LinkedIn Tips for Manufacturers (Part 2)
Annette Carroll 08.03.2020
Recently I saw a piece of information shared by the Content Marketing Institute that is very provocative and relevant to today’s sales and marketing environment: “Eighty percent of the sales cycle now takes place in digital or remote settings, according to Forrester.” This means we must find innovative and meaningful virtual ways to discover and reach out to sales prospects and cultivate relationships with them. As the COVID-19 pandemic has famously done for a variety of life circumstances, our feet are being put to the fire in terms of how quickly we ramp up these efforts. We don’t have the luxury of time to achieve what will likely be a substantial shift for many manufacturing organizations.
In this follow-up to Part 1 of my article series on this topic, I’ll cover some of the tactics and techniques that can be used (often within the LinkedIn environment) to enhance prospecting efforts and strengthen business relationships that lead to sales.
Become a Brand Ambassador
Are you a “brand ambassador” for your company? If you're in a sales or marketing position, you likely already fill this role, to a certain extent, without even thinking about it. A brand ambassador represents the interests of their organization in a public setting and spreads the good word about news, products and people. Below are three ways you can become an online brand ambassador for your company, from the easiest to more time-intensive methods. Of course, the higher-effort activities will often yield the biggest impact in terms of rewards.
Low Effort. Make sure you’re following your company on all their social media channels and share posts on LinkedIn/Instagram and tweets on Twitter. When new videos are published on your company’s YouTube channel or website, be sure to share those as well.
Medium Effort. Join industry groups (such as The Association for Manufacturing Technology – AMT, or National Tooling and Machining Association – NTMA) and follow the discussions. Chime in with comments and people will start to notice your passion for your industry and also your areas of expertise. You can also share helpful links, or news stories you find interesting, demonstrating that you’re a helpful go-to resource. This is a great way to boost your professional reputation as well as that of your company.
High Effort. Write your own posts detailing your professional experiences, what you’ve learned/observed, and things that potentially help your customers. You can also record brief videos on your phone that demonstrate a product, process or useful tips. Here’s a great example of a video done by one of Okuma’s distributor salespersons:
Social Selling Beyond the Basics
Prior to the onset of the pandemic, the trend toward adopting “social selling” techniques was building good momentum. Now that many people have transitioned to a work-from-home environment, interest has been surging, and with good reason. Social selling involves using the latest tools to identify and nurture potential industry relationships that can turn into sales. These tools are extremely powerful and highly convenient, since they’re easy to access and home office friendly.
A Gold Mine for Sales Professionals
When people think of LinkedIn, they often think about job searching, but consider the foundation of what this technology platform is built on; it’s actually a very large warehouse of data involving companies and professional contacts. Put a layer of discovery tools on top of that warehouse full of data and you have a gold mine for sales professionals.
These discovery tools already exist, in a LinkedIn functionality called Sales Navigator. There are other comparable tools on the market, but for the purposes of this discussion we’ll look at Sales Navigator.
THE POWER OF SALES NAVIGATOR
Sales Navigator is a sales management tool with a sophisticated search engine and indexes designed to help sales and marketing professionals:
- Learn more about current customers
- Find new prospects
- Conduct searches per demographics: geography, industry, job title, individual names, and more
Sales professionals can do some intelligent searching within their sales territories or particular industry verticals (or both!) and find qualified sales prospects who are already in a networking frame of mind, as evidenced by their very presence on LinkedIn. A deep dive into company insights can also be done, unearthing significant facts and figures that can inform the sales process. Once these discoveries have been made the salesperson can use LinkedIn functionalities, such as InMail, to make contact with qualified individuals.
Note: you’ll need to purchase a Sales Navigator plan to use these tools. I believe this is well worth the investment in yourself and your professional success, plus you can cancel anytime, which makes it easy to give this a try.
VIRTUAL SELLING IS HERE TO STAY
The above social selling tools are excellent for use near the top of the customer experience funnel, where the goal is focused more on generating awareness. As you get further down the funnel toward the sale itself, interest intensifies, and the prospect enters the phase of consideration. This involves more detailed product discussions and demonstrations and utilizes a different set of tools. This takes us into the realm of Virtual Selling, which is also accelerating in today’s environment. Below are some excellent resources if you'd like to investigate further:
Virtual Selling Just Became Vital to Your Business (blog post); Joe Moliski
Virtual Selling (book); Jeb Blount
Virtual Selling: How to Build Relationships, Differentiate, and Win Sales Remotely (book); Mike Schultz, Dave Shaby, Andy Springer
Today’s sales and marketing experts are in agreement on one universal truth in today’s marketplace: virtual selling is here to stay. Those who rise to the challenge, and sharpen their tools and skills, will race to the front of the pack in today’s new world of selling.
Thank you to John Orton, Manager - Pricing Strategy & Analytics, for his contribution to this article.