Posts Tagged ‘ Sales ’

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


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: ______________________________________________________

Why Brand introductions FAIL in Channels Marketing

It took a long time for me to understand that there are some common denominators in why some fantastic brands fail while other, inferior products, are successful in channels marketing programs. Below you will find six key points to think about. Think of these six as cylinders in a car. If five of them are working but not six you’ve lost all forward momentum.

“Faulty execution of a winning combination has lost many a game on the very brink of victory. In such cases a player sees the winning idea, plays the winning sacrifice and then inverts the order of his fellow-up moves or misses the really clinching point of his combination.” – Fred Reinfeld , The Complete Chess Course

So, in my view, there are six core elements to any brand introduction in the eyes of distributors:

1. Marketing Materials – Are catalogs, price lists, flyers, trade show schedules, advertising schedules, lead processing all provided in a timely fashion? Does the vendor send in 25 catalogs for a sales meeting with a salesforce of 5 people and a customer base of 250? What is the package quantity of literature? Does the literature have a part number? Is there a literature request form? Who is that sent to? Are the marketing materials “intuitive”? (are all of the components needed to complete and order listed in the catalog? Is the catalog easy to use and find all related products? What about videos? Social media sites? Brand exposure?

2. Quality of Product – Does the product have “walk away reliability” or does it suffer from a myriad of quality issues. This goes beyond the product working as it was marketed to work and includes horseshoe nail problems (no torx screws in the box, partial shipment of all components. Is the distributor going to spend all the money that would have been made on the margin servicing the customer and trying NOT to get “egg on their face” in the process which will affect other product lines and the relationship with the customer?

3. Competitive Pricing – Does the product provide a good ratio of price to performance? Is the vendor adaptable and responsive to price corrections in a short time frame? Has the vendor provided all of the necessary sales information to “sell” the value added?

4. Availability – Is there stock? If so on what products? Many times distributors have heard on new product introductions that “there is plenty of inventory” only to find out that “Well, we have three pieces of everything”. If there is a stock out problem, is the vendor proactively responsive contacting the distributor on late deliveries before the distributor calls to expedite?

5. Customer Support – Is the field support and customer support team trained and up-to-speed on all of the products? Can they technically support the product line? Can they crossover competitive information? Do the support people say “I don’t know the answer to that” and end the conversation with “Are your happy with my your level of service today?” or do they say “I don’t know the answer let me find out and call you back in 10 minutes”. Are they responsive? Are they proactive? What is the SOP on quote turnaround ( 2 hours, 24 hours, 2 weeks)?
Customer service can take on many variations. I’ve listed a few for you to ponder.

The Customer Service Problem
I once spent 6 months trying to figure out why we weren’t getting more orders. The end-users loved it, the outside sales people loved it, the owners of the distributors loved it… then I found out that the inside sales person at the distributor HATED dealing with the manufacturer’s inside sales person who had a really poor attitude.

The Gun Shy Problem
Then there is the “gun shy” problem. The regional sales manager or agent has some “other” issue, typically some internal political issue with a POLICY of the manufacturer that is so out of the norm that the distributor can’t even grasp it. Want an example? At the end of a quarter every call made for an trial application is responded with “I’m not sure if that’s a good test” Even in cases where the promo video has almost the exact application featured! Finally, after much prompting you find out why:
“The accountants are really tightening up on trial applications/test tools”
“My boss is really riding me on any testing right now”
“I’ve gone over my trunk stock budget”

The New COST CENTER Problem
Sometimes, as companies grow they hire very well versed accounting and legal people. This can wreak havoc at the sales generation end of the business. In most cases, it’s good business, stuff the company should have been doing all along, but in others, it’s policies and procedures that, in my very humble opinion, (in deference to my need to keep accountants, lawyers and op’s people happy 😉 just create roadblocks to doing business. That being said, I was sent this video a couple years back by a very astute owner of a manufacturer.

The Young Gun Problem
I recently had a conversation with a “young gun” He called me after a week of us talking about a competitive opportunity and explained that he had not been in contact with me on my question because he was too busy handling all of the business at his BIGGEST distributor in another market. He had lost all of the notes from our conversation which I had not written down myself. He further explained that he had some health issues with his father with some medical testing. I explained that I fully understood, but I did not have time to talk about it at the moment as I was just walking into my Grandmother’s hospital room

6. Trust – Is there trust in the relationship? This is the “gut feeling” stuff. It comes out in the one-on-one conversations. Is something being held back? Are direct answers given? Is the manufacturer asking lots of questions as if he where going to handle the business directly or take it through a competing distributor? Is the manufacturer “throwing his weight around” and not really acknowledging that the distributor runs their own business? Does the agent or manufacturer call the end-user directly….and not tell the distributor or independent rep? Do they visit the end-user on their own?

The most successful brands are built on a foundation of trust and loyalty. Each party knows where the other stands. You can actually watch the relationships grow. In the early phases it may be that the distributor or the agent calls up the manufacturer and asks for something… The reprimanding parent response is “You know we can’t do that! We can do xxxx.” To which the smiling reply is “I know, but I had to ask.” Later, as the relationship evolves, when the distributor or agent calls up they say “Hey, we just promised this program and that promo with this product, I know I need you to approve it but I already quoted it while you where on vacation” and the response “Great Job, what else ya need?”

Perhaps, more than any other item on the list, this last one IS THE MOST IMPORTANT.

The “Agent” or “Regional Manager”
An agent or territory salesperson has a relationship with his customer: The distributor channel. It’s where they live, It’s where they put food on their table. Most of the smart independent agent, and even the factory guys, realize that the relationship is the most important aspect of their livelihood. Management comes and goes, manufacturers change gears, different managers come on-board with their own ideas and their own relationships, but the one consistent thing is the customers and that trust.

The Distributor
Distributors are even more protective of their turf. They have their territory marked and that is how they perceive it. When a distributor brings someone into their customer it is akin to bringing your first date to meet your parents. You are coming into their home, you are being extended the relationship that they enjoy. When anyone tells them “That’s MY customer” they are pretty offended and, like a dog, they’ll probably come back and bite you.

Brands are sold ONE person, ONE customer at a time until they tell two friends and so on, and so on, and so on, until it’s viral.

As a final thought, I’m reminded of a picture from the 1970’s that hung in the VP of Student Life’s office back when I was Student Senate President. It showed a picture of a HUGE Sit-In protest over some student issues. The caption read:

“Communication is the beginning of Understanding”

Good words to live by in your channels branding efforts