My clients often ask me what systems I use to manage my day and my to-do list. What are the best business productivity tools for a road warrior salesperson? What are the best tools for a salesperson who works from home? I’ve written about my calendar, but I’m also often asked about my tools (what laptop, phone service, wifi hotspot, apps I use, etc.), so I thought it was time to put together a list I could share with my clients and readers.
So here they are–the best business productivity tools that I (with the help of my super techie, analytical husband, Shane) have found to date.
I like to get my money’s worth out of things, so I am not into always having the latest and greatest gadget if what I have still gets the job done. If the exact model I use is no longer available, I’ve listed the new version that is the closest to mine.
Check back often; I’ll keep adding to this list and updating as needed.
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My Home & Mobile Office
My husband and I live in Nashville, but we spend a significant amount of time on the road. I do about half of my work from my home office. The rest of the time, I’m working from a remote office–which could be a client’s office, a hotel room, an Airbnb, or even in our car during long road trips (I work while my husband drives). Here are some of my favorite tools for the office:
I do a lot of videoconferencing as well as hosting webinars for clients. Having an external webcam that sits on your monitor gives a much more professional look than using the one built-in to your laptop. The BRIO has great quality, works well with Macs or PCs, and can be very forgiving if your lighting situation is not optimal. If you are only using video, Logitech makes less expensive options that work well, too.
Note: For webinars, I typically use GoToMeeting, (but some of my clients prefer Zoom, so I use that as well). For our internal team meetings, we use Microsoft Teams (which comes with your Microsoft 365 subscription).
Lighting is important for good video. For internal team meetings, you can generally get good enough video just by making sure you have some light on your face and no light sources behind you (facing a window with a wall behind you is best). But if you are going to be doing video sales calls, hosting webinars, or recording videos to post online, it’s important to look professional and be well-lit. I use this inexpensive ring light from Neewer to make sure my face is well lit for those occasions.
The MacBook Air is great, too–but I opted for more power for running multiple monitors (see below) and having lots of programs open at the same time.
I’ve been able to get around four years of use out of MacBooks; I upgraded to my latest (MacBook Pro 13-inch with no Touchbar) in 2017. The 13-inch model is significantly less expensive than the 15 or 16-inch model, and I think it’s a lot more portable (any larger than a 13 is tough to use on a plane or in the passenger seat of a car).
Note: At our company, Skillway, we let team members decide if they would rather use a Mac or a PC. For those who prefer PC/Windows, we provide a Microsoft Surface Book 2.
For most phone calls (prospecting, coaching calls, etc.), I use a wired headset (they sound more professional than wireless, and I don’t have to worry about running out of battery). But for videoconferencing and webinars, I use the AirPods Pro. They can pair wirelessly with my Macbook, and they look a lot cleaner and less distracting on camera.
I am a huge fan of using multiple monitors! There have been countless studies that show how this increases productivity. Whenever I’m in my office, I always use two monitors so I can always have my calendar open (I live by my calendar) on one screen, and use the other for the task I’m working on (taking notes, my CRM, etc.).
You can spend thousands on huge high-resolution monitors (like the Apple ones), but mine are inexpensive and plenty big enough for me. And you don’t need a crazy high resolution for a CRM or checking email.
Note: If your computer doesn’t have two video outputs, you may need an adapter to connect to more than one monitor. Here’s the one I use.
I ditched the mouse years ago. I recommend switching to the trackpad and then take the time to learn Apple’s gestures, and your productivity will increase. As a side benefit, you’ll feel more comfortable using your laptop, since its built-in trackpad will mirror what you are using at your desk.
I don’t have an office line; I need to be able to work from anywhere, so I always use my cell phone with my wired headset (see above). I’ve used Android phones in the past, but we’re an Apple household (MacBooks, iPads, Apple TV) so it’s nice to have everything working together.
Also, I use Sprint. Different carriers may have better service where you live – but I think Sprint still has the best/ cheapest unlimited plans on the market (I routinely use over 5,000 minutes per month).
I use my iPad for quick meetings (lunch, coffee, etc.) when I need to take notes and access the internet, but don’t want to bring my laptop along. And when I’m traveling, I use Duet Display, a cool program that lets me plug my iPad into my computer and use it as a 2nd monitor!
When traveling from state to state, I often set up my mobile office in my vehicle and do coaching and client calls while my husband drives. A good cell phone booster will add a few bars to your signal and cut down on dropped calls. I recommend upgrading to this antenna, too.
I need quick internet access no matter where I go. I’ve tried a few different ones (Ting is another good option for hotspots), but I’m loving my Karma Go. It’s tiny, very fast, and their plan is crazy simple: you buy blocks of data that never expire, and then you only pay for what you use. So if you have a month when you don’t travel or need your hotspot, then you won’t have any costs that month (Update: Now Karma also has monthly data subscription plans).
They’ve also created an ingenious way to let friends (or even strangers!) securely connect to your hotspot while you’re out and about—it doesn’t use up any of your data plan, and you get additional free data for spreading the love (hence the Karma name). Use my link to get a $10 credit.
My Website & Social Media Tools
Having a professional online presence is vital. My husband built this blog/website with WordPress. I write the blog posts, then he edits them and makes them pretty before posting them. Everything you see on the social media sites (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) is 100% from me. Here are some of the tools we use to manage the website/blog, my email list, and my social media accounts:
SiteGround is a great option for hosting your website or blog, especially if you’re going to create a WordPress site like mine. I’ve used other sites, and SiteGround just seems to be the most stable and professional (and Shane loves their customer support)! I also feel like they are better equipped to grow with you as your business grows.
SiteGround has plans for under $4 per month if you’re just getting started (which goes up to $11.95/MO after the first year), and they make it easy to scale up as you get more traffic. I use the GoGeek plan (currently at $11.95/MO the first year, $34.95/MO after that) mostly because of the geeky advanced features.
Check them out with this link to see their current prices and let them know I sent you.
I use Buffer to manage all of my Linked In, Facebook, and Twitter posts. You can add your posts whenever you think of them, and Buffer spreads them out and posts them according to a schedule you set up. I have the $10 a month plan so I can schedule my posts once a month and not just ten at a time with the free version.
There are a lot of great tools out there for sending emails and newsletters, and there are pros and cons to each. Constant Contact has a great editor and lots of templates to get yours started (my readers get a $75 credit when you signup here). I also use their EventSpot service for managing meetings and training events where I need to sell tickets.
Software & Apps
Here are some of the software, apps, and services we use to keep life and business running smoothly. This is probably the section that will change the most, so check back often!
Now that my company has grown, we needed a more robust way to store and share all of our internal documents. Box is a much more secure, industrial-strength option for storing, editing, and sharing your files when you have multiple team members (especially when they are spread around geographically). And we feel good knowing we have all our stuff on a platform that can easily grow with us.
We use the unlimited Business plan, but they have several plans, starting with the individual plan that includes 10GB of storage for free.
Even though Box is our standard at Skillway, Dropbox has become such an industry standard for sharing and storing files in the cloud that I often use it to quickly share with clients or other partners who are more familiar with it and already have an account.
We use FreshBooks for invoicing. It’s super-easy to use and allows you to set up reoccurring invoices that your customers can pay via check, credit card, PayPal, or bank transfer. Invoices are cloud-based and sent via emails, and you can set it up to send out friendly reminders if your clients don’t pay their invoices on time.
They give you a 30-day free trial to try it out—and if you use my link, you’ll get another free month if you decide to upgrade to a paid plan.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a zillionaire or just getting started; I believe everyone needs to operate their personal (and business!) finances on a monthly budget. Creating and sticking to a monthly budget is of particular importance for salespeople (whose income can vary considerably from month to month). YNAB even works for small businesses – no need for QuickBooks. We have a personal budget and a separate budget setup for our business. This allows me and Shane to run our business with the same debt-free, zero-based budget philosophy that we use for our personal finances.
YNAB is the easiest way to create a new budget every month, and then easily track your spending and income with your cell phone, so you can always see how you’re doing (and make better spending decisions on the fly).
YNAB will let you try the whole system for free for 34 days (so you can run through a whole month+) – and if you use my referral link, you’ll get an additional month for free if you decide to sign up.
With the constant security breaches in the news these days, it’s critical that every website you use has a different password. And the most secure passwords are really long ones – but how can anyone remember all that stuff? You need a password manager!
I was reluctant to use a password manager (too techie!), but my husband did a bunch of research and finally convinced me that we needed to start using 1Password. I’m so glad we did! It automatically creates unique, secure passwords for all my sites, and it integrates with my internet browser, iPhone, and iPad, so I never have to remember (or type in) a password again!
Make sure your computer gets backed up (to the cloud) every night, so you don’t lose data in the case of a fire or hardware failure. This is especially crucial if you are using a laptop that could get lost or stolen.
Note: I use a different service that does not seem to be taking any new clients anymore – so I am recommending Carbonite, which gets rave reviews.