Essential apps for a salesman, consultant and podcaster

What tools / services / apps / could @marcus67 not do his job without?

My role at Headscape can be divided fairly neatly into two roles: sales and consulting (that covers things like writing reviews, facilitating workshops, carrying out stakeholder interviews and the like).

Sales

Proposal writing

I use Pages for proposals because it generates considerably better looking documents than Word. Added to that, a proposal is (usually) a “one-way” item (delivered as a PDF) that’s not shared and amended. This is significant because Pages is rarely an app of choice for clients. So, for documents that are “final” – like a proposal – use whatever you like to generate them but if there’s going to be any back and forth like, say, on a contract you need to consider what the client’s likely to be using.

I remember commenting once on something Andy Clarke said about clients expecting him to have Word. He was saying that he felt that this was an unfair assumption on their part and I responded saying that it’s up to us – the supplier – to fit with the expectations of our clients on this particular point. I can’t think of a single project where there hasn’t been some sort of documentation being passed between us and our clients. Of course, if a client expected to share documents generated by some strange unknown technology then it would be reasonable to push back. But, MS Word hardly fits that billing.

So, my rule of thumb is: if you’re creating a document that has the slightest chance that it will be amended by the recipient, make sure both parties are using a tool that’s easy to share and amend. PDFs are not easy to share and amend. Word and Excel both are.

iWorks Pages
I use Pages for proposals because it generates considerably better looking documents than Word.

But, a word of warning (no pun intended!)… Both Pages and Word can be a pain when editing image heavy documents. Anyone who has tried to float images in Word using the “through” setting will know that a single pixel move to the left or slight re-size of an image can result in chaos. I.e. you just can’t get them to “sit” how you want them in the way you can in Pages. But, adding in a new page or section to a Pages document will drastically change the position of all your floating images. They look nice once they’re in position, but they don’t behave when you start moving them around. I guess that’s WYSIWYG for you.

I also use Numbers to create pricing tables (because, again, they look better than anything you can produce in Excel) and Pixelmator to manipulate any images I’m including.

Pixelmator
I use Pixelmator when manipulating images.

Sometimes I need to add a Gantt chart to a proposal. I don’t have anything on my Mac to create Gantts (though tools do exist, of course), but Headscape’s project managers would rather look after the creation of such things (they don’t want salesmen making promises we can’t keep!) so I just send them a request when I need one. Same goes for contracts.

Presentations

I use Keynote because, again, it’s better than PowerPoint. But, I do still need PowerPoint because I often receive important documents from clients, and other suppliers, in PowerPoint format.

Keynote
I use keynote because it is better than Powerpoint.

Tracking sales

I have to confess to being over-reliant on email, my notebook and my memory on this point. But, we do use Highrise and have a custom spreadsheet to keep track of sales activity.

Highrise
I have to confess to being over-reliant on email, my notebook and my memory on this point. But, we do use Highrise and have a custom spreadsheet to keep track of sales activity.

Consulting

Reviews and reports

Exactly the same applies as with contracts and proposals. If it’s a one-off like, say, and Expert Review then use what you like to create it. But anything where there’s going to be back and forth – like a scope – use something everyone’s got.

Stakeholder interviews

I know of some great recording software but I’ve never really got on with it so I tend to type real-time notes as I’m going along. It seems to provide a greater familiarity with what’s been discussed when I return to it later and have to trawl through a dozen interviews teasing out the salient points.

Workshops

My key tool in running workshops is the camera on my phone. The majority of lists and diagrams are created using pen and paper so photographing everything keeps a solid record of everything that’s been discussed.

Wireframes and prototypes

I don’t do a great deal of this sort of work leaving it to our more creative people, but over the years I have used pen/paper (still do), Balsamiq, Flairbuilder and, most recently, Axure (which is damn good).

Axure

Information hierarchies

Developing separate hierarchies (site structures) is something that rarely goes past the Post-it note stage these days as Prototyping tools such as Axure do the job of demoing page layout, functionality and site structure so well. However, I did used to often use Headscape’s CMS (with a vanilla front-end) to create hierarchies that were a) easy to follow (unlike spreadsheets) and b) could be any size (unlike boxes and arrows diagrams).

Videos

Occasionally I need to record a walkthrough of an IA or prototype or something like that. I’ve used Screenflow for this job for years and never seen any reason to change. I use Vimeo to publish video.

Screenflow
Occasionally I need to record a walkthrough of an IA or prototype or something like that and I use Screenflow for this job.

Podcast

Oh… and I forgot all about the podcast….

I use Logic Pro 9 – which is almost certainly overkill, but I’m familiar with it and it does the job very well – to record and edit the podcast. I use Audacity to convert to MP3 and iTunes to tag them.

Logic Pro
I use Logic Pro – which is almost certainly overkill, but I’m familiar with it and it does the job very well – to record and edit the podcast.

For general “every day” stuff I use Apple Mail (Paul would say I rely on it rather too much!), Safari, Transmit, Contacts and good-old-fashioned notebook and pen.

I was going to start this post saying that I don’t really rely on very many different apps for my job…. on reflection, I don’t think that’s true.

Headscape

Boagworld