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When is it appropriate to use “Dear Sir or Madam?” In today’s business world that answer is “Never.” I’ll also accept, “Fifty years ago” and “Hell no,” for good measure. But it’s polite! It’s business formal! You’ve seen it done countless times! So, why should you avoid it?

The average office worker receives approximately 121 emails each day and only sends about 40. That means, not only are people receiving more email than ever, they’re responding to fewer as well.

Ideally, you want to grab your recipient’s attention in 30 seconds or less, and starting with “Dear Sir or Madam” is not a great way to do this.

Don’t let your first impression be the wrong one, and never sacrifice good communication skills for what seems like a quick-and-easy win. Here are a few reasons why you should never use “Dear Sir or Madam” and several alternatives to employ in its place.

Why You Shouldn’t Use “Dear Sir or Madam” 1. It’s lazy

In the age of the internet, it’s possible for you to find almost anyone’s name and information. Spend time on a company’s website or LinkedIn page to gather clues about who you should email.

If you need to send an email to the company’s marketing manager but don’t have their information, send an exploratory email to the generic company inbox -- usually found on the “About Us” or “Contact Us” page.

Briefly introduce yourself and ask for the administrator’s help in connecting with the right person. For example:

 

Hello [Company name],

I have a question for the marketing manager in charge of your social media accounts. Are you able to provide me with that person’s name and email address or connect us directly?

Thank you,

Meg Prater

It will require a little more time than sending a direct but unaddressed message to the team or person you’re trying to reach, but this approach also signals you’re interested in learning who this person is and how to address them correctly.

You’re also more likely to get a response to this request for help than if you send a canned email addressed “Dear Sir or Madam.”

Another common scenario in which to use “Dear Sir or Madam” is when turning in a cover letter or resume for a job. It can be difficult to know who you’re submitting your application to, but this isn’t an excuse to slap a “Dear Sir or Madam” on your greeting and call it good.

Instead, customize it to the department you’re applying to or the hiring manager who will inevitably read your letter.

For example, if you’re submitting a cover letter for a job in the Sales Department, address your application to, “Dear Hiring Manager,” or “Dear [Company name] Sales.” These salutations are friendlier, less formal, and give you an accessible, conversational first impression.

2. It’s exclusive

Not everyone will identify with “Sir” or “Madam.” You never want to offend or assume the gender conformity of a business associate or peer. If you do guess a contact’s gender -- and guess wrongly -- you’ll immediately raise red flags and risk your ability to do business with them.

Before you’ve even begun to tell them the reason for your email, you’ve proven you haven’t taken the time to learn who they are. So, why should they take the time to hear what you have to say?

As a rule of thumb, never assume your email recipient identifies with “Sir” or “Madam,” even if their name or email address leads you to believe one or the other of these greetings would be appropriate. Take the time to learn who they are, and if you have their name, use it in your greeting.

3. It’s a symptom of a larger problem

There are usually two scenarios in which you use “Dear Sir or Madam” and neither are promising. Either you really don’t know the recipient’s name and you’re going to send them an email anyway or you’re sending bulk email you don’t have the time or resources to personalize.

These situations are symptoms of a larger outreach problem. If you don’t know the name of your email recipient but still feel you must email them, consider modernizing your outreach strategy. Emailing someone you don’t know is called “cold email” and is generally considered a bad thing.

Take time to learn who you’re emailing, connect with them first by following and engaging with them on social media, and enjoy better response rates and richer relationships born from “warm outreach.”

If you’re sending bulk email and find yourself without the time or resources to customize your outreach, this is a larger problem. A recent study by Experian shows transactional or triggered emails receive eight times more opens and greater revenue than regular bulk emails.

Bulk email is also more likely to send your emails -- even your non-bulk emails -- to spam. And many businesspeople have found bulk emails have stopped working for them altogether.

Personalized emails are what earn today’s salespeople the open. Learn who you’re emailing, what’s important to them, and why they should listen to what you have to say.

4. It’s like saying, “Hi, I’m a stranger”

“Dear Sir or Madam” is like starting an email with, “Hi, I’m a stranger,” or “You don’t know me but …” If you’re a salesperson, you don’t want this to be the tone you set for prospect outreach.

You want to be as familiar and friendly with as possible -- and that requires you to research and get to know them.

If you’re reaching out to a business associate for the first time, your first impression should be that of someone who’s proactive and curious about learning who they are.

And if you’re submitting a cover letter or resume, your first email should be one that sets you apart from the crowd -- something “Dear Sir or Madam” does not do.

“Dear Sir or Madam” Alternatives

We’ve talked about why you should leave “Dear Sir or Madam” in the Mad Men era, but you need something to use instead. So, what should it be? Here are a few good alternatives:

  1. “Hello, [Insert team name]”
  2. “Hello, [Insert company name]”
  3. “Dear, Hiring Manager”
  4. “Dear, [First name]”
  5. “To Whom it May Concern”
  6. “Hello”
  7. “Hi there”
  8. “I hope this email finds you well”
  9. “Dear [Job title]”

Tact, effort, and time are the three magic ingredients required for sending responsible, successful business emails. Make sure you give each piece of correspondence the same attention -- no matter how small or insignificant it might seem.

And make sure you don’t kill all your good work in the greeting with crutch words, a lackluster message, or the wrong sign off.

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Best Time Management Apps
  1. Todoist
  2. Be Focused Timer
  3. Focus Booster
  4. Kiwake App
  5. Loop - Habit Tracker
  6. Focus@Will
  7. Freedom
  8. Noisli
  9. OmniFocus
  10. Forest App
  11. 30/30 App

The days where I feel most productive all have something in common: I budgeted my time well. When I'm at my most productive, I start the day with a plan and stay focused on my to-do list, which means that not only do I get more done in a shorter amount of time, I also produce higher-quality work.

No matter your profession, time management matters. But it's all too easy to form bad habits that, once ingrained, are hard to break. Sometimes, you just need a little extra outside help to get yourself on track.

The apps below will help you organize and utilize your time in a more effective and productive way.

11 Time Management Apps That Will Increase Your Productivity 1. Todoist
  • Price: Free (Todoist Free), $29/year (Todoist Premium), $29/user/year (Todoist Business)
  • Available on: iOS | Android (Desktop and web apps also available)

Todoist is a task management app that allows you to assign to-do items due dates, as well as tag them with different project labels. You can add tasks from your desktop or phone. As a fun added bonus, you can rack up "Karma points" by completing tasks consistently.

2. Be Focused Timer
  • Price: Free
  • Available on: iOS | Mac

This timer provides a handy way to track blocks of work and allows you to track your past work history. Manage your tasks, track your goals, and customize work interval duration to maximize your productivity.

3. Focus Booster

Focus Booster also uses the Pomodoro Technique model for tracking work, but provides a deeper dive into exactly where your time is going. You can link revenue, meetings, and projects to your Pomodoros so you gain a birds-eye view of the impact of your work.

4. Kiwake App
  • Price: $2.99
  • Available on: iOS

Kiwake is an alarm clock app that infuses your daily alarm with a bit more meaning -- and removes the temptation to snooze. Users have to physically get out of bed, play a brain game, and review their custom goals to shut off the alarm.

5. Loop - Habit Tracker

Many of us find ourselves being unproductive at work because we just can't shake our bad habits. Habitloop makes it easier to form productive rituals in and out of work -- just set a goal in the app and access dozens of preset "recipes" of behaviors you must repeat on a daily basis. Over time, the thining goes, these behaviors will become second nature.

6. Focus@Will
  • Price: $9.95/month each (2-5 users), $8.95/month each (6-50 users), $6.95/month each (51-100)
  • Available on: iOS | Android

Developed by three neuroscientists, Focus@Will hosts a proprietary collection of music that's been mixed and edited to serve a specific neurological purpose. You can choose from different genres and customize energy level, and Focus@Will serves up a collection of tracks specifically designed to help you concentrate and achieve flow.

7. Freedom
  • Price: $6.99/month, $2.42/month for one year, or $129.00 yearly
  • Available on: iOS | Mac | Windows

Sometimes you just need to go cold turkey. Freedom blocks websites and apps that pull you away from what you're supposed to be doing -- for example, social media and news sites. You can customize recurring "work sessions" that'll start automatically and cut off access to distracting content so you can focus.

8. Noisli
  • Price: Free on desktop, $1.99 for app
  • Available on: Web app | iOS

Noisli provides ambient background noise that block out outside distraction and help you focus only on your task at hand. You can choose from one of their preset combos, or adjust categories like nature sounds or ocean waves to create your own custom mix of noise.

9. OmniFocus
  • Price: $39.99 (Standard), $79.99 (Pro)
  • Available on: iOS | Mac

See your work in a variety of ways, view your calendar, add new tasks, customize review intervals and more. Plus, sync your data between multiple Macs -- and even iOS apps using OmniFocus.

10. Forest App

Want to put down your phone and focus? Plant a seed in Forest. As time goes by, the seed grows into a tree. Give into temptation and leave the app? Your tree will wither. And Forest partners with real tree-planting organization, Trees for the Future, to plant real trees.

11. 30/30 App
  • Price: Free
  • Available on: iOS

The main screen is free of buttons and uses gestures to manipulate tasks as you navigate the app. You work for 30 minutes, focused on a single task. Then, when time is up, you give your mind a break and do something totally different -- also for 30 minutes. Repeat the cycle or customize it by giving each task its own time.

Time management is crucial for salespeople. Make the most of each of your daily hours with these helpful apps, and feel a greater sense of accomplishment at the end of your day.

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Email is crucial to salespeople's success. You invest time in perfecting your email copy, hyperlinking the right words, and placing the right call-to-action.

And if no one opens your emails, it could mean your job.

That's where subject lines enter the picture. Whether you're trying to connect with an executive, sell a prospect, or simply get a friend's attention, these subject lines influence whether or not those emails get opened -- so you don't want to send a terrible one.

Click through the presentation below to uncover sales email subject line stats. Each stat gives insight into subject line strategy -- from word choice to character count and beyond. Then, check out our collection of sales statistics to align your selling with the latest insights on consumer behavior.

Email Open Statistics

1. 35% of email recipients open email based on the subject line alone -Convince&Convert

2. Emails that include the first name of the recipient in their subject line had a higher clickthrough rate than those that don't. -HubSpot

3. Email use worldwide will top 3 billion users by 2020 -The Radicati Group

4. There will be 2.9 billion email users worldwide in 2019 -Statista

5. 38% of salespeople say getting a response from prospects is getting harder -HubSpot

6. 21% of email recipients report email as Spam, even if they know it isn't -Convince&Convert

7. 11:00 a.m. ET has the highest clickthrough rate for email sends - HubSpot

8. 35% of business professionals check email on a mobile device -Convince&Convert

9.Consumers who purchase products through email spend 138% more than those that don't receive email offers -Hatchbuck

10. 58% of adults wake up and immediately check their email -eZanga

11. 20.9% of people check their email more than five times per day -Fluent

12. Sales emails have eight times more opens and clicks and can produce six times more money than other types of email -Experian

13. 86% of professionals prefer to use email when communicating for business purposes -HubSpot

14. 56% of brands using emoji in their email lines had a higher open rate -Experian

15. Tuesday is the best day of the week to send email -According to 10 email marketing studies

16. 80% of social network members have received unsolicited email or invites -Convince&Convert

17. 73% of millennials identify email as their preferred means of business communication -Procurious

18. The use of emoji in email marketing messages increased 775% from 2015 to 2016 -MediaPost

19. The percentage of emails containing GIFs rose from 5.4% in 2015 to 10.3% in 2016 -Mailcharts

20. Email is the third most influential source of information for B2B audiences, behind colleague recommendations and industry thought leaders -Wordstream

21. Adding videos to your email can increase click rates by 300% -Martech Advisor

22. Email list segmentation and personalized emailing were the most effective email strategies of 2017 -DMA

Now that you know how powerful email can be for salespeople, try these effective sales prospecting email templates. Want to perfect your sales email subject lines? Try this crazy-simple formula for writing sales email subject lines.

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Chrome Keyboard Shortcuts
  1. Open a new tab: hold Command and press T
  2. Close the current tab: hold Command and press W
  3. Reopen last tab closed: hold Command and Shift, then press T
  4. View next tab: hold Command and Option, then press the right arrow key
  5. View previous tab: hold Command and Option, then press the left arrow key
  6. Jump to a specific tab: hold Command and select the appropriate number
  7. Open a hyperlink in a new tab: hold Command and click the link
  8. Open a link in a new window: hold Shift and click the link
  9. Put a cursor in the search bar: hold Command and press L
  10. Erase the current search: hold Command and press delete
  11. Highlight the next word in search: hold Shift and Option, then press the right arrow key
  12. Highlight the last word in a search: hold Shift and Option, then press the left arrow key
  13. Go back to the previous page: press delete
  14. Go forward to the next page: hold Shift and press delete
  15. Reload the current page: hold Command and press R
  16. Open the find bar: hold Command and press F
  17. Scroll to the next keywords in find bar: press Enter
  18. Scroll to previous keywords in the find bar: hold Shift and press Enter
  19. Save the current page as a bookmark: hold Command and press D
  20. Open the settings page: hold Command and press the Comma key
  21. Open the downloads page: hold Command and Shift, then press J
  22. Open a new window: hold Command and press N
  23. Drag a tab out of your window: click the tab and drag it downwards
  24. Close the current window: hold Command and Shift, then press W
  25. Minimize the current window: hold Command and press M
  26. Maximize the current window: hold Control and Command, then press F
  27. Scroll down the web page: tap the Space Bar
  28. Quit Google Chrome: hold Command and press Q
  29. Jump to the last tab: hold Command and press the number nine
  30. Hide Google Chrome: hold Command and press H

What if you could navigate Google Chrome at lightning speed?

Well, it turns out you can. By learning a few simple keyboard shortcuts, you can speed up your prospecting research, gain valuable insights about your leads faster, and really build out that pipeline. The key is to not waste time learning all of them, because the majority aren't helpful.

The best part? They only take two minutes to learn. Try them out as you read this article:

30 Google Chrome Shortcuts 1. Open a new tab
How to Open Google Chrome in a New Tab

To open a new tab, hold Command and press T. For PC, hold Ctrl and press T.

2. Close current tab
Close Tab Shortcut

Never click that stupid little "x" to close tabs again. Instead, save time by holding Command and pressing W. For PC, hold Ctrl and press W.

3. Reopen last tab closed
Open Closed Tab

I hate when I close a tab, then realize crap, I still needed that info. I just hold Command and Shift, then press T to quickly recover it. For PC, hold Ctrl and Shift, then press T.

4. View next tab

Instead of dragging my mouse to the top of the browser to click another tab, I rapidly move to the next tab by holding Command and Option, then pressing the right arrow key. For PC, hold Ctrl and press tab.

5. View previous tab

Likewise, I can switch to the previous tab by holding Command and Option, then press the left arrow key. For PC, hold Ctrl and press 9.

6. Switch to a specific tab (first eight tabs)

If I need to jump to a specific tab, I hold Command and select the appropriate number. For example, if I need to jump to the seventh tab open, I hold Command and press 7. If I need to jump back to the second tab open, I hold Command and press 2. For PC, it's the same action, just hold Ctrl instead of Command.

7. Open hyperlinked text in a new tab

If I'm reading an article that has an intriguing hyperlink in it, I open it in a new tab by holding Command and clicking the link. Try it out here.

8. Open hyperlinked text in a new window

Similarly, if I want to open a link in a new window, I hold Shift and click the link. Try it out here.

9. Put cursor in search bar

I hate dragging my mouse to the search bar to type in a URL or Google something. Rather, I hold Command and press L to jump my cursor to the search bar.

10. Erase current search

If I totally screw up a URL or Google search, I'll quickly start it over by holding Command pressing delete. For PC, hold Ctrl and press Backspace.

11. Highlight next word in search

To highlight the next word in a search, I hold Shift and Option, then press the right arrow key. For PC, hold Ctrl and press the right arrow key. I use this to quickly highlight a word if I need to delete it.

12. Highlight previous word in search

To highlight the previous word, hold Shift and option, then press the left arrow key. For PC, hold Ctrl and press the left arrow key.

13. Go back to previous page

Wanna jump back to the previous page? Just press delete. On PC, press Backspace.

14. Go forward to next page

Wanna go forward? Hold Shift and press delete. On PC, hold shift and press Backspace.

15. Reloads current page

Is the page frozen? Hold Command and press R to quickly reload it. On PC, hold Ctrl and press R.

16. Opens the find bar


Need to find a key word or phrase on the page? Hold Command and press F. Then simply type what you're looking for. On PC, hold Ctrl and press F.

17. Scrolls to next keywords in find bar

The first keyword isn't correct that appears in the find bar? Press Enter to move to the next search term. On PC, hold Ctrl and press G.

18. Scrolls to previous keywords in find bar

To scroll backwards to the previous keyword, hold Shift and press Enter. On PC, hold Ctrl and press G.

19. Save current page as bookmark

Read an awesome article? Or need to bookmark a useful tool? Hold Command and press D. On PC, hold Ctrl and press D.

20. Open settings page

Need to activate an extension (such as HubSpot Sales, an email productivity tool)? Hold command and press the comma key. There is no keyboard shortcut for this for PC.

21. Open downloads page

Downloaded something you quickly need to reference? Hold Command and Shift, then press J. For PC, hold Ctrl and press J.

22. Open new window

When I have too many tabs open, but I don't want to close them yet, I'll open a new window. To do this, hold Command and press N. On PC, hold Ctrl and press N.

23. Drag tab out of strip to open in new window

No this isn't a keyboard shortcut, but it's just as useful. If I want to focus on only one tab, I'll click the tab and drag it downwards until a new window opens. This helps me focus on only one tab, by removing it from a cluster of too many other tabs.

24. Close current window
Close Window Shortcut

Quickly close the current window by holding Command and Shift, then press W. On PC, hold Ctrl and Shift and press W.

25. Minimize current window

To minimize the current window, hold Command and press M. On PC, there isn't a keyboard shortcut for this.

26. Maximize current window
Maximize Window Shortcut

To maximize your current window, hold Control and Command, then press F. On PC, press F4.

27. Scroll down the web page

To scroll to the bottom of the page, tap the Space Bar once.

28. Quit Google Chrome

To quit Google Chrome, hold Command and press Q. On PC, hold Ctrl and Shift and press Q.

29. Jump to the last tab

To open the last tab in your browser, hold Command and then press the number nine. On PC, hold Ctrl and the press the number nine.

30. Hide Google Chrome

If you need to hide Chrome to jump to a different task, hold Command and press H. There is no similar shortcut for this for PC.

It only takes a few minutes to learn these shortcuts. My logic is if we spend 80% of our time online, isn't it worth investing a few minutes into mastering these?

If you ever need a quick reference, consider saving this keyboard shortcut cheat sheet to reference for later. It has the 25 most common keyboard shortcuts for Google Chrome you'll need on a daily basis:

To get the most out of your , check out our guides to Gmail shortcuts and Gmail keyboard shortcuts as well.

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Real Estate Quotes
  1. “I am basically a full-time psychologist who shows houses every now and then.” -Dori Warner
  2. “To be successful in real estate, you must always and consistently put your clients' best interests first. When you do, your personal needs will be realized beyond your greatest expectations.” -Anthony Hitt
  3. “Buyers decide in the first eight seconds of seeing a home if they’re interested in buying it. Get out of your car, walk in their shoes and see what they see within the first eight seconds.” -Barbara Corcoran
  4. “Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.” -Mark Twain
  5. “Don’t wait to buy real estate. Buy real estate and wait.” -Will Rogers
  6. “Find out where the people are going and buy the land before they get there.” -William Penn Adair
  7. “The best investment on earth is earth.” -Louis Glickman

Real estate isn’t an easy job. No weekends, late nights, early mornings … and the vacations … do you even recognize that word? The payoff is you get to spend your days helping people make their dreams come true.

In today’s competitive market, it takes a lot of skill -- and very little sleep -- to get your buyers the house of their dreams. So, don’t you deserve at least five minutes to laugh a little and feel inspired? I hope that’s what this list of funny, inspirational, and deservedly famous real estate quotes will give you. Happy reading!

Funny Real Estate Quotes

1. “I am basically a full-time psychologist who shows houses every now and then.” -Dori Warner

2. “If I were a professional wrestler, I’d want a name that strikes fear in most people. Something like, ‘The Underwriter’.” -Lighter Side of Real Estate

3. “Judging by your pins, you’ll need a house with 14 bathrooms, 27 living rooms, and a master closet the size of a small village.” -Someecards

4. “Sleep is for people without access to the MLS” -Lighter Side of Real Estate

5. “Please, tell me more about how you’re an expert in real estate because you watch HGTV.” -Someecards

6. “A real estate agent has two property listings. Now add 11 more. What does the agent have now? Happiness. That agent has happiness.” -Tim Dulany

7. “The neighbors always leave their sprinklers on, which is a little bit annoying. It’s a source of constant irrigation.” -LaffGaff.com

8. “Why, yes … that’d be fantastic if your parents, grandmother, and second cousin came along while I showed you houses today.” -Amy Chrisman-Williams

Inspirational Real Estate Quotes

9. “Real estate is an imperishable asset, ever increasing in value. It is the most solid security that human ingenuity has devised. It is the basis of all security and about the only indestructible security.” -Russell Sage

10. “There have been few things in my life which have had a more genial effect on my mind than the possession of a piece of land.” -Harriet Martineau

11. “To be successful in real estate, you must always and consistently put your clients' best interests first. When you do, your personal needs will be realized beyond your greatest expectations.” -Anthony Hitt

12. “Real estate sales was perfect training for the experience to go into public life because you learn to accept rejection, learn to meet new people, learn to work with people, and find common ground. That's the way you sell houses ... that's also the way you win over constituency.” -Johnny Isakson

13. “Whether you're an obstetrician or a third-grade teacher or a real estate agent, you know when you're doing good work. You're passionate about it.” -Susan Isaacs

14. “Art, like real estate, is half science, half gut. We go to a lot of art fairs. We have two full-time art experts who help me make all the decisions about how to build the corporate and personal collection and what we put in our developments. We don't let interior designers pick art for us.” -Jorge M. Perez

15. “In the real estate business you learn more about people, and you learn more about community issues, you learn more about life, you learn more about the impact of government, probably than any other profession that I know of.” -Johnny Isakson

16. “Not only do you have to have content in your digital and inbound real estate marketing strategies, but content that gets an LOL, gets read, noticed, shared, clicked, and commented on is how you make a human connection in today’s noisy, multi-device world.” -Laura Monroe

17. “In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is a failure. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible.” -Seth Godin

18. “There was no big break. There were just years and years of work.” -Paula Del Nunzio

19. “Success is actually a short race -- a sprint fueled by discipline just long enough for habit to kick in and take over.” -Gary Keller

Famous Real Estate Quotes

20. “The best investment on earth is earth.” -Louis Glickman

21. “Real estate cannot be lost or stolen, nor can it be carried away. Purchased with common sense, paid for in full, and managed with reasonable care, it is about the safest investment in the world.” -Franklin D. Roosevelt

22. “Owning a home is a keystone of wealth -- both financial affluence and emotional security.” -Suze Orman

23. “Land monopoly is not only monopoly, but it is by far the greatest of monopolies; it is a perpetual monopoly, and it is the mother of all other forms of monopoly.” -Winston Churchill

24. “Ninety percent of all millionaires become so through owning real estate. More money has been made in real estate than in all industrial investments combined. The wise young [person] or wage earner of today invests [their] money in real estate.” -Andrew Carnegie

25. “Landlords grow rich in their sleep without working, risking or economizing.” -John Stuart Mill

26. “Not following up with your prospects is the same as filling up your bathtub without first putting the stopper in the drain.” -Michelle Moore

27. “Buyers decide in the first eight seconds of seeing a home if they’re interested in buying it. Get out of your car, walk in their shoes and see what they see within the first eight seconds.” -Barbara Corcoran

28. “Expansion always, in all ways.” -Ryan Serhant

29. “Before you start trying to work out which direction the property market is headed, you should be aware that there are markets within markets.” -Paul Clitheroe

30. “If you don’t own a home, buy one. If you own a home, buy another one. If you own two homes, buy a third.” -John Paulson

31. “The best time to buy a home is always five years ago.” -Ray Brown

32. “Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.” -Mark Twain

33. “Don’t wait to buy real estate. Buy real estate and wait.” -Will Rogers

34. “Find out where the people are going and buy the land before they get there.” -William Penn Adair

During the time it’s taken you to read these quotes, you likely have 25 new emails, so I’ll let you get back to it. Oh, and here are 10 real estate email templates to help with that full inbox.

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Sales Interview Questions and Answers
  1. "What do you know about our company?"
  2. "Tell me a bit more about yourself."
  3. "Give me an overview of your career to date."
  4. "What are your short- to mid-term career goals?"
  5. "How do you generate, develop, and close sales opportunities?"
  6. "What do you consider your most significant sales achievement to date?"
  7. "Tell me about a time that you failed to achieve goals you set. What went wrong and how could the outcome have been different?"
  8. "Why are you interested in this company? Why are you interested in this role?"
  9. "Consider a time when you haven't gotten along with someone on your team. What would that person say about you?"
  10. "How do you keep up with the latest industry trends in sales?"

You only have 30 to 60 minutes to make a first impression in an interview. Do you feel ready? Sales job candidates should be intentional about the perception they create with hiring managers -- and that's not always easy to do.

How do you make sure you leave the best impression possible? It’s essential that you anticipate and prepare for the questions that might be asked of you.

Here are some of the most common sales job interview questions and tips on how to answer them.

Sales Interview Tips
  1. Concisely summarize what you've learned about the organization’s solutions, who they serve, who they compete with, and what industry experts say about them.
  2. Explain why you're interested in this company and role.
  3. Talk very specifically about how you execute your sales role from start to finish.
  4. Always mention data to back up claims about your past performance.
  5. Everyone loves a good sales story, so the more you can amp up the drama, the better.
  6. Be honest about failures, and clearly spell out an example of when you've been challenged and how you moved forward.
  7. Above all, be prepared and be yourself.
Sales Representative Interview Questions and Answers 1. "What do you know about our company?"

This demonstrates your level of preparation and level of interest. Start by reading the organization's website and the Wikipedia entry if applicable, then search the company name on Google to read what others are saying about them.

Concisely summarize what you learned about the organization’s solutions, who they serve, who they compete with, and what industry analysts, employees, and other interested parties say about them. Finally, repeat these steps with the company’s top three competitors.

2. "Tell me a bit more about yourself."

This job interview question demonstrates your ability to communicate and balance appropriate personal and professional information. Start with an interesting personal tidbit and then talk about why you are pursuing a sales career in general and at this particular company.

3. "Give me an overview of your career to date."

A career retrospective highlights your ability to communicate in addition to bearing testament to the logic and rationale of your career choices. Start with your first professional job (note: not your very first job ever) and talk briefly about what you learned from each successive role.

Don’t forget to touch on what attracted you to each new opportunity, culminating in the one you are currently interviewing for. Frame each job change in terms of striving for something greater, not in terms of running away from a crummy manager or company.

4. "What are your short- to mid-term career goals?"

Job candidates who set goals are perceived to be clear thinkers and motivated workers. Before your interview, talk to a few people who are where you would like to be and ask if your stated goals strike a healthy balance between realistic and achievable.

Then, when you talk to the hiring manager, briefly describe your goals and hone in on why you want to achieve them -- your driving motivations and where you think achieving these goals could take you in the next few years.

5. "How do you generate, develop, and close sales opportunities?"

Core sales skills remain the same regardless of industry or company. This job interview question seeks to uncover the maturity and suitability of your sales process. With this in mind, talk very specifically about how you execute your sales role from start to finish.

Address planning, preparation, targeting, engaging, discovering needs, providing solutions, resolving objections, and gaining agreement. Lay out how you tackle each of these tasks step by step.

6. "What do you consider your most significant sales achievement to date?"

Here’s your opportunity to make a big impression. Take it.

People remember richly detailed stories of success. When fleshing out your crowning achievement, talk about the time, the specific situation or problem, the people involved, the steps you took to achieve the end result, and what happened afterwards. Everyone loves a good sales story, so the more you can amp up the drama, the better.

7. "Tell me about a time that you failed to achieve goals you set. What went wrong and how could the outcome have been different?"

Salespeople need to be able to deal with failure by critically analyzing failed attempts and learning from them. Knowing how you handle failure is as important as understanding how you succeed, and in fact, the two are interdependent.

Be honest here, and clearly spell out one of your failures. Start with the goal you were pursuing, and then elaborate on why it was important to you, what did you do to achieve it, why you failed, who was involved, what you learned, and what you would have done differently. Far from damaging your reputation, the hiring manager will appreciate your candor.

8. "Why are you interested in this company? Why are you interested in this role?"

This is a common question and ice breaker in interviews. And if you don't have a good answer for it -- why are you even here? While you're researching the company and role, make a list of what excites you about both.

Do you believe in the work the company does? Explain why. Are you interested in expanding your skillset to include the enterprise-level business they conduct? Tell them that. Does the role play to your strengths? Explain which strengths and how.

Even if your interviewer doesn't ask you this question, it's a strong way to begin or end your meeting.

9. "Consider a time when you haven't gotten along with someone on your team. What would that person say about you?"

Salespeople are passionate people. It's a high-stress job and employers want to know you have self-awareness and the ability to work as part of a team.

Be honest with this answer, and give specific examples like, "In my last role, I worked closely with a BDR with a very different communication style than my own. We clashed early on because I'm an external thought processor and he was an internal processor. We were able to work together to find a way to communicate -- but we would probably still say I'm a little loud and impulsive."

10. "How do you keep up with the latest industry trends in sales?"

If you're not reading the latest industry books, listening to sales podcasts, or following the hottest blogs, how are you keeping your skills sharp? Always come armed with a few ways you're learning about and bettering your craft.

While it is impossible to anticipate every sales job interview question that could be asked, these examples should prepare you for the most important ones and any derivatives that come from them.

Above all, be prepared and be yourself. Your best interviews and outcomes are ahead of you.

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If you dream of clocking out of your nine-to-five job for the last time and becoming your own boss, you’ve probably considered a variety of small business ideas. But, while you have plenty of passion, direction can be hard to find.

To help, I’ve pulled together 40 small business ideas for anyone who wants to run their own business. Use these as a jumping off point to spark your own unique ideas. And if all else fails, live the words of Airbnb Co-founder Brian Chesky: “If we tried to think of a good idea, we wouldn’t have been able to think of a good idea. You just have to find the solution for a problem in your own life.”

Ready to take things to the next level? This ultimate guide to entrepreneurship can help you do more than dream up a good idea. It can help you turn it into reality today.

Best Small Business Ideas 1. Handyman

Are you always fixing things around the house? Often on call when friends need small projects completed? Put together a website, figure out what your time and expertise is worth, and start asking those thankful friends for referrals.

2. Woodworker

Similarly, if you have a passion for crafting beautiful furniture or other home goods out of wood -- there’s demand for that. List a few of your pieces on sites like Etsy, eBay, or Craigslist. Once you build a following, consider starting a website, accepting custom orders, or expanding to refinishing work and upholstery.

3. Online dating consultant

Dating consultants usually charge for their time. They help people create successful online dating profiles, source possible matches from outside normal online channels, and offer a level of personalization Tinder just can’t. Think you’ve got a knack for the match? This might be the business for you.

4. Sewing and alteration specialist

People will always need clothing hemmed and buttons mended -- and you could be the person to do it. If you love sewing, start by offering simple services like those mentioned above, and expand your repertoire to dressmaking and design as you build a customer base and demand.

5. Freelance developer

From building websites for other small businesses to providing technical support for certain projects, quality web development is in high demand right now. With such a technical skillset, make sure you can describe what you do and how you will do it in easy-to-understand language. Test your messaging on friends and family who don’t have a firm understanding of the work you do.

6. Personal trainer

Offer in-home consultations, personalized nutrition and exercise regimens, and community boot camps to get the word out. Don’t forget to populate an Instagram feed with inspirational quotes, free exercise videos, and yummy snack ideas as well -- it’s a common way for fitness gurus to build their brands.

7. Freelance graphic designer

Set your own hours, choose your projects, and build a portfolio and business you’re proud of. From website design to blog graphics and more, many companies seek out experienced graphic designers for all manner of projects.

8. Life/career coach

If you have some experience under your belt, put it to good use as a life or career coach. Many of us are looking for guidance in our careers -- and finding someone with the time to mentor us can be tough. Life/career coaches don’t come cheap, but they are able to offer clients the intense and hands-on training and advice they need to make serious moves in their personal and professional lives. After all, sometimes everyone just needs some uplifting advice.

9. Resume writer

Submitting a resume, cover letter, and -- when necessary -- portfolio for a new job can be tough and time consuming. That’s why many people hire help. Assist clients with tailored resumes, beautifully edited cover letters, and carefully crafted portfolios that make it impossible for employers to ignore.

10. Freelance writer

If you have writing skills, there’s someone out there willing to pay you for them. Write blog posts, magazine articles, and website copy galore -- just make sure you have a body of work built up to share with potential clients. Even if you create a few sample pieces to have on hand, they’ll help exhibit your work and attract new business.

11. Translator

Speak a foreign language? Start a translation service. Consider specializing in a specific genre of translation, like medical or financial translation, as you might be able to fill a niche need in your community.

12. Garden designer

Many people have the willingness to do the dirty work in their backyards, but few have the know-how to design a backyard space to begin with. Draw up the designs for your clients’ outdoor spaces and let them do the actual digging.

13. Ecommerce store owner

Do you create, collect, or curate anything special? Consider starting an ecommerce store and turning your hobby into a full-time job. Whether you need somewhere to sell all that pottery you’ve been making, or an excuse to search for the sports memorabilia you love tracking down -- an ecommerce store can make it financially viable for you to pursue your passion.

14. Landscaper

Mowing, tree-trimming, and seasonal decor are all neighborhood needs. If you have or can acquire the equipment, a landscaping business can be a lucrative affair.

15. Videographer

Video production requires you to have invested in the equipment up front which can be quite expensive. But that’s also what makes your services so valuable. Make sure you have a reel of your work to share or create a website with several selections of your work available for interested viewers.

16. Photographer

Start by conducting photo shoots for your family and friends. As you build a body of work, ask for referrals. Photography businesses often grow by word of mouth, so create a Facebook page where you can tag recent clients, which will show up in their friends’ newsfeeds as well.

17. Travel planner

The time of the travel agent might be passing, but people are still looking for those with a knack for more nontraditional travel coordination. If you always plan the perfect vacations complete with beautiful hotels, the ideal location, and a bevy of delicious restaurants lined up for every evening, consider advertising your services as a more modern approach to travel planning.

18. Car-detailing specialist

The devil is in the details and you can be too. Car detailing services that travel to the client are in high demand. Just make sure you have the flexibility, transportation, and equipment to take your business on the road.

19. Home inspector

This will require a great deal of expertise and certification, but it’s a job that can give you the flexibility and pay you’ve always dreamed of. Confirm the licensing requirements in your state and consider taking a few courses to build out your knowledge, authority, and expertise.

20. House cleaner

With a low barrier to entry, house cleaning can be a great way to start doing what you love -- soon. Consider advertising to homes in your neighborhood and get more bang for your buck by earning a few small businesses as clients as well. They’ll usually bring in a higher paycheck for a similar amount of work.

21. Personal chef

We all love to eat, but few of us have the time or energy to cook healthy, delicious meals. Advertise your services to local families and businesses alike. And consider “chunking” certain groups of clients -- say, vegetarians -- so you can cook larger quantities of the same dish to feed them all.

22. Property manager

Many people maintain properties they don’t live in -- often based in different cities or states. It’s helpful to have someone to ensure the property is being well taken care of, handle small fixes as they arise, and serve as a liaison to renters.

23. Packing services facilitator

Moving is always a pain, and many people hire the entire packing process out. Want to have a steady stream of clients? Partner with a local moving service who will refer new clients to you.

24. Massage therapist

Soothe aching muscles and promote peace for your clients as a massage therapist. Look into training and certification courses in your city and state and invest in a portable bed to take on client visits.

25. Hairdressing or makeup artist

Sure, you could go to cosmetology school and pay for an expensive chair at a salon, or you could offer specialized styling and makeup services right to your client’s door.

26. Bed and breakfast owner

This is another business venture that will require you to research the correct licensure from your state, but it will be well worth it to see your dreams come true. Consider what guests will be traveling to your area to experience and create special packages and themed stays to coincide with their interests in your locale.

27. Interior designer

Similar to landscape design -- there are many people who have the ability to buy the furniture and home decor they need to fill their rooms, but few who know where to start. It might take some time to build a portfolio but documenting your projects and sharing them online can build a fan base beyond your wildest dreams.

28. Nonprofit owner

If you dream of devoting your life to a cause you believe in, it might be time to start a nonprofit. You’ll need to incorporate your business and file for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status -- and then you’ll be required to meet ongoing standards of compliance, but the payoff is making a meaningful impact on a cause you believe in. Want to do good while still making a profit? Consider social entrepreneurship.

29. Tour guide

Love the local history of your city or state? Consider becoming a tour guide. Sure, you’ll need to conduct tons of research to be able to do the job well, but that’s half the fun. Set yourself apart by offering tours that speak to a specific niche of your community’s history. Some tour guides offer historical walking tours of their town’s most haunted spots while others curate guided foodie tours for guests to get a true taste of the city.

30. Tutor

Whether math whiz, piano master, or Shakespeare aficionado -- there’s someone out there who needs a little help and is willing to pay for it. Advertise your services through local schools, community colleges, and community centers to get the word out and build a customer base.

31. Consultant

If you have significant experience in or knowledge of a specific subject, consider becoming a consultant. Perhaps you’re an expert at hiring practices, have a knack for SEO, or have led multiple sales teams to six-figure success. If you’re good at it, market yourself as a consultant and charge the going rate.

32. Clothing boutique owner

If you dream of building your own fashion empire, why not start with a local boutique? Build buzz with impressive window displays, inspiring social media accounts, and heavy community involvement.

33. Event planner

You might choose to specialize in a specific type of event -- like weddings or company meetings -- or set yourself up as an event planner of all trades. If you’re highly organized, pay keen attention to minute details, and have experience planning large events, it might be time others benefit from your skills.

34. Specialty food store owner

Gourmet foods, cheeses, sake, wine -- you name a food, there’s a specialty food store out there for it. Put your passion for exotic olive oils to good use and open a store where you offer the kind of expertise and selection your audience couldn’t dream of getting from their local grocer.

35. Personal assistant

Again, if you’re an organized, highly detailed person, the life of a personal assistant might be for you. Don’t want to be tied to one office or person all day, every day? Consider becoming a virtual assistant, which allows you a more flexible work environment.

36. Food truck owner

Always dreamt of owning a restaurant but not quite ready to take the plunge? Test out your concepts with a food truck. It’s a great way to become familiar with food and restaurant licensing in your state, see what people like and don’t like, and build a ravenous following before ever opening or investing in a brick-and-mortar location.

37. Consignment shop owner

If you have an eye for style but don’t want to invest in the inventory of a brand-new boutique, consider going consignment. It will allow you to curate a collection of clothing that matches your goals and aesthetic, without the overhead of a boutique selling entirely new garments.

38. Caterer

If that personal chef gig is too restrictive for your schedule, consider catering instead. Pick your projects, work fewer but larger events, and get really good at time management.

39. Gym owner

Kickboxing gyms, yoga studios, CrossFit, oh my! Turn your passion for fitness into a community for others by opening your own gym.

40. Daycare owner

Childcare continues to be in high demand. While nannies and nanny shares are popular right now, a good daycare is hard to find. Fill a need in your neighborhood by opening your own. And, as always, make sure you’re complying with your city and state’s zoning, licensure, insurance, and inspection requirements.

Selecting a small business idea is a personal decision. But it can be helpful to bounce ideas off your friends and family. Don’t be afraid to ask for help throughout this process -- and remember to have a little fun while you’re putting in the work.

Ready to begin building your small business today? Check out our complete guide for how to start a business. Or brush up on your reading with this high-impact list of books about starting a business you can’t afford not to read.

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According to TOPO, prospects open less than 24% of sales emails. That means three out of four emails you’ve agonized over and sent to buyers in the past month were likely not worth writing at all.

Salespeople today rely on email more and more in their prospecting efforts. And this makes learning how to write a sales email people want to respond to more important than ever.  But what’s the point of sending emails if the recipients aren't reading them? With this in mind, sales reps would be smart to look into the factors influencing the open and response rates of the messages they send.

If you’ve ever wondered why you aren’t hearing back from the prospects you’ve emailed, I have some good news for you. A study from Boomerang reveals the factors behind why some emails are opened, and others are sent straight to trash.

The data, based on a collection of more than 40 million emails, showed messages that expressed either moderate positivity or negativity evoked 10 to 15% more responses than completely neutral emails. But, reps should know, the research discovered too much emotion in messages resulted in similar response rates as neutral emails. “Flattery works, but excessive flattery doesn't,” Alex Moore wrote in the report.

The Ideal Length of a Sales Email

The optimal length of an email has been much debated. But according to Boomerang’s data, emails between 50 and 125 words had the best response rates at just above 50%. This is supported by recent data from Constant Contact. In a study of over 2.1 million customers, they found emails with approximately 20 lines of text had the highest click-through rates.

This translates to about 200 words, which is higher than Boomerang's data, but still provides a helpful range. When in doubt, shorter is generally better, so always err on the side of "less is more."

Boomerang also found short and direct emails resonated best with prospects and earned a response. (That's why HubSpot account executive Dan Muscatello writes short prospecting emails -- two sentences long at most.) However, the numbers revealed a fine line: Emails that were 10 words or shorter got a response just 36% of the time.

Next, the study showed emails written at a third-grade reading level had the highest response rate. These emails performed 36% better in terms of open rate than those written at a college reading level and boasted a 17% higher response rate than emails composed at a high school reading level. Further, the data suggests that free-flowing, informal emails are best for eliciting a response from recipients.

Finally, it’s a best practice to include an “ask” in every sales email you send, and reps often probe prospects for information in their messages. But how many questions are too many in an email? The study discovered when reps asked one to three questions, recipients were 50% more likely to respond compared to emails containing no questions.

And if no one opens your emails, it doesn't matter how long they are. Boomerang found email subject lines with only three to four words received the most responses

Tips for Writing Shorter Emails

If shorter emails with simple language and clear asks are better -- how do you ensure your emails are measuring up? Here are a few tips: 

  1. Plug your email copy into the free Hemingway App - Copy and paste your email message into this app and lead what grade the readability tracks to, which phrases have simpler alternatives, and how many "hard to read" and "very hard to read" sentences your message contains. 
  2. Always add a close - Sales expert Jeff Hoffman advocates that every conversation or email you exchange with a prospect should include a close. Whether you're asking for more time, contact information, or their business -- always make sure you're asking for something. Before writing your email, consider what your goal is for this communication and tailor your close accordingly. For example, if I want this email to yield a discovery call, I'll include that ask as the end, and build the rest of the email around it to support and encourage that close. 
  3. Don't waste important real estate - Your is incredibly important, so don't waste it on "Hi, my name is." Instead, try, "How can I make your life easier," or "I noticed your company recently ...". Similarly, make your powerful and intriguing with statements like, "I love ramen as well. Have you tried [restaurant name]?" or "Did the ebook you downloaded change the way you think about [topic]?"
  4. Remove excess language - We tend to add extra words to our writing to soften our message. This is a tendency especially when we're asking for something or providing constructive feedback. Before sending your email, review for unnecessary language like. For example, here's a sentence before and after removing filler words: 
  • Before: "I think it might be a good idea for us to come up with a few ideas that will help us present several scenarios to your executive team when we meet."
  • After: "Let's brainstorm several scenarios to present to your executive team next week."

Often, being successful in sales isn’t about doing more -- it’s about being more effective. Use the data here to sharpen your skills and improve your email strategy.

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Entrepreneurs used to be those who had an idea, started a company, and made money. They wrote a business plan, circulated the document to a bank, and worked tirelessly to scale their company and drive profits for themselves and their investors. But in 2018, we’re a startup nation. Actually, we’re a startup world. Entrepreneurs have different motivations for starting a business just as consumers have different motivations to buy.

I’ve noticed a significant uptick in interest in companies that have a basic alignment in social responsibility, meaning the mission is not just to grow and make money, but to do good in the universe. Enter, social entrepreneurship.

What Is Social Entrepreneurship?

Social entrepreneurship is the combination of commerce with social issues. Social entrepreneurs aren’t only concerned with profits. Success is also defined by how their business improves the world. Unlike nonprofits, social entrepreneurship still earns a profit, but focus is placed on the social or environmental change made while earning that profit.

Social Entrepreneurship Examples 1. TOMS

TOMS arguably put social entrepreneurship on the map. It started as a one-for-one model; Buy a pair of shoes, and TOMS would give a pair to a child in need. Today, buying a pair of TOMS shoes or sunglasses provides shoes, sight, water, safe birth, and bullying prevention services to people across the globe.

2. Ben & Jerry’s

Ben & Jerry’s aims “to create linked prosperity for everyone that’s connected to our business: suppliers, employees, farmers, franchisees, customers, and neighbors alike.” They do this by using their power of purchasing to support positive change, keep their manufacturing footprint small and responsible, give back to local communities, and make delicious ice cream.

3. Warby Parker

To date, this eyewear company has given away over 4 million pairs of glasses through their “Buy a Pair, Give a Pair” program. They’ve also disrupted the eyewear industry and spawned countless copycat organizations.

4. Good Eggs

Good Eggs is an online grocery and meal kit delivery service that sets itself apart with fresh, local produce and meal kits for a variety of occasions. Their mission: over 70% of their food, wine, and spirits are locally sourced, and every item must meet a strict list of sourcing standards.

5. Lush

This cosmetics company cites environmental awareness and ethical consumerism as its bedrocks. All Lush cosmetics are free of packaging, and the company gives millions to environmental causes each year.

6. Uncommon Goods

Independent makers are the backbone of this company. They offer a marketplace for creatives to sell their goods with the aim of having a positive impact on people and the planet. They work to minimize their environmental impact and work with artists to use sustainable or recycled materials when possible.

7. GoldieBlox

“GoldieBox is the award-winning children’s multimedia company disrupting the pink aisle in toy stores and challenging gender stereotypes with the world’s first girl engineer character.” They create toys, books, apps, videos, animation, and other merchandise to empower girls to build confident, empowered futures.

8. Pipeline Angels

In 2016, only 26% of U.S. angel investors were women and only 5% were minorities. Pipeline Angels wants to change that and is doing so by creating capital and investment opportunities for women and non-binary femme social entrepreneurs. They run a signature bootcamp aimed at educating female investors and also offer a pitch summit for entrepreneurs seeking funding.

9. United By Blue

Not your ordinary outdoor apparel store, for every product sold, United By Blue removes one pound of trash from the world’s oceans and waterways. At the time of publication, they had removed over 1 million pounds of trash.

10. Shea Radiance

Co-founder Funlayo Alabi and her husband started making soap to solve their family’s dry skin problems. What started as an experiment to heal their sons’ eczema prone skin morphed into a clean and effective product line for hair, skin, and body. Alabi sources all Shea Butter directly from women-run cooperatives in rural Nigeria and Ghana which ensures revenue ends up “in the hands of the women who have earned it.”

11. Werk

Werk believes the future of work is not unchangeable, it’s adaptive to each employee’s skills, motivations, and needs. By helping people find their Flextype, Werk believes they can make work flexible for everyone.

12. Oliberté

This shoe manufacturer is a sustainable brand supporting workers’ rights in sub-Saharan Africa. They launched their own factory in 2012 and make every pair of Oliberté shoes from this factory in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In 2013, they also become the world’s first Fair Trade Certified™ footwear manufacturing factory.

13. Lstn

Proceeds from the sales of LSTN speakers and headphones go towards giving hearing aids to people in need through their partner, Starkey Hearing Foundation.

14. FIGS

FIGS exists to create super-comfortable, ethically responsible scrubs. They create a high-quality product and donate hundreds of thousands of scrubs to healthcare providers in over 35 countries.

15. Love Your Melon

This apparel brand gives a hat to every child battling cancer in America. They also support nonprofit organizations fighting against pediatric cancer. 50% of all the profits that come from buying a Love Your Melon product go to their nonprofit partners and beanie donation events run year round.

Social Entrepreneurship Ideas

So, you want to do some good, but you’re not quite sure where to start? Here are a few guidelines to find the perfect social entrepreneurship idea for you:

  1. Define what you’re passionate about - Do you firmly believe every child in America should have a pillow? Do you volunteer at a food pantry on the weekends? Are you an activist for certain local charities? Define what you’re passionate about and proceed to step two …
  2. Determine the gaps - Once you know what you’re passionate about, it’s time to decide what the gaps are in existing products/services and determine how you can fill those gaps. If the food pantry you volunteer at can’t disseminate fresh, donated produce before it spoils, think about how you could provide a service that makes it faster and easier to get fresh produce to the underserved communities in your area.
  3. Identify your strengths and skills - Are you an excellent writer or a salesperson extraordinaire? List your strengths and skills, and define how they can serve your mission. This is also an excellent time to identify your weaknesses, so you know who to call upon for help.
  4. Decide on a business model - Being a social entrepreneur is not the same as starting a nonprofit. Consider how you will monetize your idea and choose a business model. Whether a cross-compensation model like TOMS and Warby Parker or a market connector like Uncommon Goods, it’s important to know how your business will be structured.
Why has Social Entrepreneurship Gained Popularity?

In the age of heightened competition, social responsibility is a differentiating factor that allows many companies to appeal to specific buyer demographics. The idea of “Conscious Capitalism” gained mainstream attention when Whole Foods founder John Mackey published a book by the same name.

Employment rates are climbing in the United States and beyond, and employees have a choice in who they work for. For many, they choose to work for companies with strong missions as well as earning potential.

When we were researching our book, Inbound Organization: How to Build and Strengthen Your Company's Future Using Inbound Principles, my co-author Todd Hockenberry and I call out several examples of how social responsibility is an important component of having a competitive advantage in today’s marketplace.

So, if you’re still interested in becoming a social entrepreneur -- you couldn’t pick a better time. Formulate your plan today and make the world a better place.

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Uh ... Um ... so as I was saying ...

Well, basically ...

You know?

At first glance, you might think I'm just a writer suffering from a nervous breakdown after one too many blog posts. But, really, these are called crutch words -- a collection of words we fall back on when we've lost our footing while speaking.

We all use crutch words. They help us fill the gap in a conversation or speech when we're unsure of how to proceed, or haven't quite thought out the best way to position something.

Crutch words weaken the point you're trying to make. When you pepper your argument with unnecessary words, it distracts from the purpose of the message and dilutes its strength.

Even something as simple as "It's nice out" sounds much more confident and appealing than "So, um, it's nice out." Whether you're making a presentation to prospects, pitching a new project to your boss, or speaking on a call, the last thing you want to do is come off as nervous, unsure, or confusing.

Each person has their own set of crutch words, but there are quite a few that are very common. To help you rock your next conversation or speech, I've put together a list of common crutch words to watch out for and suggestions for how to cut them out of your speech so you aren't relying on them as heavily.

Note: Remember, aside from the non-words, crutch words are still words. This means that there is a right way to use them. But more often than not, they're used incorrectly or unnecessarily, which is why they made this list.

The Extraneous Exclamation

Image source: via GIPHY

An exclamation is a sudden interjection, often expressing surprise, anger, or hesitation. Those first two are alright, but when you're speaking, you're most often inserting exclamations in that last category -- hesitation. This can make you come off as unsure, unprepared, or nervous.

But good news! This is an easy crutch to catch, as it isn't a part of your sentence and sticks out like a sore thumb (you didn't plan on using "um" when explaining something).

Um: In the middle of my speech, I, um, lost my train of thought.

Uh: Uh, this speech is about, uh, not using crutch words.

Ah: Ah, you know it's funny, I use crutch words all the time.

Er: Er, I think there's never a good time to use these exclamations during a presentation.

The False Start

Image source: GIPHY

Sometimes, you might start a sentence without fully thinking it through. Often, this results in starting with unnecessary words such as "and," "so," and starting, pausing, and re-starting sentences. Unless you mean to occasionally start with one of these words as a stylistic choice (maybe you're trying to be ultra-colloquial), you need to find the balance between using a word, and making it your crutch.

Here are some words to look out for:

And: Working in sales is fun. And ... did you know I'm working on a new presentation?

So: So, raise your hands if you've given a presentation lately.

Anyway: Anyway, it can be nervewracking.

And so: And so I usually take the afternoon to rehearse.

Okay: Okay I think I can handle speaking in front of 200 people.

Well: Well let's get right to the point.

Like I was saying: Like I was saying, though, trying to watch out for crutch words will help make the presentation more coherent.

If you notice these words creeping into your speech when you aren't sure what to say next, just pause for a moment to gather your bearings before continuing. Your audience won't even notice the little stop in the presentation.

The Awkward Ending

Image source: GIPHY

Have you ever started a sentence, forgotten exactly what you were trying to say, and just ... ended it very awkwardly?

The awkward ending can be an interrogative tacked to the end of a statement that turns it into a question that the audience doesn't actually need/want to answer. Another common awkward ending is when you don't end the sentence right away, and when you finally do, there's one heck of an awkward pause at the end.

Right?: You get that feeling, right?

You know?: It's that nervousness you feel when you're standing in at the front of the room, you know?

Okay: So you've practiced what you're going to say, okay. But what's next?

Know what I mean?: It's actually time to present, now, and it's different, know what I mean?

You get the idea: Sweaty palms, higher heart rate, you get the idea.

And so on and so forth: This is when it's important to take a moment to breathe, make a mental note to watch for crutch words, and so forth and so on.

I guess: At this point, you have to just trust that you can deliver, I guess.

So ... : You're up next, so ...

Well ... yeah: You'll do great. Just breathe, speak clearly, and well ... yeah.

... Ugh.

The Totally Mostly Useless Adverb

Image source: GIPHY

There is literally an epidemic of the incorrect and over-use of adverbs. Adverbs are great! They add flavor to your otherwise boring verb. However, you need to make the call between when it's adding value to your point and when it's just there as a filler.

I personally have only recently been able to get over the "literally" phase, but I catch myself overusing "basically" and "definitely" quite a lot. Crutch words are like whack-a-mole: You get some under control, and new ones pop up.

Just: It's just not necessary to always use adverbs.

Almost: You almost need to catch yourself before you use them.

Basically: It's basically just unnecessary, you know?

Actually: I guess there are times you can actually use them, though.

Definitely: There are definitely real uses of adverbs.

Literally: I use them literally all the time.

Really: Adverbs are really great for describing verbs.

Very: It's very enlightening to know when to use them.

Truly: I truly feel I have a grasp of the concept of adverbs.

Essentially: It's essentially just inserting in extra words to give my sentence more of that wow-factor.

Absolutely: It's absolutely necessary to use them.

Seriously: I seriously don't know if I'm using them correctly.

Totally: I'm totally failing at this right now, right?

Honestly: I honestly don't know how to make this better.

Obviously: We obviously need adverbs, just not all the time.

The Overcompensating Adjective

Image source: GIPHY

Like adverbs, adjectives have a place in your presentations. They help describe things in a way that helps your audience better visualize and connect to your point. You know you're using a crutch adjective, however, when you frequently use it to describe just about anything: "That's a fantastic idea." "This is a fantastic example of image resizing in emails." "We've got a fantastic agenda."

When you overuse adjectives, they lose their meaning. Is your example of resizing emails really fantastic, or is a 30% increase in ROI fantastic? If you use it multiple times in a speech to describe various levels of fantastic, it loses meaning entirely.

Great: Great, let's get started. I'm going to show you a great example of a crutch word.

Fantastic: This is a fantastic example of a crutch word.

Awesome: Instead of letting a noun stand on its own, I have this awesome habit of adding an extra adjective to it.

Excellent: This excellent case study explains why we should be mindful of crutch words.

Definite: There is a definite possibility of also sounding unsure.

The Diluting Preposition(al Phrase)

Image source: GIPHY

Prepositions are tricky. They're necessary ... except when they're not. Often the misuse is just a culprit of falling into colloquial speaking habits. An example of this is adding unnecessary prepositions: "off of" should really be "off"; "call up" can be left as "call".

Prepositional phrases can also be unnecessary if there are more concise ways to say the same thing. This can make you sound like you're rambling or stalling.

Here are some examples of prepositions that are common crutch words/phrases when used incorrectly in a sentence.

Like: Have you, like, used prepositions before?

Of: I personally am just going off of what I learned in grade school.

Up: It's common to trip up over your words when you're nervous, so take a breather before starting.

About: I'm about two seconds away from a nervous breakdown.

At the present time: At the present time, I'd like some cake.

In order that: In order that you and I remain friends, you will need to bring me some cake.

In the process of: In the process of bringing me cake, please consider not using needlessly long prepositional phrases.

Next Steps: Reducing Your Reliance on Crutch Words

Now that you're aware of common crutch words, you may be wondering, "what's next? How do I stop using these crutch words?"

Crutch words, like any bad habit, can take some time to get out of your system. Don't be disappointed if during your next presentation (or next 100), you still find yourself using them. Even the most professional speakers let them slip out sometimes! It's all about making little changes over time to strengthen your public speaking. Each time you don't use a crutch word when you usually would have, consider it a victory!

Here are some tips to get started on your path to overcoming your crutch words.

1. Identify Your Crutch Words

Remember, each person has their own crutch words -- the list above is simply a collection of the most widely-used ones. Use it as a starting point, then dive into your own speaking habits.

If you've recorded videos of your presentations, go through them and listen for any words you seem to be leaning on. Practice speaking in front of a mirror, or record yourself speaking and listen for patterns. Where do you pause? What do you say when you stumble over a sentence? What do you fall back on when you need to steer conversation back to your original point?

2. Monitor Your Presentations for Crutch Words

Not all presentations have dry runs -- but if you get a chance to practice beforehand, actively monitor yourself for your list of crutch words. Each time you catch yourself, start that part over. When you get up in front of your colleagues or that crowd, you'll have practiced without it and not using your crutch words will come more naturally.

Familiarize yourself with your crutch words. Write them down on a piece of paper and glance at it before you begin speaking. Just having a fresh reminder to not use them can mean the difference between a weak argument and a compelling one.

3. Practice Your Public Speaking

Practice makes perfect! There's a whole world of resources out there on public speaking, so take advantage. You can watch videos of TED Talk speakers such as Amy Cuddy, read guides on the topic, or even join public speaking clubs such as Toastmasters where you can practice in front of your peers who are all trying to improve, too.

Most importantly, keep speaking! Volunteer for speaking opportunities. Speak up in meetings. Practice your next business presentation. Actively giving yourself more chances to catch crutch words will help you stop using them over time. You'll sound more confident, persuasive, and come off as a more engaging speaker in no time.

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