4 Microsoft add-ins that help drive B2B sales productivity

B2B Sales Productivity: Office Add-ins that help

Microsoft Office is an incredibly versatile and comprehensive tool on its own, but with the right add-ins you can supercharge the Office experience, improving your B2B sales productivity.

Microsoft add-ins are software utilities that enhance the overall functionality of core Microsoft Office applications including Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Excel. They offer focused productivity gains that can greatly help specific sales tasks.

Here are some of our favorite Microsoft add-ins that help drive sales efficiencies:

1. Word: Grammarly

While written communication is central to the process, grammar is often overlooked, lowering the perceived quality of the sales collateral. And as a result, reducing the perceived quality of the product or service sold.

Grammarly is a cloud-based writing support tool that automatically detects potential grammar, spelling, punctuation, word choice, and style mistakes. It greatly improves your writing and reduces the risk of embarrassing errors. Their Microsoft Word add-in automatically checks your documents and also provides weekly stats about your writing. Grammarly offers a free version that includes basic checks and a premium offer that checks for more complex errors and inconsistencies.

2. PowerPoint: TeamSlide

Building PowerPoint decks is a critical sales task, but quickly finding the right slide and leveraging past presentations can be inefficient.  Sales teams often end up checking email attachments and flipping through decks to hunt for lost slides.

TeamSlide is a slide-level search tool embedded in PowerPoint. It searches across your content repositories (e.g. SharePoint, Box), local folders, and email attachments, allowing you to preview and insert the best slides into your current presentation. You’ll never rummage through presentations to hunt for a slide again.

3. Outlook: Join.me

Productive B2B sales team spend a significant amount of time in customer meetings. However, setting up conference calls with new leads can be tedious as sales professionals have to configure invites in Outlook and call details in a web browser. Between the back and forth, determining different time zones, and aligning calendars the process is time-consuming and prone to error.

Join.me, a web conferencing and online meeting solution, offers an add-in that helps you schedule meetings directly from Outlook. You can create a meeting invitation and include the required web conference details (personal URL, dial-in details, etc.).

4. Excel: Mapline

Managing sales territories, including their performance, is a core function in sales operations. However, generating simple but powerful visualizations that outline performance can be difficult, and as a result, often not completed.

Mapline, a mapping solution, offers an Excel add-in that helps you create maps from Excel data without leaving the worksheet. You can upload data directly from within Excel, allowing you easily update maps.

Microsoft add-ins drive productivity while minimizing change management

Add-ins minimize change managment

Microsoft Office has a stranglehold on business productivity with no signs suggesting a significant shift any time soon. While Office provides a strong toolkit, there is plenty of room for improvement with additional features that help specific user groups. Microsoft, after all, is aiming to please a wide audience which tends to leave feature and workflow gaps.

As a result, a wide ecosystem of partner companies has popped up to fill these gaps, adding even more functionality to Microsoft Office. Realizing that partners play a critical role, Microsoft has fostered the ecosystem with in-depth documentation, an app store (for certain types of add-ins), and even competency certifications.

Aploris earns Microsoft Partner Gold and Silver Microsoft Partner competencies
Aploris, creators of TeamSlide, have earned Microsoft’s Gold and Silver application development competencies

Often partner companies add functionality with add-ins that bolt onto Office and interact with Office documents. The range of add-ins is endless from a Wikipedia add-in that allows you to conduct Wikipedia searches from Word to our slide search tool, that helps you find and extract individual slides on your computer. Typically, add-ins are accessed through the navigation ribbon in an Office application (e.g. PowerPoint).  We’ve previously discussed the benefits of add-ins versus browser-based tools.

Beyond adding functionality, add-ins help drastically reduce the change management effort commonly involved in rolling out a new feature or tool:

  • Add-ins can be silently deployed and often require no user input during installation
  • They operate within a host application that users are already familiar with (e.g. Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, Excel), reducing the friction typically associated with new tools. For example, the icon that launches the add-in can be included the navigation ribbon and the tool open in a pane within the host application
  • Add-ins can notify the user within the primary application, facilitating a number of adoption strategies. For example:
    • After installation, add-ins may start automatically the first time their host application is opened
    • Add-ins can activate based on a document state. Our slide search solution, TeamSlide, automatically notifies users if a slide in their presentation is out-of-date

Microsoft add-ins offer an effective way to add specialized functionality to the Office application suite. By embedding within familiar applications, they reduce the change management effort often associated with rolling out new tools.

3 ways your sales organization can shift toward agile methodology

Agile methodologies for sales

3 ways your sales organization can shift toward agile methodology

With increasing frequency, customers are looking to buy from trusted advisors who bring experience and knowledge in addition to their product or service. As a result, the sales process is rapidly evolving, and sales organizations are realizing that a collaborative approach best serves their customers.

Mirroring a software development approach, agile sales breaks rigidity and focuses the process on shorter iterative goals. The approach empowers sellers to collaborate within their team and with other parts of the organization, focusing on solving their customers’ problems.

Adopting the agile methodology requires buy-in throughout the organization and a significant cultural shift. Here are 3 ways you can begin that process:

Initiate daily standup meetings

Daily standup meetings align goals, create accountability, and foster a collaborative culture. They provides opportunities for the sales teams to initiate in-person discussions and build meaningful relationships.

A standup takes about 10-15 minutes and each team member is asked 3 primary questions:

  • What goals did you accomplish yesterday?
  • What are your plans today?
  • What do you need to in order to be more productive?

Meetings should be short and remain focused, but members should be encouraged to continue conversations afterwards.

Divide large objectives into smaller milestones

Break long-term objectives into specific goals that can be achieved in 2-6 weeks, giving team members a sense of accomplishment as they meet their milestones. This ‘sprint’ approach provides opportunities to course correct, allowing your team to adapt to changes.

For instance, your sales team might aim to close a 1K new accounts within the next 6 months. This objective can be broken down into first achieving 10K leads which can then be divided into weekly cold calls and monthly conference visits. You might then split your cold calls by industry and first start with collecting contact information.

Ideally, each sprint details a specific objective that is discussed in advance between manager and employee. Sprints can increase the quality of deliverables and help employees deal with change.

Collaborate with marketing and beyond

A single sales person likely can’t provide all the expertise a customer needs. But a collaborative approach can pull in the right resources to maximize the customer relationship.

Designing sprints and conducting daily standups create opportunities for personal interaction within the sales team. However, collaboration with marketing, product, and other groups is essential too. This can be fostered through:

  • Cross-functional meetings/socials: engaging with other groups helps build relationships and empowers your sales team to communicate across the organization for help
  • Focused content management: a central repository where sales presentations and other knowledge is curated helps ensure all groups are aligned; encourage feedback to continuously optimize content

Add images to your slide library and effectively build compelling, on-brand presentations

Client relation teams at investment management firms build a multitude of presentations every day. Beyond ensuring that the information provided is accurate and up-to-date, presentations need to be compelling and convince the audience to act. Images play a large role in achieving this goal by capturing the audience’s attention, succinctly conveying ideas, and portraying the right brand.

However, using images in presentations has a number of challenges which typically result in productivity loss or a negative impact on the presentation itself.

Challenges in using images in presentations

  • Copyrights: Images are often copyrighted and not free to use. Your team may be tempted to run a Google image search to find images. However, these images tend not be legally free to use usable or require very specific attributions  Further, team members may miss awkward watermarks that lower the quality of the entire presentation
  • Search and selection: Searching for images, even from the most effective stock websites, takes significant time. Teams can spend hours debating the impact of images and may even re-purchase images that another team member has previously bought. Choosing an incorrect resolution can also impact the presentation size or quality
  • Updates: Updating old presentations with new client logos and new brand images is often a forgotten task. As a result, old off-brand images make their way into new presentations resulting in a poor perception of quality

How a slide library can help manage images

While slide libraries often feature the ability to centrally manage a collection of slides, they can often be extended to include images.

A slide library provides teams with a central location to access PowerPoint slides, helping greatly improve the efficiency of creating new presentations. It helps ensure users have quick, seamless access to the latest content.

SharePoint used to include a slide library feature, but it was removed starting with SharePoint 2013. However, third-party solutions like TeamSlide have specialized in slide library features and integrate with SharePoint and other content systems including Box and Google Drive.

In addition to managing slides, TeamSlide allows teams to centrally store and manage images. Users can connect TeamSlide to a SharePoint site and folder with images or upload images directly. Image file names can then be searched, and users can also add tags to help improve search-ability.  Search results can be previewed from within PowerPoint and clicking on a result adds the image to the current slide.

Investment management firms of all sizes can quickly build a repository of compliant images, including marketing collateral and client logos. Client relations team members can then quickly find the images they need rather than searching online, helping maximize the value of images that the firm has already invested in.

Further, TeamSlide includes an auto-update feature which checks all the images in a presentation to see if a newer version exists in the library. If a new image version is found, the old one can be automatically updated.

Slide libraries can greatly help investment management firms effectively build compelling presentations that are on-brand and compliant.

Leverage taxonomies in SharePoint to improve search

SharePoint metadata used for optimal search results

 

With SharePoint 2010, Microsoft released Managed Metadata to enable corporate knowledge managers to define a taxonomy, allowing for better content organization and improved search relevancy. In particular, Managed Metadata uses a central Term Store where admins can build formal hierarchical classifications of terms (or labels) that can be applied across SharePoint sites.

However, taxonomies and the metadata that comprise them have to be built effectively to realize the benefits.

What is a taxonomy?

In SharePoint, a taxonomy is a hierarchical classification of terms that are categorized and applied to the content. They form a structure for metadata that consistently classifies documents. For example, your sales folder in SharePoint may contain standard pitch presentations. You may define a taxonomy that describes the ‘industry’ the pitch is focused towards and the ‘product’ it represents. Within ‘industry’, the taxonomy might limit the available options to ‘finance’, ‘healthcare’ and ‘manufacturing’.

Taxonomies enforce naming standards and categories to add consistency across the platform and support enterprise content management. They enable end-users to locate and discover information quickly, helping solve business problems.

Benefits of building a taxonomy in SharePoint

1. Improve document search relevancy

The biggest advantage of defining a taxonomy is improving search relevancy. If your SharePoint content repository contains hundreds or thousands of documents, users are likely having a difficult time finding specific pieces of content. For example, locating a single PowerPoint presentation, or even a slide within a presentation, may be time-consuming and frustrating. As repositories rapidly grow, documents are often not consistently classified, making it difficult to sort through search results. This can result in significant productivity loss as finding content takes too long and, at times, users may even recreate content.

Applying a taxonomy allows users to search for terms or apply filters to quickly locate specific documents.

2. Maintain uniformity across your organization

Managed Metadata allows SharePoint admins to build a taxonomy that is shared across multiple sites and extended to other applications. Further, terms defined in a SharePoint taxonomy can include synonyms and multilingual variants. This allows all users to apply a consistent classification to documents using a defined set of terms.

As expected, you can control who has the ability to add and modify the defined taxonomy, allowing for flexibility as your content repository grows.

3. Effectively scale with your business

Nested folders are a simple and easy solution when first adding content to SharePoint. However, they can quickly become overwhelming as your data multiplies. Users may struggle to navigate folders to find relevant files, and even if you define an organizational structure, documents will be forced into one folder when they might belong to two or three.

With metadata, folder names can be added as tags to documents, allowing the document to have multiple classifications. This methodology easily scales and enables easier search and retrieval.

Considerations when adding a taxonomy in SharePoint

1. Ensure third-party tools leverage your taxonomy

Many organizations rely on third-party apps to either add, manage or search for content in their SharePoint implementation. When possible, select apps that support and leverage the taxonomy you invested in. This ensures consistency across your entire toolkit, creating a seamless experience for end-users.

For instance, our slide library and search solution, TeamSlide, integrates with SharePoint content repositories, importing the entire taxonomy along with the content. As a result, users can search for slides with a taxonomy already familiar to them (in addition to slide content).

2. Time new taxonomies with a SharePoint migration

SharePoint migrations offer the perfect time to identify and implement a new taxonomy. During migrations, content is often reviewed and cleaned, creating opportunities to test and improve the classification model.

 

Don’t let old slides derail your customer meeting

An old slide can kill the momentum of a meeting, confusing your team and the intended audience. From sales professionals and marketers to coaches and trainers, we are often asked about our ability to automatically update old slides. They consistently share stories about meetings that were derailed by stale content

SharePoint and other online repositories enable team members to access the latest presentation, typically through a web portal. Access, however, to such repositories is cumbersome, and employees end up keeping a copy of the presentation on their own hard drive or personal cloud storage service (e.g. Box, Dropbox). They keep referring to their version of the presentation even while the primary source gets updated. Over time, these differences grow, and the employee’s slide ends up with stark differences from the latest version available on the online repository. The differences can range from small branding inconsistencies to glaring content errors.

We recently connected with a marketer who noticed that her sales team had old specifications on their product overview slides. As a result, potential customers perceived that their products were inferior to the competition, costing them the sale! One trainer recently told us that his curriculum constantly changes, and at recent session his presentation slide and handout slides were mismatched. This understandably confused the audience, taking valuable time to correct.

At TeamSlide, we built a tool and method to automatically ensure you always have the latest content.

  1. Build an online slide library
    We start by allowing you to build a slide library.  You can manually upload presentations that are split into individual slides or connect to an online repository, including Box, SharePoint, or Google Drive.
  1. Assign a unique ID
    With some help from PowerPoint, TeamSlide automatically assigns a unique ID for each slide. As you download slides from the library, the ID is attached to the slides in a hidden manner.
  1. Check the library
    Now, when you open a presentation or run the content check, TeamSlide reads each slide and look for the ID to identify slides that are connected to the slide library. It then compares the date the slide you downloaded slide with the date of the last update to the library, checking if a new version of the slide exists.
  1. Review and apply
    If updates are found, you can review the changes and accept. If multiple slides are stale, they all can be updated with a single click.

Since developing this method, we’ve even applied the check to portions of a slide. Now teams can store individual charts, collections of shapes, and text boxes and these objects can be updated on a slide (without having to update the entire slide).

The seamless process ensures that you are effectively notified and given the opportunity to review and update old slides in a matter of seconds. Across multiple industry verticals, teams are deploying a TeamSlide slide library to provide easy access to PowerPoint content and ensure that their users never walk into a meeting with an old slide.

How slide libraries rescue PE firms and improve their client meetings

PowerPoint slide rescue

Whether it’s from pension funds, wealthy individuals or other investment managers, meeting with prospective clients to raise money is a core function for private equity (PE) firms. On a regular basis, marketing and client teams work to build content to fuel these meetings:

  • Firm overview and history
  • Biographies of key leaders
  • Investment strategy
  • Fund performance
  • Due diligence process
  • Management and performance fee

However, with the large variety of meetings, audiences, and objectives, PE marketing teams have the significant challenge of building and maintaining a large number of PowerPoint presentations and slides. As we’ve worked across a number PE firms, three pain points emerged.

1. Customizing and updating presentations

Presentations need to be tailored to the specifics of the meeting to improve outcomes. From client logos and customized messaging to updating fund details and the latest performance numbers, there are a painful number of checks that the marketing team needs to run through.

2. Tracking and managing slides

The constant need to update and modify slides leaves behind a mess of old versions that are hard to track, manage, and update. This inevitably leads to errors that have costly implications.

3. Compliance and regulation

With constantly changing regulations and different levels of awareness among team members, checking for compliance is a significant time sink. The process usually bottlenecks with a sign-off required by one or two key individuals.

Slide libraries to the rescue

Slide libraries, used by a variety of other industries and functions, are the preferred way to organize PowerPoint content. Typically, slides are stored in a central library that includes strict access rights, ensuring that content is verified and approved for client meetings. Slides are individually accessed and combined to build custom presentations.

Two primary methods of slide access exist:

  • Browser-based: Users launch a browser to find individual slides that are either combined and exported or copied and pasted into the user’s presentations
  • PowerPoint add-in: Users search for slides without ever having to leave PowerPoint and click to insert into their active presentations

In our conversations, we find that PE firms prefer the PowerPoint add-in method as their teams are already actively working in PowerPoint.

Some slide library solutions even notify users when a slide they are using is out-of-date. When working in PowerPoint, the slide library add-in can check if the slides in the active presentation have been updated by other team members. If they have been, the user is notified and given the option to update with just a click.

Slide libraries can sync with existing content systems like Box or SharePoint to help speed up the initial setup. This reduces complexity as firms can still manage all their slides in one system.  Microsoft’s SharePoint used to offer a native slide library function, but it was unfortunately discontinued starting with SharePoint 2013.

At TeamSlide we focus on building a robust a slide library solution that fits within the workflows of PE firms and other financial services organizations. We offer a Business version that allows teams to create a shared library, as well as a ‘Pro’-fessional version that allows users to search for slides in presentations on their own computers (including Outlook attachments).

For private equity firms that build presentations every day, accessing content through a slide library can solve multiple pain points and result in effective client meetings.

 

4 digital tools your consulting firm started using after you left

Consulting tools

Over the last 5 years, global consulting firms have increasingly focused on helping their clients with digital acceleration.  From measuring their digital maturity and reframing their strategy to implementing digital tools and processes, consulting firms are vying to capture more of their clients’ attention and spend. BCG developed a digital acceleration index, McKinsey invested in a Digital Labs group, and Bain launched BainDigital.com to showcase their capabilities.

While preaching a new digital approach to their clients, these firms have also invested in new digital tools for their consulting staff. In addition to improving productivity, these tools allow the firm to showcase their capabilities to clients. Based on conversations with numerous consultants across multiple firms, here are 4 new digital tools that are driving significant productivity gains:

Tableau

Tableau is an interactive data visualization software solution focused on business intelligence.

Source: Tableau

While static PowerPoint charts are still the mainstay of most presentations, Tableau is allowing consultants to make sense of large datasets. With Tableau, consultants can also dive into different data cuts in real time, helping create more conversational client interactions. However, Tableau does have a learning curve and effectively using large, complex datasets requires discipline and a strong analytical approach.

Slide-level search

Slide-level search is the process of finding individual ‘killer’ slides across many presentations

Source: TeamSlide

Consulting organizations have people, tools, and processes in place to help capture knowledge generated during each project. Over time, they have built a vault of PowerPoint presentations stored in large content repositories. These repositories are an important tool for consultants as they conduct research and prepare for new projects.

However, instead of searching for presentations and then flipping through them to find relevant slides, consultants have consistently asked for the ability to search for individual slides instead. With TeamSlide, we are proud to be helping a variety of firms enable slide-level access. Either through a web portal or through our even more powerful PowerPoint add-in, consultants now have access to their firm’s entire repository on a slide level.

Some firms have even extended this ability to the consultant’s desktop allowing them to find individual slides from presentations on their own computer.

Slack

Slack is a set of cloud-based instant messaging and collaboration tools

As projects grow more complex and the velocity of interactions increases, email and traditional web portal tools are proving to be too clunky. Slack provides instant access to your team’s interactions including chat conversations, notifications, and files. With consulting cases changing every few months, the use of Slack channels allows teams and subgroups to be quickly formed and no longer requires IT support. Further, slack integrates with a host of other services creating a seamless experience.

Cloud content management

Cloud content management is an online repository for all our files (e.g. Box, OneDrive)

Source: Box

While cloud storage is a pervasive solution in many industries, traditional consulting organizations have been slow to adopt it. However, over the last few years consulting firms have started to trust online solutions and many are now pushing their staff to keep content online rather than on their desktops. Box now offers advanced security measures that are building trust with consulting organizations.

Summary

If it’s been a few years since you’ve left consulting, the firm today is likely quite different than the firm you remember. If you still use tools that were first introduced to you while consulting, you may want to try some of the new ones above. As the focus on digital sharpens, consulting firms will continue to adopt new tools to increase productivity and showcase their capabilities to clients.

5 questions client relationship teams should ask before updating to SharePoint 2016

SharePoint 2016 updateClient relationship managers have to constantly keep track of their clients and their investment portfolios to ensure they receive the best possible service. This is among the constant need to work internally on standard distributed reports and one-off requests with portfolio managers, compliance officers, and the chief financial officer. SharePoint has proven to be an extremely useful tool for content management, making it easy for everyone on the team to quickly access the latest version of the content they need.

If your team is considering migrating to the new SharePoint 2016 (cloud or on-premise), here are 5 critical questions you should be asking.

1. Does your team need to upgrade SharePoint?

Migrating from one version of SharePoint to another is a significant undertaking. Before jumping in, consider if your client relations team even needs the upgrade.

Start by analyzing the reasons for an upgrade. For instance, with SharePoint 2016, zero downtime patching leads to increased resilience and there is also support for Office 365 and SharePoint hybrid search integration.

On the other hand, there can be several reasons not to upgrade. Your team may be perfectly satisfied with the current version, and as with all new software, there will be a learning curve to consider. That being said, if you are still using an older version of SharePoint including 2003, 2007, or 2010, note that Microsoft only provides mainstream support for 2010 SP1 and newer.

2. What data should you migrate?

Take a step back and plan out what data you’ll need to migrate to the new version of SharePoint. If you’ve had your old version for several years with a large number of users, you are bound to have stale data that no longer has any value. You might have clients you no longer work with or old investment portfolios and Excel sheets that aren’t relevant.

Migrating excess data not only increases the required time but also the costs related to physical storage and maintenance. Before diving into the migration, take a moment to clean your data repositories.

3. What do you do with your slide library?

If your team depends on SharePoint’s slide library, note that it was discontinued starting with SharePoint 2013.

A slide library is a set of PowerPoint slides that can be accessed individually and doesn’t require the user to first open a presentation. In addition to providing slide-level access, slide libraries will help manage slide versions and ensure that users always have the latest content.

If the slide library was critical for the way your team accessed PowerPoint content, you’ll have to consider a 3rd party solution. At TeamSlide, we offer a robust solution that works from within PowerPoint – you are welcome to see it in action. We’ve also previously written an article about the key considerations for replacing SharePoint’s slide library.

4. What upgrade path should you use?

With years of investment portfolios and client reports, your SharePoint environment may be too complicated for a complete native upgrade.

A native upgrade is an option made available from SharePoint 2013 onwards that allows databases to easily ‘detach’ from the old version and ‘attach’ to the new version. It’s a simple and direct process, but it’s only useful if you have a rather small and simple SharePoint environment with less than 500GB of data.

If you have a complicated environment or your total data is more than 500GB, consider a parallel upgrade option which involves building a SharePoint 2016 environment in parallel to the current version and then moving data from the old to the new version selectively. With this option, you are able to selectively choose what needs to be upgraded. Note that if you are upgrading from a SharePoint version lower than 2013, then the parallel upgrade is the only available option.

5. What level of security will you need?

Client relation teams should first review the service level agreements (SLAs) they have with their clients. As team members will likely be saving crucial investment and banking information on SharePoint, security will be a primary concern.

In addition to a better user experience, SharePoint 2016 will help you continue to comply with your SLAs. An automated migration follows the security of your older version, but be careful if you are initiating a manual migration. In addition, if you are considering a move to SharePoint Online, ensure that your client SLAs will allow for data to be stored in the cloud.

In conclusion

When updating to SharePoint 2016, client relation teams should first consider whether they need the update, clean up their data repositories, plan for the missing slide library, choose a migration strategy and also consider their security needs.

TeamSlide releases new desktop search offering

TeamSlide, a slide library solution, focuses on giving users incredibly easy and instant access to the specific PowerPoint content they need. Organizations have built slide libraries using TeamSlide or connected their existing content systems (e.g. SharePoint, Box, Dropbox, Google Drive). Through a PowerPoint add-in, users then securely access the shared repository to search, preview, and insert slides into their presentation.

As we worked across different industry verticals and functions, a consistent requirement was the need to search for slides on a user’s own computer. Users loved the ability to search a shared repository but they also needed slide-level access to all the content on their computer, including email.

Acting on this feedback and striving to improve TeamSlide, we are proud to announce that last month we released a new offering, TeamSlide Pro. TeamSlide Pro locally indexes all the presentations in selected folders and Outlook accounts making individual slides searchable through PowerPoint. All presentations and slides remain local and no content is sent to TeamSlide or any cloud service. The search is blazingly fast with the ability to pull up results in a fraction of a second. Users will no longer have to dig through presentations or rummage through emails to find the specific slide they need! TeamSlide Pro is already driving productivity at a number of firms that were part of the beta release.

You can access further information and request a trial here.

In addition, we have updated the TeamSlide logo to better represent our offering. The 3 squares represent the typical 16:9 and 4:3 slide sizes and the empty space between them forms a ‘T’. The squares will also consistently be used as a primary icon in the software.

Our original TeamSlide offering, now renamed TeamSlide Business, will continue to help organizations give their employees slide-level access to content stored in a shared repository. TeamSlide Business customers can add TeamSlide Pro to give their users slide-level access to all their content – shared or local.