Tuesday, June 12th, 2012 .

uber_conference

Have you ever been stuck on hold waiting for the organizer of a conference call to join? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could do something or communicate with others also waiting on the call to start?  Fear not, as ÜberConference makes the waiting more bearable and even productive by our latest feature, ÜberChat.

When viewing a call in ÜberConference, you can see who is going to be in the call and who is waiting before the conference starts.  You can click around on user profiles to pass the time or learn more about the people on the call.  And now you can send instant messages, like “Hey, when the heck is this call going to start?!?” to others in the call that are viewing the conference online.  Its also really helpful once the call starts as well, so now you can share links, paste in a simple agenda, or pose questions to the other people viewing the ÜberConference without interrupting the flow of the call.  Currently ÜberChat is only available during the call, but we will soon have a way to view the chat record through the call summary. To access this feature while in anÜberConference, click the chat button along the bottom control panel.

Friday, March 21st, 2014 .

“The jungle is dark, but it is full of diamonds, Willy.”

-from ‘The Death of a Salesman’ by Arthur Miller

And that is the problem salespeople have had for years and years and years: the jungle is dark but it is full of diamonds.  There are sales out there to be made.  People, businesses, organizations, families — they need the things salesmen sell.  The problem is the jungle was dark, and finding the customers who need or want to buy what you are selling is time-consuming, wasteful and exasperating.

My first job straight out of college I was in sales. I sold dictation equipment for Lanier.  It was a grind.  I’d walk the streets of San Francisco — my territory was from the point where Market Street and California Street meet and extended as a triangle all the way to Van Ness.  This was old-fashioned knocking on doors selling.  I had virtually no information about any prospect and would try to find a picture on a desk or trophy on the wall to find something we had in common.  It rarely worked.  How great would it have been to have the LinkedIn profile of the guy I was pitching?  Where he went to school, where he used to work, etc?  Or what connections we had in common!

When I’d stay in the office to cold call, that was it…COLD.  Blindly dialing businesses.  Ouch.

Everyone who has ever worked in sales immediately recognizes this scene from “Glengarry Glen Ross.”

That was sales preparation in those days: here are the leads, now go out there and make some calls and close some sales.

It was a remarkably frustrating and inefficient system.  All I knew about these “leads” was a name, a business and a phone number.

This has begun to change dramatically in recent years.  A number of cloud-based software packages have emerged that significantly increase the amount of data a salesperson can access from almost anywhere about customers and potentials customers.

Knowing more about my leads, as I do today…boom!  Success.  And I don’t need to be in the office tied to some proprietary database to do this…it’s all in the cloud.  I’d rather do it from home in my pajamas anyway, and now I can.

Salesmen are now armed with enormous amounts of information.  They have access to prior purchases with the company (great for upsells, renewals, etc), complaints from the customers (Zendesk), and basically every interaction anybody in the company has ever had with a prospect or existing customer (Salesforce).

They also have the ability to work from anywhere, 24/7, and appear as professional as if they were sitting in their office, thanks to all the cloud-based information and tools.

My frustrating experiences in sales informed a lot of the product decisions we made early on in designing our company’s teleconferencing product: UberConference. UberConference makes great sales calls possible in four ways:

1. We make it easy for a potential customer to get on a call (no PINs).  The easiest way to lose a potential customer is to provide them with even the smallest barrier to communicating with me.  PINs are a potential barrier.  That’s why I insisted we not require them in UberConference.
2. You won’t waste everybody’s first 15 minutes figuring out who just joined the call (visual).  We provide on-screen updates so you know who is there as soon as they sign on.  No need to reintroduce yourself each time a new caller signs on.
3. You know who’s talking at any point: is it the IT guy or the finance guy? That may not only be helpful to know, it could be critical in closing a sale.
4. You get a rich UberProfile on each caller.  You can see their LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ accounts and get an idea of who the person is to whom you are speaking.  This could prove to be crucial in the trust-building phase of a sales relationship.  The more you know and understand about your customer, the better you can serve them… and sell to them.

I lasted only one year in sales.  I realized it was too hard for me so I went back to school to get my MBA and then to law school to hide for a longer time.   Had I had these tools I may have stayed in sales.  Thank God they didn’t have them back then!

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014 .

The New Year brings out a time for nostalgia and innovation. As pioneers on the timeline of history, we continually look backward to create the ‘new’ going forward. Creativity (and some clever failures) have led from the railroad to the jetway, the cave dwelling to the cottage, and the telegraph to the telephone.

Ondi Timoner and the team at A Total Disruption published an article in the Huffington Post about our own disruptive path at UberConference in a high-level interview with CEO Craig Walker. As Ondi cites in the article, “It’s time we hop forward a few decades forward and do business better by embracing the disruptive innovation in this arena.”

We only get one opportunity to make the world a better place in one small way. Our hope this year is that UberConference continues to facilitate better team conversations and forge stronger bonds in your own area. Every minute spent speaking together as colleagues is valuable. Especially as the modern workplace scatters us across the globe, we hope we’re able to help you connect with your team more effectively. Happy New Year!

Monday, July 14th, 2014 .

shelf

There’s a powerful and remarkable management tool available to you right now. It’s in your pocket, just sitting there getting covered with lint and scratched up by your house keys.

It’s your smartphone.

And what’s even better, you can run your business without even being in the office.

How do I know?  We do it at Firespotter Labs.  Our company has launched two major products (NoshList, a restaurant seating app, and UberConference, a conference calling app) and are about to launch another product (more on that later). And most days, we rarely have a full complement of engineers, designers, and management in the office.  In fact, two days a week everyone works remotely.

There is a distinctly practical reason for this: not being in the office prevents meetings. There is nothing intrinsically evil with meetings. Sometimes, we need to get physically get together to go over where we are on projects, build group understanding and consensus on how to move forward, and to encourage personal camaraderie and a sense of teamwork.

But meetings also take up time.  Time that is diverted from working on our products.  We have found that a sometimes remote workforce that can quickly assemble in our offices is the most effective way for us to manage our company.

Here are the four key tools accessible on your smartphone that can help you  manage a staff while being mobile:

1. Use cloud-based apps for documents.  We use Google Docs for documents and spreadsheets and Dropbox and Box for sharing documents. You can fully control who has access to these documents, and who has edit privileges.  Google Docs allows us to share documents immediately without email.

2. Use a project management app.  We use Asana.  Tasks are posted, deadlines assigned, and the person responsible is listed.  Everyone knows can see what everyone else is working on and when it is due.

3. Use a chat or messaging app.  We use Gchat.  Even in the office — which is an open office with employees sitting at stations on long tables — we use Gchat to communicate with each other individually with requests, questions, etc.

4. Use a conference call app.  For obvious reasons, we use our own product, UberConference.  We conference with each other many times every day– linking each other on calls, many times with employees spread all over the country — to touch base on particular issues or to hold meetings.  It is our intimacy with the needs of businesses in conference calling applications that drives our design of this product.

All of these tools are accessible from your smartphone. You can be anywhere and with your smartphone you can use these tools to effectively manage your staff and move your business forward. Especially with remote teams in different cities, it’s the future of work.

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014 .

YouTube sensation Scott Bradlee & Postmodern Jukebox have tackled a new challenge – bringing Alex Cornell’s hit “I’m On Hold” to our users in a new way. In September 2012, one of our co-founders, Alex Cornell, wrote our featured UberConference hold song, aptly titled “I’m On Hold”. The song quickly resonated with our customers and appeared in publications all over the web ranging from TechCrunch to Fast Company to the Wall Street Journal. We asked arranging genius, Scott Bradlee, to rework the song in as many styles possible. The results of their efforts completely surpassed our expectations, and — we hope — will end hold waiting boredom once and for all.

Proving that everything new can be old again, pianist Scott Bradlee has become a viral pop sensation after creating a series of clips for YouTube that finds him and his ad hoc group Postmodern Jukebox reworking 21st century pop hits in a variety of vintage styles — transforming Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop” into a ’50s-style doo wop number, giving Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” a ’20s jazz accent, crossing Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” with Irish folk music, and showing how Ke$ha’s “Die Young” would work as a classic country tune.

As Bradlee wrote on his website, “My goal with Postmodern Jukebox is to get my audience to think of songs not as rigid, ephemeral objects, but like malleable globs of Silly Putty. Songs can be twisted, shaped, and altered without losing their identities — just as we grow, age, and expire without losing ours.” When not busy with his Postmodern Jukebox sessions and live appearances, Bradlee also served as musical director for the “immersive theater” project Sleep No More.

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