Posts Tagged ‘ Agents ’

Using Social Media Tools: LinkedIn as a Selling Tool

We’ve covered quite a bit of topics about how to set up Social Media accounts, demographics and details of how they work.

The question that seems to be arising now is “How do I use the tools?”

How to use LinkedIn for selling

Anyone who has been in sales for any amount of time has heard at some point the importance of developing “Rapport” with customers.  Selling, after all, is a process. There are various selling “systems” out there but all of them start with the first step: Rapport

Rapport is one of the most important features or characteristics of subconscious communication. It is commonality of perspective: being “in sync” with, or being “on the same wavelength” as the person with whom you are talking.

There are a number of techniques that are supposed to be beneficial in building rapport such as: matching your body language (i.e., posturegesture, etc.); maintaining eye contact; and matching breathing rhythm. Some of these techniques are explored in neuro-linguistic programming.

The first time a salesperson has a meeting with a new “prospect” they are looking for things that they might have in common with the person.  This could be a hobby, an interest, or even a discussion about something in the office.  The main idea of building rapport is to demonstrate that you are “human” and not just interested in taking someone’s money. It’s about developing a level of trust.

Often times this step in the selling process is one of the most difficult and can be very time-consuming.  LinkedIn offers a solution.  By inviting a new “prospect” to connect with you on LinkedIn you can accomplish several steps in rapport building all at the same time. IF your profile is complete.

With a complete LinkedIn Profile your new contact can find out more about you, your hobbies, your interests, the books you’ve read, the recommendations you have received, and potentially know some people whom you are already connected to whom they trust.

Sandler Sales Systems Submarine: Rapport is the 1st Step


It’s actually pretty simple.

However, that’s why it’s of critical importance to complete your LinkedIn profile.  If you can’t communicate your experience, your background, or don’t have any recommendations, then you’re not going to be able to use this social media tool effectively.

Here’s what you should complete:

  1. Summary – Complete your summary.  It’s really what it sounds like.  Tell everyone your background and skill sets so they know your strengths.
  2. Profile Picture – A picture is worth thousand words.  It’s also helpful if you are meeting someone for the first time.  Now they know what you look like and you’re not saying “I have a blue jacket and wear glasses” Here’s a LINK to an older article about profile pictures LinkedIn that I think you’ll find useful.
  3. Experience – Merely putting down the company name and a your job title isn’t going to cut it.  If  you want to build rapport, you’ll need to add details about your experience.  If you have been in sales for any amount of time you will dread meeting someone for the first time and their expectations and yours about the nature of the conversation are 180 degrees apart.  What you do, what your experience is, is NOT what they are looking for to begin with.
  4. References – At some point in a sales career you will be asked for references.  References and recommendations are sometimes seen as a stall tactic. More often than not, it’s because the salesperson hasn’t developed enough rapport or trust with a prospect.  LinkedIn provides you with a ready-made way to provide references before the meeting.  That’s just one reason why you should be asking your most trusted connections, those whom you have had professional experiences with, for a recommendation.

Essentially, by using LinkedIn as a sales tool you “shorten the cycle.”  That first meeting, whether it be on the phone or in-person, tends to move forward with much more ease as both parties are already familiar with each other, have some rapport built, and can get down to the business at hand quicker. This makes everyone much more efficient in the use of their time.

There are several other items on your LinkedIn profile you want to look at as well, but these were covered in an earlier posting entitled “Social Media 101 For Mfg, part 1: LinkedIn” You may want to take a quick peek at the article if you haven’t already.

As always, your comments and feedback are greatly appreciated.  If you would like to discuss this in more detail feel free to contact us at our website: Rapid Production Marketing


How well do you know your competitors? Do you have the right product mix?

“So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.
If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose.
If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.”
– Sun Tzu

Several years ago all the rage in business books was Sun Tzu’s “The Art of Warfare”

Many read the 18 chapter of the book but few actually delved into a thorough analysis, or, more appropriately knew how to begin an analysis. So let’s talk about several methodologies.

Line-of-Business Analysis

Porter's 5 Forces

In 1979 Michael E. Porter of the Harvard Business School developed a framework for the industry analysis and business strategy development called the “The Five Forces”:
1. The threat of substitute products or services
2. The threat of the entry of new competitors
3. The intensity of competitive rivalry
4. The bargaining power of customers (buyers)
5. The bargaining power of suppliers

Without going into great detail and describing the “marketingspeak b-school” lingo, here’s what it boils down to:
1. What products do you make?
2. Whom do you compete with?
3. How well do you know your competitors?
4. Where is your product positioned relative to them?
5. How do you beat them?

Now, let’s dive into some detail. You manufacture a variety of products that compete with other companies. Let’s pretend that you are an end mill manufacturer.

You make carbide end mills as a primary product and you have an offering of carbide burrs. Is this burrs product group going to be competitive?

My Competitive Burr Manufacturers

Here’s the product you make:

  1. A Style –  Cylinder Flat
  2. C Style – Cylinder Radius
  3. D Style – Cone Pointed
  4. E Style – Cone Radius

Who are your competitors in EACH category?

  • List them all. The first step is to understand who your competitors are.
  • List everyone you can think of and then ask other people within your company, your agents, and your distributors to add to the list. Get the list together.  Remember YOU will not know everyone and you might be surprised what comes out of the woodwork.
  • Break down your competitors by the product categories (in this case, the above 4 listed: A, C, D, E style burrs)
  • Do a SWOT analysis on each category.
  • Now, what else to those competitors make? Do you have the same solutions that they have?

What you might start with may look like something pictured here on the right.

Now if your primary product is making end mills and you “dabble” in making burrs how are you going to compete with someone who makes all of the following:

  1. A Style –  Cylinder Flat
  2. B Style – Ball
  3. C Style – Cylinder Radius
  4. D Style – Cone Pointed
  5. E Style – Cone Radius
  6. F Style – Tree Radius
  7. G Style – Cone Inverted
  8. I Style – Oval/Egg
  9. J Style – Flame
  10. K Style – Flame Large
  11. L Style – Tree Pointed

If you are using a distribution channel, the distributors are going to take the path of least resistance no matter what you do.  You may have a distributor owner telling you “We like you and we want to promote ALL of your products” but in reality, when an inside salesperson get an order from a customer  with A, C, D, E, F and G burrs on his purchase order it’s just easier to place that order with ONE vendor instead of two (and split the order) regardless of what the boss says.

So you’ll have some decisions to make: Do you expand the offering so it is more complete?  Do you just keep the offering where it is at right now and accept the fact that you will lose certain orders at certain distributors within your channel?

At the outset you might not know.  But, that’s not important.  What’s important is that you MAKE A PLAN.  Then take the plan to the field.  See what feedback you get and ADJUST TO MEET THE MARKET NEEDS.

Line of Business Analysis

There’s a great company that does Line-of-Business analysis for you.  It might be worth a few minutes of your time to take a look at their website. They’re called : eCompetitors: Global Industry Dashboard


There are two very good concepts you should understand in your planning process.  OODA Loops and PDCA.  I’ll take a minute and explain the basics:


Observe, Orient, Decide, Act is a concept originally applied to the combat operations process, often at the strategic level in military operations. It is now also often applied to understand commercial operations and learning processes. The concept was developed by USAF  Colonel John Boyd.  In the fast paced world of business competition it’s a good idea to understand how fighter pilots are trained.

Boyd developed the OODA loop concept to explain how to direct one’s energies to defeat an adversary and survive. Boyd emphasized that “the loop” is actually a set of interacting loops that are to be kept in continuous operation during combat. He also indicated that the phase of the battle has an important bearing on the ideal allocation of one’s energies.  Basicially it comes down to this:

When the enemy aircraft comes into radar contact, more direct information about the speed, size, and maneuverability, of the enemy plane becomes available; unfolding circumstances take priority over radio chatter. A first decision is made based on the available information so far: the pilot decides to “get into the sun” above his opponent, and actsby applying control inputs to climb. Back to observation: is the attacker reacting to the change of altitude? Then to orient: is the enemy reacting characteristically, or perhaps acting like a noncombatant? Is his plane exhibiting better-than-expected performance?


Plan, Do, Check, Act is an iterative four-step problem-solving process typically used in business process improvement. It is also known as the Deming cycle

  • PLAN – Establish the objectives and processes necessary to deliver results in accordance with the expected output. By making the expected output the focus, it differs from other techniques in that the completeness and accuracy of the specification is also part of the improvement.
  • DO – Implement the new processes. Often on a small scale if possible.
  • CHECK – Measure the new processes and compare the results against the expected results to ascertain any differences.
  • ACT – Analyze the differences to determine their cause. Each will be part of either one or more of the P-D-C-A steps. Determine where to apply changes that will include improvement. When a pass through these four steps does not result in the need to improve, refine the scope to which PDCA is applied until there is a plan that involves improvement.

Once again, the most important point in all of this is ADAPTION.

Now put on your thinking cap for a minute. Let’s pretend that you make burrs as a ‘convenience’ to some customers.  You’ve discovered that you’ve really been able to cut down your production cost.  So much so that you make a very healthy margin on the ones you do sell.

You have a competitor who started off making burrs.  It’s their core competency.  It’s where they got where they are and NOW they are is starting to make end mills: your core competency. What do you do?

Use the loops: Do the ACT part!

One possibility is that you offer a low price volume promo to your distributors in certain markets to get them promoting your burrs.  Target THEIR core competency!  Go after them where is hurts. Go after them in their strongest market.  BUT, make it a feint: While they are busy trying to keep marketshare, you can expand your business in your core markets.

Don’t be afraid of any of the processes listed.  I’ve heard manufacturers say “I’m just a small company, that stuff is for big companies”  My response is generally along the lines of “How do you think those companies got to be big companies?”

Finally, take a look at some other process’ that are out there.  If you can use an already created template to do the reviews and analysis then grab them and utilize them.  The Hoshin Strategic Planning process is a good starting point.

Hoshin Strategic Planning
“The hoshin process is, first of all, a systematic planning methodology for defining long-range key entity objectives. These are breakthrough objectives that typically extend two to five years with little change. Second, the hoshin process does not lose sight of the day-to-day “business fundamental” measures required to run the business successfully. This two-pronged approach provides an extended period of time for the organization to focus its breakthrough effort while continuously improving key business processes day to day.”

Final Thoughts

I’ll Leave you with this:

“I have treated this game in great detail because I think it is important for the student to see what he’s up against, and how he ought to go about solving the problem of practical play. You may not be able to play the defense and counterattack this well, but the game sets a worthwhile goal for you to achieve: how to fight back in a position where your opponent has greater mobility and better prospects.” -Fred Reinfeld , The Complete Chess Course

Conducting Distributor Sales Meetings

Many times manufacturers set up sales meetings to introduce new products or new contacts for their company but do not set any goals or objectives for the sales meeting and the desired outcomes. If you want to stand out from the rest of the presenters then you should have an action plan in place.

Just like building a house, or making a part, you need to start with a blueprint.

Before we get into some nuts and bolts let’s take a look at the sales funnel process:

The Sales Funnel

The Sales Funnel

All sales meetings should be based upon an understanding of the sales funnel model:

  • Awareness: Train the sales force how to identify best prospects with 3-5 key prospect identifiers.
  • Interest: Train the sales force how to highlight 3- 5 primary features/benefits of your products to stimulate interest at the end-user level
  • Desire: Set follow-up meetings with vendor representatives and end-users.
  • Action: Sell the products!

Vendors fail to realize that distributor sales people may see several presentations in the course of a sales meeting day and hear multiple presentations. In the process of learning about the items you’ve got to remember that the salespeople will only retain 20% of what you talked about 1 week later and only 5% after one month.

If you can accomplish nothing else, the best method is to pick out several key points to highlight. Enough information for the field sales force to go out and “get themselves into trouble” Remember, at the outset you are merely trying to create awareness of the product or service. Keep it simple. You can go into detail but you want to control the information that will be retained and repeated to the end-users.

The goal of the sales meeting is NOT to close an order the next day, although that does happen, but to teach the sales people at your distributor “how to fish” and “how to find fish”

The following is some basic information your might want to use as a template and you can use/modify to suit your needs. These will be the basis of the sales meeting. We would like this information completed as much in advance of the sales meeting so that we can begin to identify prospects for your products.

Individual sales meetings with any vendor/manufacturer should be limited to 1 – 1 ½ hours. In an effort to insure that you cover all of the important issues it’s a good idea to set up a standard agenda format. A sample agenda follows. Obviously, if there is already a working relationship it’s not always necessary to go through every item. Although, if new salespeople have been hired and you’ve never gone over some of these items don’t be surprised if they don’t know.

NEVER ASSUME that what you have said is retained unless you’ve said it a million times

Sample Sales Meeting Agenda
1. Introduction and Background Bio /Experience
2. Review of Discounts
3. Review Policies and Procedures
a. Test Tool Policy/Guaranteed Trial Orders
b. Order Entry
c. Shipping/FOB Points
d. Returns/ Restock
e. Sample Tools/Trunk Stock
4. Review of key contacts inside, outside and engineering
5. Product Identifiers
6. Product Features/Benefits
7. Wrap-up Questions
8. Setting future field work schedules with the sales force

Prospect Identifiers
Identify 3-5 target prospect ‘identifiers’. This could be a type of machine, a type of material, an operation, etc. This should be followed by a questions that outside salespeople should ask about this item that they have now recognized.

An example is as follows:
Identifier 1: Cross hole burrs
Question: How to you debur those burrs? By hand? In a deburring machine? A deburring tool in the machine?

Identifier 1: ______________________________________________________
Question 1: ______________________________________________________

Identifier 2: ______________________________________________________
Question 2: ______________________________________________________

Identifier 3: ______________________________________________________
Question 3: ______________________________________________________

Identifier 4: ______________________________________________________
Question 4: ______________________________________________________

Identifier 5: ______________________________________________________
Question 5: ______________________________________________________

Key Features/Benefits
Identify 3-5 key features and benefits of your product or service. Many Manufacturers/vendors have a broad product offering and many products within that offering. However, you sell several products which have made you a market leader in certain segments. The GOAL is to talk about these key products and their advantages over the competition. Limit any detailed or in-depth exploration of technical features at the outset. Understand, that you can go over them in the course of the meeting The goal of these is to enable the sales force to stimulate enough interest to set up an appointment with you and their end-user. During those meetings our sales force will gain more in-depth product knowledge.

It’s also a good idea to layout your agenda in the form of a “cheat sheet” and tell the sales force at the outset of the meeting what you intend to cover. The agenda and lists are very useful to pass out at the outset so that the sales force can take notes. This is important. I’ve sat in sales meetings that start off fantastic. The sales force is very very impressed… but at some point in the meeting you start to see sales people’s eyes close, yawning, stretching, and then the presenter says “Ok, now we’ll begin to cover the next product” and you can almost hear everyone’s brain screaming “OH MY GOD, this is going to go on FOREVER!” Don’t let that happen to you.

You might also include in your list room for the salespeople to make some “Prospect notes” As you are talking the sales people may think of some of their customers who might be interested RIGHT NOW in something you say. It’s a good idea to review this with them at the end of the meeting and find out “Who has a list of people that we should talk to right now? Should we schedule some work times?”

Product 1: ______________________________________________________
F/B 1: __________________________________________________________
Prospects: ______________________________________________________

Product 2: ______________________________________________________
F/B 2: __________________________________________________________
Prospects: ______________________________________________________

Product 3: ______________________________________________________
F/B 3: __________________________________________________________
Prospects: ______________________________________________________

Product 4: ______________________________________________________
F/B 4: __________________________________________________________
Prospects: ______________________________________________________

Product 5: ______________________________________________________
F/B 5: __________________________________________________________
Prospects: ______________________________________________________