How to Work Remotely in Sales

Working in sales is tough enough without having to also work remotely from your main office. You may feel isolated. You may feel out of the loop when key company decisions or announcements are made. You may worry if your manager likes you or not. Soon, panic may take over, and your sales will plunge.

However, many salespeople find themselves working these days remotely – either in coworking spaces like WeWork and Regus or in most cases, from their homes.

The number of employees working remotely is growing. According to Flexjobs’ report on “The State of the Remote Job Marketplace,” nearly 4 million U.S. employees, or about 3% of the U.S. workforce is now working from home at least half the time, compared to 1.8 million in 2005.

And Sales is one of the top 7 fields with the most remote jobs, according to the report

There is an ongoing debate on whether employees should be allowed to work remotely or not. One argument is that all employees should work in a central location to help create collaboration and an esprit de corps among employees. For example, there are times when salespeople need to engage in ad hoc conversations or buy-in to new initiatives that are hard to create when employees are working remotely.

And while most employers can undoubtedly watch your performance on company-own laptops and phones, and review your orders and pipeline, many still feel it’s better to keep a watchful eye on you in the office.

But many companies – especially start-ups – have no choice but to have you work from home because they can’t afford to lease a large office space. With bootstrapped budgets, many of these companies are a willing gamble and have salespeople work from their residences.

Further driving the trend to have salespeople work remotely is the difficulty of finding and keeping good talent. While companies in large urban areas usually don’t have problems finding and attracting good salespeople, companies in rural areas may have no choice but to offer remote positions.

And finally, many companies, both small and large, prefer having salespeople work remotely in defined territories to save on travel expenses when visiting important customers or prospects, or attending trade shows.

I’ve worked in both the central office and my home. I was given a chance to work remotely in one of my last jobs, but I turned down the offer because I was afraid that I couldn’t do well in my career, and I felt I would miss out on all the office gossip and information.

However, that became a moot point when my employer, which was based in Chicago, closed our location and I was given a choice – move to Chicago and freeze my butt off, look for a new job, or work remotely from my home.

I chose the latter.

In hindsight, I now regretted not working remotely from home when I was given a chance. Yes, at first, I was a little reluctant because I was afraid there would be too many distractions, or my laptop wouldn’t work correctly, or my phone line tied to my direct work number would drop inbound calls. But those fears soon went away, and I quickly adjusted.

I found that I was more productive working from home than in the office. I was less stressful. I also appreciated having more free time without fighting traffic while commuting to and from work. And finally, I avoided getting drawn into office politics.

But if you are hired or forced to work remotely, how can you succeed in sales and make a good living?

Here are some tips –

1). Dress like you’re going to work. Yes, I know that sounds stupid. You may think it’s OK to work in your pajamas, underwear, robe or whatever, but trust me; you will soon regret it. If you dress like a bum, you’re going to feel like a bum. Your attitude towards your work, clients and prospects will go downhill. Yes, you can get away from not wearing shoes, or for women, not putting on makeup.

But don’t allow the convenience of working from home reduce your professionalism. On the contrary, the further away you are from your main office, the more professional you must become if you want to be successful and keep your job.

2). Get the hell out of the house. Staying all day indoors is boring. Sure, you can watch TV or videos online, but you need to get out for at least 30 minutes or so to clear your head, or else you will not be functional for the rest of the day. Take a short walk or run an errand. Maybe take a short break at your favorite local coffee shop. Or better yet, have lunch with friends or clients. But whatever you do, don’t be stuck using the phone of the computer or on the phone all day. Get out.

3). Keep a regular work schedule. It’s easy to fall out of your work routine while working remotely from your home. You may crawl out of your bed and walk straight down to your home office and start working without eating breakfast, drinking coffee, or brushing your teeth. You may tell yourself that you can make up for it later in the morning.

But I wouldn’t recommend it.

Soon, your work at home will bleed into your home life, and your entire life will be disrupted. At the same time, when 5:00 or so rolls around, you need to leave work behind. Of course, I know sometimes you must put in an extra hour or so. But the biggest mistake I made while working from home is that I ended up burning myself out by working too many hours in the evening without taking a break.

Don’t make that mistake.

4). Remove any distractions. Sometimes you may have no choice but to work in your living room, dining room or even or kitchen. Not all of us have the luxury of living in large homes where you can convert a room into an office. But if you can afford to create a home office, do so. In using the long way, you will benefit from the distractions that we all deal with at home. And if you are lucky enough to have a home office, remove anything that could distract you – that includes the TV, radio, or anything that could prevent you from working.

5). Stay in touch with your manager and co-workers daily. Working remotely can be lonely. That’s why it’s important to stay in touch with your manager and co-workers daily. While your manager may not always be accessible, but you need to insist that you have at least one meeting per week to review your performance, receive updated company information, and make sure your sales are on track. Also, share your calendar with your manager and others so that you know when they are accessible for conversations.

It’s also important to stay in touch with your co-workers too. I know that they, like you, are busy trying to make their numbers, but a quick phone call (not just email or text) can help you gauge what’s happening at the home office.

6). Meet your manager in person at least once a month or quarter. You can do this by either traveling to your company’s main office or by inviting your manager to stop by. If your house is a total mess, meet your manager at his hotel or local coffee shop. It’s essential to make face time with your manager to ensure that both of you are on the same page.

7). Use the right tools. That means making sure you are using a headset and have stable phone and internet connections.  It also wouldn’t hurt to have Skype for conference calls.

8). Are you still living at home with your Mom? If the answer is no, then don’t expect her to clean up your office area. That’s your job. Like any office, make sure office files and information are within arm’s reach, so you don’t waste your time going through your bedroom closet finding critical data right before important meetings.

Working remotely isn’t for everyone. While most salespeople must have the discipline and drive to achieve or exceed their quotas, not everyone is cut out to work alone.  I hope my suggestions will help you.

Credits: Second Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash
and the Third Photo by  rawpixel on Unsplash

Special Note: If you like this post, please check out my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

Why are Start-ups Afraid to Publish their Phone Numbers?

One of the biggest challenges for salespeople is trying to contact start-ups. Why? Because many start-ups don’t publish their company phone numbers – if they have them at all.

But even those who do have phone numbers, they are very reluctant to put them on their websites.

There are two significant reasons for this

First, they don’t have the resources or time to answer the phone. Yes, most start-ups are bootstrapping it, and the idea of devoting precious human resources answering phones bothers them. And for a good reason – they are busy developing and fine-tuning their product or service offerings, and they don’t want to be disturbed by what they consider to be pesky salespeople.

And second, they think using phones is so passé in the internet age. Their attitude is that sending emails, using text messages or online chats are better than using the phone. After all, why deal with bothersome customers or prospects when responding to an email or chat will do. With email or chats, the thinking goes, you can keep track of correspondence.

But by not publishing phone numbers, start-ups are only hurting themselves by cutting their profits.

Here’s why –

First, credibility. When you are starting out with little or no name recognition, your biggest selling point is credibility. Without publishing your phone number on your site, many potential customers may be afraid or uncomfortable contacting you. And you may end up turning away potential customers who wouldn’t even call you but feel that you too shady to deal with if your phone number isn’t on your site. In an age when cybersecurity awareness is at an all-time high, credibility can make or break your business.

Second, knowledge. Having a phone and making it easier for customers and potential clients to contact you early will give you a better idea of the viability of your product or service before you hit the market big time. Many start-ups began their business with one idea, but then slowly decided to move to a new direction based on ideas and suggestions from clients.

Third, support. Not everyone feels comfortable or has the time to send emails, texts or use online chats. Sometimes people like doing things the old fashion way by making phone calls. They like the assurance there is a real live person on the other line who cares and hopefully will help them.

And finally, intelligence. Good salespeople don’t spam and ham their way into a start-up. Most take the time to do their research to determine if a start-up would be a good fit for their products and services. A good salesperson realizes that he’s not just selling you a product or service – but developing what hopefully will be an excellent long-term relationship with repeat sales and referrals. To completely block all salespeople out because of a few jerks is a bad idea. Publish your phone number. Take some time and risk to listen to what salespeople have to offer. You may be surprised by what they have to say.

In summary, yes, you will always receive cold calls from salespeople like me. That’s a given. But you can still screen your inbound calls from people you don’t want to speak to over the phone. By not publishing your phone number, you lose more than you will gain by not being more readily available to your clients, potential buyers, and salespeople who could help you.

Note: If you like this post, please read my book  — Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

How to Turn Your Idea Into a Sales Machine (workshop)

If you live in the Washington, D.C. area, I want to encourage you to attend my friend’s workshop on “How to Turn Your Idea Into a Sales Machine.”

Richard Rothstein, a sales consultant, will be conducting the workshops twice next week. The first all-day workshop will be on Tuesday, July 24th from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. EST. The next workshop will be held on Saturday, July 28th from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. EST. Both workshops will be held at 1776, 1133 15th Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20005. View Map

The registration fee for either workshop is $500.00. The seminar is an excellent investment for any entrepreneur or start-up owner who is planning to start selling his products or services soon. It’s one thing to have a great idea and product or service; however, it quite another to begin selling it in the open market. Richard can help guide you through the pitfalls and challenges that all new business owners face in today’s hectic and fast-paced sales environment. I would encourage you to attend.

What Salespeople Should Expect at a Start-up

start upsUnless you are lucky or have connections, chances are that after you graduate from college, you will probably not work at a mid-size or major corporation. Your first sales job will probably be at a start-up.

Why a start-up? Because start-ups are hungry – if not desperate – for salespeople. And depending on the industry or product line, you could earn a decent compensation package. But even if the compensation package is bad, you could gain experience, contacts and sales stats that you could leverage later for better opportunities.

Sure, you may have your eye on the big prize – a larger company. You have dreams of large paychecks, above average benefits, a 401K plan (with matching contributions from your employer), and maybe even a 2 or 3-week vacation your first year. But most sales managers at major companies would prefer hiring someone with more experience and skills than a college graduate.

Consider a start-up to be your training ground before you hit the big leagues.

But what can you expect while working at a start-up?

1). Expect to work your ass off

If you are seeking a 9 to 5 job, forget it. At a start-up, expect to work 50 to 60 hours per week. That’s a given. You will find quickly that those who try to work normal hours are not going to survive very long. And if your base salary is low, you better work long hours if you want to make up the difference in your commission or bonus package.

2). Expect high turnover and a lot of new hires

Depending on how successful your start-up becomes, expect a lot of turnover in the sales team and a lot of new hires along the way. Start-up owners constantly experiment with a different set sales managers and salespeople before they find the right mix.

3). Expect a lot of changes in your compensation package

If you are one of the lucky few to get hired in a sales position in the early stages of a start-up, you will probably find yourself striking gold in a lot of virgin sales territories or prospects – at least in the very beginning. Your sales territory will probably be enormous. Your biggest headache won’t be the number of prospects or leads you’re working on, but properly managing your time and setting priorities on which key prospects or leads to target first.

However, if your start-up is successful, you will probably see a huge number of new faces coming onboard quickly. That means territories will be divided more often, and you may find yourself working in a more competitive sales environment. Don’t be surprised if your base salary changes (up or down). Don’t be surprised if your quotas change (up or down). Don’t be surprised if you commission or bonus structure changes (up or down).

In short, don’t be surprised if your compensation package goes on a rollercoaster ride until the hiring spree begins to slow down, and upper management has a better idea of how to project quotas and measure sales success.

4). Expect to wear a lot of hats

So, you think you’re being hired as a salesperson only. Wrong.

Depending on your background and skill sets, you may find yourself wearing a lot of hats in the beginning before you completely immerse yourself in sales.

Did you write for your school newspaper? Did you take some writing courses in college?

Congratulations – besides selling, you are now the new blogger.

Did you take some marketing courses in college? Did you read some business books?

Great – besides selling, you will also be the new marketing manager until they can either hire a permanent marketing manager or outsource the work.

Did you take some online courses on how to code? You developed some websites for your friends in your spare time.

Fantastic – besides selling, you are now the new website designer.

Do you expect to get paid more for all extra skill sets? Not likely. Well, at least not for a while.

5).  Expect a lot of stress and anxiety

Long hours. Bad diet. Little or no social life. Little or no health or dental insurance.

All this adds up to a lot of stress and anxiety.

And that’s just for starters.

Don’t be surprised if the owner or managers are yelling at each other.

Don’t be surprised if your co-workers are screaming at each other.

Don’t be surprised if you’re yelling at someone.

The stress and anxiety level are also excessive because start-ups frequently change their products and services. That’s understandable. As start-ups begin doing business with clients, they will evaluate the pros and cons of their offers, and adjust along the way. In addition, they may change sales and marketing tactics.

It comes with the territory.

selling at a start-up6). Expect selling to be difficult

Selling is always tough – no matter where you work. But at a start-up, your challenges will be higher because of the following –

Working for a company with little name recognition in the marketplace.

Working with a crappy CRM that’s not very reliable or doesn’t have all the bells and whistles like Salesforce.com.

Working in an open environment where you have little or no privacy. (Please read my post on Open Space Offices – Good or Bad Idea?).  Yes, it’s true that many companies these days, including large corporations, are going with the open space trend. But at a start-up, you probably are not going to have a lot of office space. As a result, the noise level will be louder, and you may have a difficult time concentrating. (For example, I once worked at a start-up where I always had someone facing me every day. Very nerve-racking).

Working with little or no experience IT support. If your laptop or phone suddenly doesn’t work, you may be pretty much screwed for a couple of days.

Working with little or no marketing help. Some start-ups may outsource their marketing assignments for a while, but you won’t have anyone on site to help you generate leads, and clearly develop your company’s brand.

7). Expect culture to sometimes turn into a cult

Some start-ups love to glamorize their culture with weekly company lunches, Friday happy hours, company mottoes, and mascots. But underneath that veneer of happiness and camaraderie could be a cult in the making.

(I once worked for a start-up where the motto was “play nice.” But it was anything but nice – a strange young woman kept giving me the evil eye and cold shoulder all the time. To this day I have no idea why she was angry at me. At the same company, a salesperson screwed me over royalty when she left and transferred most of her good accounts to two of her friends. I ended up getting mostly terrible accounts from her. So much for “play nice.”)

Some start-up owners and sales managers love to play mind games or insist on forced group happiness. By keeping you extremely busy, you may be blind-sided by acute favoritism or financial problems. Don’t be so overworked that you don’t see the truth in front of you.

Stay in regular touch with friends and family. Maintain some familiar routines.

Never lose sight of your true self.

8). Expect little job security

You may be the top salesperson at your company, but if the company fails, it’s game over for you.

Many start-ups are created on a wing and a pray….and on maxed out credit cards, loans from friends and relatives, and iffy investments. That’s not to say that the start-up you are working for doesn’t have a great product or service to offer.

If there’s not enough revenue coming in, you could be going out.

We all must start somewhere. Start-ups offer a great opportunity to develop your sales skills, make contacts and hopefully get a steady paycheck.

Just make sure you are going in with the right expectations.

For more advice on working at a start-up, please check out these links –

“5 Things You Should Know before Working at a Startup” by Rikki Rogers

“9 Reasons Why it Sucks Working for a Startup” by Dana Severson

Note: If you like this post, please check out my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career

What Salespeople can learn from Girlboss

Girlboss(Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen Girlboss yet on Netflix, I recommend that you stop reading this post and watch the show first. Yes, Girlboss was recently canceled after one season, but it’s still worth viewing. At this writing, the program is still streaming on Netflix).

For those who haven’t seen Girlboss, here is a summary of the comedy program –

The show is roughly based on Sophia Amoruso’s autobiography GIRLBOSS.

(In fact, the producers want to make it clear upfront with this disclaimer – “What follows is a loose retelling of true events… Real loose.”)

The show depicts how Ms. Amoruso started her company Nasty Gal in 2006, which would become a California-based retailer specializing in young women’s fashion. She started her business while working as a security guard/host at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University. When not checking student IDs while sitting at the front desk, she worked on creating her company, which would eventually generate $23 million by 2011, according to Inc. Magazine

(Nasty Gal was purchased by the Boohoo Group earlier this year for $20 million).

Ms. Amoruso’s character’s name in the show is Sophia Marlowe (played by Britt Robertson). Ms. Marlowe is portrayed in this fictional account as a nasty gal herself. She likes to shoplift. She uses crass language. She has roller-coaster relationships with her father (played by Dean Norris), friends and various colleagues in her life. In her early 20’s, she is trying to find herself while struggling to pay her rent and keep her car running. Interested in vintage clothing, she soon discovers her calling and starts earning a living by selling clothing on eBay. Eventually, she quits her security position and launches her online store for fame and fortune.

What can salespeople learn from Girlboss? Here are my takeaways –

1). Follow your passion – Ms. Marlowe adores vintage clothing. But she loves working for herself more and being her own boss. Selling vintage clothing online appears to be her ticket to financial freedom. Ignoring negative comments from others, she proceeds with her goal.

In sales, many of us have a passion for selling. But we all face a lot of negativity on a daily basis. We deal with a barrage of rejections from clients, canceled appointments, unfair criticism from sales managers, and the list goes on.

What keeps us going is our passion to sell. But not just selling per se, but a love for the products and services that we offer our clients. To be successful, your passion has to come through. You have to love what you are selling as well as the industry you work in. If you don’t, then selling is just another job, and your clients and prospects will quickly see through your façade and drop you like a hot potato.

BTW, while you may think you can hide behind your façade in phone sales, many clients can pick up on the tone of your voice. They can tell if you are really excited about what you are doing, or if you are just going through the motions.

2). Read – Passion alone doesn’t help if you don’t read. Ms. Marlowe is smart enough to realize that. So she undertakes a self-study program by reading (and sometimes stealing) books on how to run a business.

Just because you have taken a few workshops or read some books about selling, doesn’t make you an expert. Learning how to sell, like any profession requires a disciplined and ongoing training program. Don’t like to read that much? OK, then watch the hundreds of free videos on YouTube or other sites. Listen to audiobook tapes. But always be learning.

team work3). You can’t do it alone – Annie, Ms. Marlowe’s best friend, has devoted a lot of time and energy helping Nasty Gal get off the ground. When Annie (played by Ellie Reed) asks to be hired as a full-time paid employee, Ms. Marlowe turns her down flat. But eventually, Ms. Marlowe realizes she can’t run the business alone and decides to hire Annie. She makes her decision not just based on friendship (which is not always the best way to hire people), but because she knows that Annie has the skills to take her business to the next level. Annie has been working in a women’s fashion store and was even given the green light for a managerial position. But Annie decides to forgo a safe job and take on a more risky one with a start-up. Through mutual respect and friendship, both these women are determined to succeed.

(With start-ups, your early hires shouldn’t always be those who offer technical or professional skills, but who share the same dream or vision you do).

Ms. Marlowe faces a similar dilemma when she tries to create her own website. While reading a book on website development, Ms. Marlowe struggles to learn all the coding she needs to master the set up her website. Soon, she begins to fear that she will not be able to launch her website in time to meet her financial obligations. However, Ms. Marlowe, admitting her shortcoming, grudgingly relents to Annie’s advice and accepts her decision to hire a professional web designer.

You don’t need a good friend to tell you what you already know. Instead, you need one like Annie who tells you what you need to know to be successful.

Surround yourself with friends and allies who will support you.

While some romanticize about being a lone wolf salesperson (who are usually defined as salespeople who go it alone, and reject the advice from others), in reality, many of us can’t make it on our own. For example, we need help from marketing, production, shipping, and others to be effective.

Selling is definitely a team effort. Never forget that.

4). Shit happens, so deal with it – Ms. Marlowe has to overcome a lot of obstacles along the way to launch her business. For example, fearing a bad review on eBay (which could hurt her business before she has a chance to expand), she literally drives like a madman and then runs to deliver a vintage wedding dress to a bride right before the wedding begins.

Haven’t we all had to go the extra mile sometimes to get a sale? Like coming to work earlier than usual to conduct an online tour for a client based in India, or shipping a product overnight at your expense to ensure it arrives on time.

In another scene, Ms. Marlowe’s competitors, jealous of her success and innovative ways of doing business, plot to take her down by having eBay deny her access. Undeterred, she not only launches her own website, and even finds a rental space to expand her business.

You will always have competitors. Ignore them. Just focus on doing the best job you can and your clients will follow you.

On a side note, I’m personally disappointed to see the show canceled. There are very few comedy or drama programs about the challenges of starting and running a business. While Girlboss is a fictionalized account of Ms. Amoruso’s efforts to launch Nasty Gal, the program and her book offer us lessons on how to be successful in sales.

To some critics, Ms. Marlowe comes across as brash, obnoxious, and narcissistic,  but it’s her persistence, resourcefulness, and street smarts that should be admired by anyone interested in starting a business or going into sales.

As Ms. Marlowe has demonstrated in Girlboss, starting a business isn’t for the fainthearted. And neither is it when pursuing a sales career.

To learn more about Girlboss, please check out these sites –

Girlboss Media
Girlboss, Netflix Official Site

Note: If you like this post, please read my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

Editorial credit: Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com for the top photo.

Recommend: DC Tech Meetup

DC Tech MeetupYou are new to the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and you would like to learn more about the start-up or tech community.

You are a bored salesperson who wants to work for a more innovative company than your current job.

You are a job seeker trying to find challenging work with a start-up or tech company.

You are a business owner who would like to gain free publicity about your company.

You are a hiring manager seeking new employees.

You are an entrepreneur trying to find ideas to create a new company.

Or, you are a patron of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library who took the wrong turn and found yourself listening to rapid-fire presentations. (Just kidding).

Seriously, if you fall in any one of the above categories, attending or speaking at the DC Tech Meetup may be your solution to your problems.

What is the DC Tech Meetup?

From the website –

“The DC Tech Meetup convenes technologists, entrepreneurs, investors and the broader innovation community regularly to learn and share. Each month, 400+ innovators gather to see demos, launch products and meet their future co-founders, partners, and funders.”

It is also one of the largest Meetups in the D.C. area, listing more than 16,700 members, Founded in 2011, the meetings are usually held once a month or so at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library (convenient to the Gallery Place Metro). (Locations may change, so please check the D.C. Meetup page).

UPDATE: Starting in March 2017, DC Tech Meetup is now meeting at The Howard Theatre on 620 T Street Northwest, Washington, DC. It’s only a couple of months from the Shaw-Howard University Metro Station.

(I’ve been a member for three years and try to attend on a regular basis).

To date, there have been 53 Meetups.

While the agenda has changed over the years, the meetings normally have 6 to 10 companies that give about 5-minute demos, with a Q&A session after each presentation. Sometimes a sponsor will also speak or a special guest will give a short presentation. Each meeting also begins with “10 Things You Need to Know about #DCTech” (which I enjoy listening to).

The major theme of each Meetup varies. Recent examples include “Women in Tech,” “Tech Inclusion,” “Virtual & Augmented Reality,” and “College Demos.”

Why should you attend and how can you benefit?

Let’s break this down from the attendee and speaker point of view.

start-up companies in Washington, D.C.Here are some tips for being a good Attendee

Whether you are new or a veteran to the D.C. start-up or tech scene, this Meetup is a great way to network. Don’t be shy. One of the best ways of networking at a large event like this is simply sitting next to someone, introduce yourself and shake hands. The last thing you want to do is sit by yourself staring at your Smartphone pretending that you’re too busy to speak to anyone. (Sorry, your secret is out). Really, no one is going to bite. This is a friendly crowd who share the same interests and passions you do. So why not talk?

Here are some tips on how to be a good attendee

1). Come early. The seats do fill up quickly.

2). Walk up and introduce yourself to one or two of the organizers. Sure, they may be busy getting things set-up, but shaking hands and thanking them for organizing this event will only take a minute. It takes a lot of time and effort to organize these events, so I’m sure they appreciate you thanking them.

From the website, here are the current organizers – DJ Saul (@DarienJay100), Brandon T. Luong (@BrandonTLuong),  Christopher Beene (@GoForTopherB), Jessica Ryan (@SirJesstheBrave),  Shana Glenzer (@ShanaGlenzer), and Zvi Band (@skeevis).

3). Sit near the front. You can see the demos better and you will have an easier time being selected if you have a question. (However, the organizers make a good effort of selecting people from the back of the room).

4). Bring business cards. You never know if you are going to meet someone who can help your career or offer you good advice.

5). Do your homework, especially if you are a job seeker. If you notice a company or two on the speaker list, check out their websites and LinkedIn profiles. Write down a couple of questions you may want to ask during the event. If the company appeals to you, try to meet with some of the employees at a local bar after the event (These days the after hour event is usually at Brick & Mortar on 918 F Street NW). You can also meet the employees in the back of the room after the presentations are done.

6). Be prepared to give your own pitch. Yes, you can give your own pitch during Open Mic – but for only 20 seconds. So plan ahead for what you are going to say.  The announcements include seeking work, available job openings, new websites or blogs to read, or upcoming meetings or events to attend.

7). Networking, like learning, should be a lifetime commitment. While attending a recent Tech Meetup, I met four students who were taking courses from General Assembly. Their instructor required them to attend one DC Tech Meetup to learn more about the tech community. Only one? Look, if you want to stay current or just meet new people, attending only one Meetup isn’t going to cut it. Sure, you may think you have a secure job and several connections. But then one day your company gets acquired, or your manager is fired, or you go through the classic department reorg, and then suddenly you’re out of the street. Don’t make attending networking events a one time deal. Make it a lifetime commitment. Because the next person you meet could be your lifeline to a new job or a better opportunity.

For more advice about networking at events, please check out these links –

“Meetup Tips That’ll Have you Networking like an Expert” by Cori Morris

“Use Meetup to Start a Networking Group, Even if You’re Unemployed” by Alan Henry

D.C. TechHere are some tips about being a good Speaker

1). Know the ground rules and follow them. For example, each presentation is no more than five (5) minutes long.

2). Dress to impress. Yes, I know that in the start-up and tech world, the casual or grunge look is commonplace, but when giving a presentation before your peers, you may want to dress more professionally. Maybe it’s me, but I tend to listen more acutely when someone is sharply dressed. In my mind, they are signaling that they want to be taken seriously. (BTW, occasionally investors do sit in the audience. You may have a great product or service, but if you looked like you just rolled out of bed, your presentation may fall on deaf ears).

If you don’t have the money to buy good threads, invest in T-shirts with your company’s name and logo. This will keep your company’s name upfront while speaking, and give an esprit de corps vibe about your company.

(For example, all the employees from TrackMaven wore their company T-shirts during the DC Tech Meetup #26: Hacks, Code and Creative. They all stood out from the rest of the crowd. At one point, they cheered their one of their employees while he was giving a demo).

3). Know your audience. Most people sitting in the audience have had a long day. Working 50 plus hours a week or fighting long commutes, they are tired but still willing to take time from their evenings to listen to you. So please, don’t be boring. It’s not about you, it’s about them. No one wants to hear war stories of you toiling away for hours in your parent’s basement, trying to acquire investors or avoiding bill collectors. The best demos I’ve seen are sprinkled with humor, offering lively visual presentations, and just enough information wanting people to learn more. The two most recent good examples of presentations that stick out in my mind were conducted by Carey Anne Nadeau with Open Data Nation and Kate Glantz with Heartful.ly. (They both spoke at the DC Tech Meetup #48: Women in Tech Edition).

So if you love what you are doing, make sure you share that passion with your audience.

4). If you are having difficulty coming up with a good short pitch or demo, try to answer the following questions –

Why did you start your company?

What pain points or problems are you trying to solve?

Who are your target customers?

What is your business model?

How does your service or product work?

Why should anyone care?

5). Be prepared to answer some tough questions. While everyone is civil at the Tech Meetup, I’ve heard some challenging questions in the past. Remember – your audience may include investors, or your next great employee waiting to be hired by you. If you don’t feel you can handle difficult questions, make sure you have a back-up on the stage to help you.

For example, I once attended a workshop where Senator John McCain (R-AZ) was speaking. (This was long before he ran for president). When faced with a difficult question, he asked one of his aides, who he called “his brains”, to step forward and answer it for him.

No one expects you to know all the answers. So having a little help on the stage doesn’t hurt.

6). Don’t hesitate to announce job openings at your company. Save that announcement at the end of your presentation, but it doesn’t hurt to let everyone know you are hiring. Remember – if someone is a regular attendee at the Tech Meetup, that’s a person who takes the industry seriously and maybe a good fit for your company.

7). If you are unsure how to give a good presentation, start by becoming a regular attendee of Tech Meetup. Believe me, after going to a few events, you will pick up pointers on what’s effective or what’s not when speaking. I’ve gone to enough Tech Meetups and start-up pitches in my career that I can predict within the first two (2) or three (3) minutes of a presentation which companies have a good idea and which ones need to go back to the drawing board.

8). Give away free samples or swag. If you have free samples or swag to give away, announce it at the end of your presentation. Invite people to stop by after the end of all the presentations to pick up what you have to offer. For example, GateKeeper gave away free their security lock on a first come, first serve basis after the DC Tech Meetup # 36: Demos, Demos, Demos. Or better yet, set up a small display table of your free samples, swag, or marketing literature. (However, make sure you get permission from the organizers before you do this. Display tables were set up during the DC Tech Meetup #43: Virtual & Augmented Reality Edition, but that may have been an exception to the rule).

Or, you may want to follow Pendo’s example. As a sponsor, besides giving a short presentation, the company also gave away free Georgetown cupcakes at the end of the DC Tech Meetup #48: Women in Tech Edition.

As a speaker, you are following in some big footsteps. Previous presenters have included Framebridge, Aquicore, Encore Alert (which was recently acquired by Meltwater), FiscalNote, Social Radar, Social Tables, and Quorum.

For more advice about speaking, please check out these links –

“7 Tips for Giving the Best Tech Talks at Meetups” by Katie Richard

“Why You Should Speak at Meetups and Conferences” by Michał Śliwoń

So what do you think? If you feel that attending or speaking at the DC Tech Meetup is worth your time, please go. You never know what you can learn or who you will meet that could help your career.

Note: If you like my post, please read my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

Top photo is from Gil C / Shutterstock.com