Last week I arrived at my airport gate only to see FLIGHT CANCELLED on the screen beside the gate. I approached the agent and was told,
“Don’t worry. There’s no problem. Instead of flying you to Orlando for your connection to Fort Lauderdale, you’ve been automatically rebooked to fly into Chicago and from there catch a connection to Florida. You’ll arrive in Florida by midnight.”
There was no way was I flying 1000 miles in the wrong direction just to return to Florida. So instead, I rebooked to fly to Baltimore and then catch a connection to Fort Lauderdale that would get me home by 10PM.
I arrived in Baltimore an hour later only to find my connection was now delayed 2 hours. Then 2 more hours. We finally boarded and the plane was less than half full. I had the entire emergency row to myself and breathed a sigh of relief when the cabin door closed.
Then the flight attendant announced that this flight was cancelled and we needed to go back to the gate agent to book another flight. After standing in line for 45 minutes, I was rebooked on another flight that was leaving at 11PM.
An hour later all flight to Florida were cancelled due to weather conditions.
Naturally all nearby hotels were sold out so I spent the night in the Baltimore airport. I finally arrived home around 10AM the next day.
All told, I had spent nearly $1000 and consumed nearly 3 full days for a 6 hour business meeting.
This is a perfect example of why I recommend that companies leverage Inside Sales, Remote Sales Reps, and the latest software to enable remote meetings. (Had I done that myself, I could have accomplished 3x the work with zero hassles and no travel expenses.)
In today’s post, I am going cover the software I’ve used to enable myself and my teams to sell remotely.
Screen Sharing Software for presenting to Remote Audiences
Screen sharing software has changed my life. Because of this, I’ve been able to work from home offices thousands of miles from HQ, from an East Coast corporate office when my customers were on the West Coast, and from the US when my employees were based in Europe. My sales reps have worked from all over the world.
There are at least 10 different SAAS offerings for screen sharing on the market today. Below are the ones I’ve used.
GotoMeeting and GotoWebinar (used 2008-2014). As a former Citrix employee, I used GoToMeeting extensively for years. In our Windows-based environment it was quite effective for internal and external presentations. The downside was that anyone who attended the meeting had to download and install an app or plugin. This could take up to 5 minutes. However, once that was installed, joining or hosting a meeting worked well.
The user interface was fairly intuitive. Screen sharing was fantastic. It supported dual screens, sharing only the active application and clean screen sharing (without icons or notification ).
It was excellent for presenting in Powerpoint using presenter mode. On my laptop, I’d see the outline, my notes and the upcoming slide. On my 2nd display which I shared, I’d project just the presentation.
Dialing into the call was cumbersome. First you had to dial a conference number. Then you had to enter a meeting number and then a passcode. That’s a lot of typing just to join a conference bridge. I like WebEx’s “call me at this number” button much better.
Also, recording meetings seemed easy, but rarely worked. I constantly had errors and couldn’t retrieve the recording.
I imagine the product has improved since 2014 although I have not used it since then.
My price was free as an employee. The retail price was about $50 per month per user.
Cisco WebEx (used 2014- 2017). WebEx worked similarly to GoToMeeting. I found the user interface to be less intuitive. Presenters in my company often had problems sharing the right screen, working with Powerpoint in presenter mode, and sharing while also displaying in a conference room on a projector. Dual screens often wouldn’t present the correct screen.
The online support system was archaic. Anytime I tried to find an answer via online support, I found answers that didn’t apply or were outdated.
I liked that I had a dedicated, “always-on” meeting room which I could open up at any time via a personalized URL (like insidesalesdude.webex.com/steve). I used this link for all of my meetings.
I loved that I could join the conference bridge by clicking a “Call me” button on screen. This eliminated all dialing, entering a meeting number and passcode.
Recording meetings required pressing the “Record” button twice. I don’t know why. I missed recording several meetings until I figured this out. Once I did, recordings worked well. A few minutes after each meeting, the recording was available to download or stream via a URL. I would often send recorded meeting links to reps who missed the meeting.
The mobile Webex app was lame. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it wouldn’t. I had months where it wouldn’t work with Android and no amount of troubleshooting could resolve my issues. The mobile app was slow, the GUI was kludgy, and the screen sharing impossible to see.
I think the price was comparable to GTM.
Google Hangouts (limited use 2014-2017). Good luck figuring out how to use Hangouts for presentations.
The icons are hieroglyphic in nature. However, once I memorized what they did, I could share my screen and make a call. Screen sharing sometimes displayed unreadably small fonts. It was definitely non-intuitive. Dual screens were problematic. Some of my invitees couldn’t see the shared screens or what they saw was bitmapped and unreadable.
To host or join a hangouts screen share you must be on a Gmail or Google Apps/G-Suite account. That makes it less effective for many business presentations where my guests might not be using either of these.
I’ve used Hangouts for screen sharing a few times. It worked best for me when I am sharing with 1 other person.
I am a longtime user of Google Apps and a big fan of many Google products. I wish I could make Hangouts work for me but so far my experience with it has been unacceptable.
The price is free if you have Google G Suite or gmail.
Skype (used 2015-2016). I’ve been an invitee to several Skype meetings. What I liked was that the screen sharing and call quality were outstanding with crystal clear voice and video. What I disliked was that I had to create a Skype account to attend. If an attendee could join a meeting without a requiring a Skype account, Skype might be a winner for me.
I will note that I’ve had a number of remote reps who used Skype for VOIP calling and reported it was excellent. I personally never used Skype for that.
Join.me – I’ve never hosted on join.me but I’ve been an invitee many times. I love this App. I go to the website, hit the “join a meeting” button, enter my code and go. People who have hosted using join.me all rave about how easy it is to use. The price is cheaper than GTM and WebX. Most likely I’ll be using join.me to host meetings in 2017.
Blue Jeans – I tested Blue Jeans briefly in 2014. At the time, its cost was more than double GoToMeeting and Webex so I passed on it. I believe the functionality was similar, but there was no way I could justify the cost to my company to consider a switch from Webex.
Email and Calendering
In the 1990s there were many options for email and calendaring. Many of us got started on email using AOL, Compuserve, Netscape, Novel, Eudora, and Apple Mail, plus any number of Webmail providers. Over time, it seems like the market has narrowed to 2 primary vendors: Microsoft and Google.
Microsoft Outlook with Exchange (used 1999-2014). In-house MS Exchange with MS Office loaded on PCs is a corporate standard in many businesses. I’ve used this for 15 years at more than 5 different companies.
It worked well for email. However, some companies I worked for had small storage quotas that required me to archive or delete mail regularly. As a user, I shouldn’t have to manage storage quotas, respond to warnings and have mail bounce back if I’m over quota. I just want to send and receive email.
Because my mail was hosted on corporate servers, my ability to access it via multiple devices and from home required setting up and configuring the app locally. The Outlook Webmail access, when available, was slow and not full featured.
Shared Calendaring with Exchange was outstanding. I could add people, remove people, send messages only to new attendees, etc. It had a very user friendly interface and was intuitive. It was the best calendaring app I’ve ever used.
I know that Microsoft is pushing its online Office 365 with hosted Exchange so some of the limitations I experienced with storage and locations of files may be moot.
The cost varies. It was never cheap because we had to buy client and server software and hardware.
G Suite (formerly Google Apps – used 2010 to present). I love using G Suite.
Gmail is my favorite email system. It’s simple to use, fast, reliable, and has seemingly unlimited storage capacity. I’ve had a Google Apps account for 8 years with my own hosted domain. I’ve never been tempted to move from this. The SPAM filtering is better than anything I’ve ever seen in a corporate environment.
I also used G Suite in a mid-sized business for several years with excellent results.
Calendaring works well but it’s not as good as Exchange. I’ve had issues when someone deletes an invitation and then wants to be reinvited. I’ve also seen issues when someone accepts a meeting on a phone and it doesn’t update the desktop App (this also occurred with Outlook/Exchange).
Even when I worked in all Microsoft shops, we had groups of employees who would use Google Apps to create shared documents and sheets. The document sharing system in G Suite is nothing short of brilliant. One user can edit a spreadsheet while others are editing it simultaneously. Versions are saved automatically, sharing is easy to manage, and the Apps are simple to use. Google Apps don’t have all the features of MS Word and Excel, but I found they covered 95% of my needs.
Administration is fairly easy. As I said, I’ve managed my own G Suite domain for years and I’m not a systems admin. I doubt I could do the same with Exchange.
G Suite has the simplest pricing ever. $5 or $10 per month per account.
Calendly – I’ve only used this as a guest. It’s a really simple way to schedule a meeting with someone who is not on your corporate shared calendar system. It eliminates the back and forth email often required to find an available time. I found it quite helpful when setting a meeting with vendors for sales presentations. For companies that are booking a lot of meetings with prospects and customers, I’d check out Calendly and its competitors.
IM is one of the most helpful tools for remote employees. I’ve used AOL Instant Messenger (back in the day), Microsoft Instant Messenger (different versions, now replaced by Skype), Adium, Trillian, Google Hangouts and Slack.
Here’s what is great about any Instant Messenger App:
- I can tell if someone is at their desk by looking at their status indicator
- I can IM someone to ask if they can take a quick phone call
- I can get real-time answers while I am communicating with someone else, during presentations or when on a call.
The speed of response for Instant Messaging is what makes it great – especially for remote employees. It’s like having a walkie-talkie on steroids.
Here’s what I suggest when choosing an IM app. Look for something easy to use, with an intuitive GUI and available to as many people as possible. Also, make sure all employees use their status indicators.
- AIM was a great for introducing people to IMing back in the late 90s.
- The various Microsoft messaging apps worked well within my Microsoft based corporate environments.
- Trillium and Adium were really fast and easy to use on the Mac.
- Hangouts kind of worked, but also screwed up my Google Voice settings and starting doing unwanted things like ringing my phone on my desktop and iPad. Google needs to rewrite Hangouts if they want more people to use it.
- I found Slack to be non-intuitive for IMing. Frequently when I wanted to IM someone, it required extra clicks before I could. It’s a very popular app though, so it could just be my use of it. It also requires some monkeying around to IM people not in the company. However, it has forum-like features and groups that offer more than just IM capabilities.
Voicemail, Cell phone, VOIP and Text Messaging
I am grouping these together because there are apps and cell phones that bundle all of these services. I consider all of these a requirement for any Inside Sales Rep.
Vonage – I used Vonage for VOIP when I wanted to have multiple numbers for inbound calls as well as outbound calls. It was an effective solution for one rep who called into several different countries. It provided her with local inbound numbers in each country which made it very easier for people to return her calls. Call quality was good.
Google Voice with any cell phone – I love, love, love Google voice and have been using it for more than 8 years. I describe Google voice as an alias that redirects a number to any cell phone. It works seamlessly on Android and OK on iPhones. Google voice means I am not held hostage by any cell phone carrier. I can redirect my inbound calls to any phone just by changing a setting in the app. It also has excellent call blocking, ring scheduling, call forwarding, texting and voicemail capabilities. I frequently will text from my desktop and will read transcribed voicemails there as well. The voicemail to text transcription has gotten much better over the years. However, it’s still always good for a laugh.
iPhone – Let’s face it, Apple sets the gold standard for user interfaces. Using Messaging, Facetime, Voicemail, and Mail on the iPhone are about as easy as it gets. If I could have Google Voice natively on an iPhone, I’d have one. I do wish they were less expensive to buy unlocked.
Carrier Locked phones – I despise buying phones that are carrier locked. They are often loaded with bloatware, receive updates long after they are released, and they hold customers hostage to the phone company. That said, most people have them. If your phone is locked, I suggest trying to get Google Voice on it for some options. Otherwise, whatever the carrier provides is probably OK.
Wrapping this up, I’m sure there are other SAAS products and services I’ve missed. I anticipate there will be more to come with features and functionality that will make remote working the norm, instead of the exception.
If you have a favorite you’d like to share please post it in the comments.
I encourage every Inside Sale Dude reader to keep any eye out for technology that will make working remotely even better. In future posts I’ll discuss some best practices for remote presentations, new technology I’ve been testing, CRMs, and how using choosing the “industry standard” isn’t always the best choice.