owner within a business day to keep the momentum going.

Also, the Product Owner is responsible for getting any required information from other stakeholders. If the information is not provided quickly, that will impact the project timeline. Be sure to explain the involvement of the Product Owner with your client during your first meeting.

Understanding Scope and Requirements
Understanding-Scope-and-Requirements

Understanding scope is a crucial component for defining a project timeline. If the scope is not understood well, the timeline can not be met. It’s really important for the project team to review the project backlog with the Product Owner at the beginning of the project.

The product backlog should define the user stories and the objective of the project. The project team can breakdown the sprints and define the timeline accordingly. If there is a scope creep, the project team should immediately notify the Product Owner about it and discuss the revised timeline.

Design Iterations
ITH Design Iterations
Design iterations is another key component for managing project velocity. There needs to be a set number of design iterations which will be communicated to the Product Owner in the beginning of the project. A designer is a key person to help the other team members with the flow and the functionality of the website.

Based on how the designs are created, the timeline can be managed for a project. So it’s really important for a designer to grasp the requirements in the early stage of the project so they can provide mockups within 1-2 rounds. If there are more than 2 design iterations, that will extend the project timeline.

Budget Realities
Budget Realities

The budget is always a major factor. Depending upon the budget, the requirements of the project could change over time. The budget directly reflects timeline. So if the timeline extends, the budget extends as well.

Project velocity can only be determined with a decent idea of the budget in the initial weeks of the project. If the Product Owner explains the budget and timeline expectations, the team can then set up a projected velocity. .

Team Availability
ITH Team Availability

If the team is not available to work on the project, this obviously impacts the project timeline. Initially the timeline is set based upon the availability of the resources. The role of each and every team member is defined within the project and responsibilities are assigned to them.

If, for any reason, some of the team members are not available, their tasks will delay the team. This would extend the timeline, which would then impact the project velocity.

 

At IT Hands, we take care of all these factors to manage our project velocity and make sure projects are delivered within the expected timeline.

Depending on the project requirements, there are many different roles we have on our team.
The following are the team members assigned to a typical project:

Project Coordinator (PC)
The Project Coordinator (aka Scrum Master) is a manager, who supports the rest of the team and ensures everyone follows the defined processes.

Development Team
Each team may have one or more:

  • UI UX Designer → Designs a great look and feel
  • Solutions Architect → Architects the solution to be designed
  • Frontend Engineer → Implements interactivity
  • Software Developers → Makes it all run under the hood
  • Mobile Developers → Creates great mobile apps
  • Internet Marketing Specialist → Improves your web presence
  • Software Tester → Ensures features function as expected

Relationship Manager (RM)
The Relationship Manager is available to step in where needed to improve communication and collaboration.

To learn more about how IT Hands team can help you in managing project velocity, contact us at solutions@ithands.com.

Why Choose a Progressive Web App?

A Progressive Web App is a web application that looks like and acts like a mobile app, and these apps are the latest in the tech world. It is a downloadable technology that looks and acts like a mobile app. Why should you choose a progressive mobile app over other mobile technology? Here we list out the features of a progressive mobile app, and how it compares to a mobile app.

Want to build a native app? Read this first. Build a web- and mobile-friendly technology. #ProgressiveWebApp #MobileAppDevelopment Click To Tweet

Why a Progressive Web App?

For a quick overview, here is a chart to show the difference between a progressive mobile app and Mobile App. [Get a quote now].

 

Features

Progressive Web AppMobile App

Development Time

Fast Slow

Cost

LowHigh

Updates

None

Required
Data

Saves Offline

Saves Offline

Version Control

None Required

Required

Device AccessibilityYes – Limited as of now

Yes

Download

Not Required, Accessible OnlineRequired
Search Engine AccessibleYes

No

A progressive mobile app is hassle free. Typically, to use a native app you have to find it in an app store, download the app, install it and only then can you use it. Let’s be honest, many users don’t want to go through that many steps to get your app. So they won’t.
The result: less downloads, fewer customers.

A progressive mobile app uses modern web technologies like Service Works and Push APIs, but acts like a mobile app. This means the app can be installed on the home screen, used offline and will send push notifications, which is typically expected from a native mobile application. PWAs are easy to deploy and maintain in comparison to native apps. In native apps it’s a headache to handle the backward compatibility of the APIs to support all installed versions of the app.

A progressive mobile app is made to use immediately on the web. It will provide you the option to add it to the homescreen of your device, but you aren’t tied to downloading it. This takes away the multi-step process of native app installation. Progressive mobile apps use the capabilities of modern web technologies and provide an app-like experience.

Characteristics of a Progressive Mobile App

No Dependency
Made to work on any type of device or browser and use the features of that device/browser.

Discoverable
The platform of a PWA is on the web. In reality, it’s a website, so it is discoverable in search engines.

Looks like a Native App
When a user interacts with a PWA it has the feel of a native app.

Shareable
Since it uses the web, the PWA is shareable via URL. It’s helpful to maintain the state of the app.

Installable
It can be installed on any device and added as a home screen icon to easily launch like a native app.

Available Offline
These apps work in low Internet connectivity or offline mode by using the service workers.

Responsive
A PWA must fit with device form factors: size, shape, style, layout and position of the PWA’s major parts.

Updated Content
As mentioned, it works in offline mode, but needs Internet to provide any new content to the users.

Secure
All the content of PWAs is safe and served via HTTPS.

Components of Progressive Web Apps

App Shell

The application shell is a wrapper of basic HTML, CSS and Javascript – containing the app header, font info – and helps to load the user interface quickly. Progressive web apps store the application shell in a browser cache so that it will instantly load every time. In native apps the application shell is part of the application, but Progressive Web Apps fetch it over the network. A progressive web app caches the app shell separately than the content of the app. This makes for a faster download of design and content.

Service Workers

A progressive mobile app has a script that runs behind the scenes, kind of like a middleman between a request and the server. Service works are independent from the web pages and facilitate different features that do not need web interface (like background syncing or push notifications).

Service workers listen to the events whenever a network request occurs and control it to allow or not allow it to go to the remote server. As just a script file that runs in the background, service workers depend on the developer to effectively manage push notification, caching, and other requests.

App Manifest

App manifest is a JSON file that contains the app’s metadata information.

This is the file that enables browsers to provide an option to install the app on the device home screen. This file includes various items like the name, theme color and icon size for the app. There can be more than one icon size defined in this file for different devices.

Many online tools are available to generate the web app for you, like Web App Manifest Generator. This manifest file is the key that tells browsers that our responsive website or webapp is installable by linking it with a main HTML page. Below is a sample manifest.json file

manifest.json

{
  "name": "Event Management",
  "short_name": "EventMgmt",
  “description”: “Event Management Progressive Web App”
  "lang": "en-US",
  "start_url": "/events",
  "theme_color": "#acdee7",
  "display": "standalone",
  "icons": [
           {
             "src": "splashscreen.png",
             "sizes": "192x192",
             "type": "png"
           },
           {
             "src": "logo.png",
             "sizes": "100x100",
             "type": "png"
           },
           {
             "src": "banner.jpg",
             "sizes": "300x100",
             "type": "jpg"
           }
 ]}

Conclusion

Making a mobile app is high cost with very little ROI. By offering your customers a progressive mobile app, you save them thousands while opening their company’s marketing to the mobile crowd.

Here at IT Hands we want our customers to get the best return on their investment. That’s why we provide a team that can build progressive mobile apps, a web- and mobile-friendly technology. Email us at solutions@ithands.com to get a quote.

IT Hands provides quality, custom web development services to web companies and ad agencies. Our globally-dispersed team is a tight-knit community focused on delivering excellent results using agile processes. In over 16 years, more than 350 clients have been thrilled by the competency, trustworthy consultation, increased capacity and cost effectiveness we bring to every project.

5 Tips for Writing a Winning Business Proposal

Winning business proposal is the foundation for your company, but it’s also the hardest document to write. A strong, well-written proposal can help your business thrive. A poorly-organized proposal can send a qualified lead packing. Let’s face it, this is one document you don’t want to mess up.

So then, how do you write a winning business proposal? Proposal writing is more a process of logic than art. It’s the channel through which your team communicates skills, experience and a project’s process to potential prospects. Here are a few tips that can help organize an effective proposal.

Proposal writing a pain? Save time with these 5 tips to writing a winning #BusinessProposal. Click To Tweet

Know Your Client
The key to any proposal is to know your target audience, understand the problem that brought them to you, and then write the content with both in mind. The focus of your winning business proposal should always be the client.

Think of the potential client, and then structure the proposal to suit their needs.

  • Does your process fit this customer’s needs?
  • What solution do you have to offer this potential client?
  • How will the client respond to the pricing?

If you do not know the answers to these questions – stop! Don’t write a document with uncertainty. Get on a discovery call or have your client fill out a questionnaire. IT Hands offers free, easy-to-personalize templates that you can use to find out more about your clients. Find out more.

Format for Easy Scan
We have to accept that our customers don’t read everything we write. They can’t. They are overloaded and too busy. Create a text that is easy to scan through.

  • Use bullet points
  • Bold important words
  • Italicize phrases to show emphasis
  • Title Each Page Effectively

The Proven Method
Here’s a simple and successful method for organizing a proposal. Problem, Solution, Process, Price.

  • Problem – Know the problem your potential client is facing.
  • Process – Define your process clearly for the client.
  • Solution – Be sure your solution meets their needs.
  • Price – Have a transparent pricing system to share at the end of a proposal.

Learn more about the proven method and how to organize your proposal in our recently-published eBook.

Organization of a Winning Business Proposal
Usually, our proposal has the following sections:

  • Introduction to Prospect’s Business and Specific Business Challenges
  • Agile Methodology and Team Structure
  • Technologies to be Used
  • Solution Approach
  • Process Flow Diagrams
  • Project Plan (Sprint Cycles)
  • Environments and Code Repository (Dev/Staging/Production, Git, etc.)
  • UAT/UAP (User Acceptance Testing / User Acceptance Period)
  • Investment and Timeline
  • Client Acceptance Page

Quick Tip: Create a reusable template. Proposal creation can take so much time, but having a template shortens writing time and allows you to focus on the substance of the proposal.

Use Short Words
There is no law that says you need to use big words to impress your clients. In proposal writing stick with small words. Simple words are perfect for defining a clear solution, making a point, and grabbing attention. Remember: Less is more!

Conclusion
Effective proposals will help you advance to your maximum potential and win business. But that’s not the main goal in a proposal. Remember: Your client is the focus.
Make yourself useful to the client, and the business will follow.

Don’t like writing proposals? IT Hands offers Proposals as a Service. To learn more, contact us at solutions@ithands.com.

IT Hands provides quality, custom web development services to web companies and ad agencies. Our globally-dispersed team is a tight-knit community focused on delivering excellent results using agile processes. In over 16 years, more than 350 clients have been thrilled by the competency, trustworthy consultation, increased capacity and cost effectiveness we bring to every project.

Tips for Using QuickBooks to Pay Taxes

As the tax deadline draws closer, your business may be in the middle of (or just starting) that annual process we all face – taxes. No one enjoys the process, but keeping organized can make the task smoother and less painful. Here are some tips about using QuickBooks to pay taxes.

Overwhelmed by tax season deadlines? Let this #FinancialAccountingSoftware do the work for you. Click To Tweet

Here are some general tips to prepare for tax season:

  • Plan ahead.
    • Check in with your tax accountant 2-3 months before the year end.
  • Record expenses.
    • Properly record expenses based on cash basis or accrual basis.
    • Account for all your expenses.
    • Consider prepaying some of your expenses (if on a cash basis).
  • Close books.
    • Close your books as soon as possible, so you can turn accounts over to your tax accountant.
  • Expense equipment.
    • Discuss with your accountant about expensing your equipment and software in the year you purchased it by using Section 179 tax deduction.
  • Plan charity.
    • Plan your charitable contributions before the end of the year and get proper tax receipts for each of them.

Our company – IT Hands – has been using QuickBooks Online (QB) for many years. Having all our accounts in one place has made the tax season easier to manage and less stressful. In the early days, we used the QB Desktop Edition, but later transferred to the Online Edition. After 16 years of working with QB, I can honestly say partnering with them was the best decision we made. They have an excellent product and outstanding customer support.

Along with QB Online, we signed up for their payroll feature through Intuit. We found this product to be exceptional and easy to use, with great customer service. When it comes to taxes, we love the fact that Intuit handles all of our payroll tax deduction and seamlessly files all the required monthly, quarterly and yearly reports to the various government agencies. This is the best part of using QuickBooks to pay taxes.

Whenever someone asks my advice on financial software, without hesitating, I encourage them to use Quickbooks Online and the payroll program through Intuit. By using these programs, we let Intuit do what it does best, while we focus on what we do best – serving our customers.

IT Hands has provided quality, custom web development services to web companies and ad agencies for more than 15 years. Our globally-dispersed team is a tight-knit community focused on delivering excellent results. Our agile web development company has served over 350 clients, bringing trustworthy consultation, increased capacity and cost effectiveness to every project. Contact us today at solutions@ithands.com.

Four Qualities of a Qualified Lead

If you are in sales, you have to network. You meet lots of people with ideas of web sites, web applications and mobile apps they want to build. You’re used to meeting potential clients, but how do you determine a qualified lead? A qualified lead is someone who has the right budget, decision-making authority, need for the product or service, and readiness to make the purchase in a suitable amount of time. Look for these four attributes in a lead before moving forward with the relationship.

Know these four characteristics to look for in a quality lead. #LeadQuality Click To Tweet
  1. Need for Product and Service
    1. Allow the lead to talk about their business and projects/goals. As they discuss the pain points within the business, you can gauge if your team is able to help them.
    2. Talk about your value proposition. Show the lead what you have to offer, and how your services fit their needs. Leave the lead with full confidence in your company, so that when they have work to do, they’ll think of you.
  2. Decision-Making Authority
    1. Find the right person in a company who can make decisions (this can be tricky, but is very important).
    2. Why is this important? We’ve had projects in which we’ve been contacted, scoped out a project, and then found out the contact had no authority to move the project forward.
  3. Right Budget
    1. Does your prospect have enough money to invest in the project? Be upfront and clear when asking about a client’s projected budget. This can be the quickest way to disqualify a prospect, saving both you and the unqualified lead time and energy.
    2. A client may have a brilliant idea. You may meet with them for an hour, discuss their inspiration, and find that they have a budget of less than $1000. They had a great idea, but their idea would cost $100,000. In a sense, they are going to a BMW dealership with the budget for a used Ford.
  4. Right Timeline
    1. Timeline is also a crucial factor in two areas: when will they make a decision and when do they expect delivery?
    2. If they do not expect to make a decision for six months, that changes your approach with the prospect as opposed to making a decision in the next few days.
    3. If they want a 500-hr web application delivered in two weeks, it is not possible to stage the project for success. Each company is different about what timeline they are comfortable working with. Know your comfortable project velocity, and don’t push your team past those boundaries.

When you are meeting potential clients on a daily basis, be sure they meet these four requirements before you determine they are a qualified lead. Having these standards will save you a lot of pain as you continue through the process of developing a proposal and setting up contracts. Find out more about how to walk through the proposal/contract process with clients through our latest eBook.
Contact us with any questions at solutions@ithands.com.

IT Hands has been providing quality, custom web development services for over a decade to web companies and ad agencies. We are an agile web development company taking advantage of a globally-dispersed team to deliver excellent results. Over 350 clients have been thrilled by the consultation, competency, increased capacity and cost effectiveness that IT Hands brings to every project.

How and When to Get Paid from Clients

If you’re reading this blog, you may have a client who is slow to pay (or not paying at all!) for work done on a project. This blog won’t tell you what to do with that client, but it will walk you through good processes to use for future clients. By the end of this blog, you should be in a better place to get paid from clients

Having trouble getting paid? Here are 3 tips for motivating a slow-to-pay client. Click To Tweet

How to Get Paid from Clients?
Here are some tips from us at IT Hands. To get paid for any projects you do for a client requires clear communication, documentation and motivation. Without these key principles, a client becomes confused, frustrated and has no legal requirement to pay for your services.

1) Make Paying Easy
Make a schedule with your client, and provide an easy way to pay. Quickbooks online uses the feature where clients can pay directly online. This makes paying simple. We use one of the two scenarios for scheduling payments with clients.

Scenario 1: Invoice the previous month’s hours by the end of the first week of a month.

Scenario 2: Some customers prefer to pay for a set resource or minimum number of hours. Here at IT Hands we bill upfront at the beginning of the month. In this case, they use or lose the hours they pay for. If they use more than the agreed number of hours, the extra is billed when we bill for the next month.

2) First-Time Customers

  • Always layout your prices very transparently for a prospect to evaluate before they sign any contract. Don’t hide any fees. Be upfront with all costs.
  • Once a deal is closed with a new client, require a signature on your legally-binding agreement. This seals the deal, giving you and the client a clear-cut documentation on each of your responsibilities.
  • Require a deposit before beginning the project. Depending on the size of the project, the client could pay 25-50 percent for a small project OR pay 80-160 hours worth for a larger project that extends several months. Finally, don’t have a project startup meeting until the payment is made. Apply any initial deposit to the final invoice.

3) Motivate Your Team
Don’t pay commission to your salespeople until the invoice is paid. This is a major motivator for your team to encourage the client to make payments. If the client is not paying attention to the salesperson’s request for payment, then the president/co-founder will need to contact the customer, with the salesperson’s assistance, to collect the payment.

A Last Resort
Depending on the circumstances, if payment is being delayed, we’ll put a project on hold. This is a last resort. We don’t do this often, as it slows momentum. If a client is unresponsive, or unreachable, we will send bills to a collection agency.

In business, cash is essential. Your business will crash without money to support it. Having good processes in place will help you put most of your energy into serving your client with excellence. This starts with good documentation, clear expectations and an easy process to pay. Have more questions on how to get paid from clients? Contact us.

IT Hands has been providing quality, custom web development services for over a decade to web companies and ad agencies. We are an agile web development company taking advantage of a globally dispersed team to deliver excellent results. Over 350 clients have been thrilled by the consultation, competency, increased capacity and cost effectiveness that IT Hands brings to every project.