I am often asked by industry colleagues, “How can a social media site like Linkedin help me sell material handling equipment?” Linkedin, in my humble opinion, is the most powerful sales tool since the phone. Linkedin, if used properly can easily double or triple an average sales persons reach. It opens door that were once permanently locked. In today’s economy increasing marketing reach is of utmost importance. If your customers aren’t buying material handling products, you need to find more customers. Linkedin is the perfect tool for the task.
Build It and They Will Come
First things first. In order to be successful on Linkedin you must have a complete Linkedin page with a professional looking head shot. Make certain you have a robust description of experience and any specialties on the page. Clear links to your website’s photo gallery will help them see your work. Use a few of Linkedin’s applications like Box or Slide Share to provide all your corporate and product brochures to anyone that views your account. Use LinkedIn’s tools to find your customers and connect with them. Ask them to become members of your corporate group on Linkedin (you do have one don’t you?). Ask your connections to give you recommendations on Linkedin; it’s very easy and very visible to visitors. The more relevant information you have on your profile, the more credible you will appear to clients and potential clients.
One word of warning though. When building your connections, try to keep them limited to only people you feel you know. If you start connecting with everyone your second tier and third tier connections start to blur. It’s hard to ask someone for an introduction to a potential client when you don’t know them either. (not perfect but here’s mine)
The Death of the Outside Salesman
The birth of the Internet and email (maybe it started with phones) killed the personal touch of most sales transactions. Remember the old adage “People buy from people”? It’s really no longer the case is it? One goes to a website fills out the RFQ form; a few days later a quote arrives in one’s email in-box. Where is the salesperson in this equation? People don’t really buy from people anymore.
In the material handling industry we pride ourselves on our years of experience and the complex projects we have successfully completed. We used to carry around photo albums of our great successes to show our potential clients when we were out making calls. No one has time anymore to take a personal sales call from a vendor. The days of the photo album are gone.
How do you express to your potential clients that you are the best solution to their problems? How do you get him or her to see your “photo album”? The answer is Linkedin.
Every proposal and email sent out should have an address or link to your “professional” Linkedin profile. This way potential customers can learn more about you and your company from the comfort of wherever. Linkedin fills the “personal” gap the Internet created. Now they can put a face to the name, learn about your qualifications and successes and decide for themselves you are the best solution before they even shake your hand.
This can obviously be used in both directions. When making a sales call, look up your appointment on Linkedin, find out about them. Maybe you can find something you have in common with them to “break the ice”.
I Know a Guy Who Knows a Guy
There is a great chance that someone who buys from you (and likes you) knows someone that also buys your products. They unfortunately don’t sit around all day trying to find friends to buy your stuff. Up until now finding these second tier connections was all but impossible. Linkedin has a search function that makes this ridiculously easy. Go to advanced search, type in your parameters, location, industry, job title and Linkedin will list all the results starting with your current connections, then the connections of your connections, etc. I’ve heard much success from this function. One case the sales person was trying to “get in the door” for years unsuccessfully until Linkedin showed him his next door neighbor was actually the brother-in-law to one of the corporate VPs! He called his neighbor and asked him to make the introduction. Of course the neighbor already having a great personal relationship with his brother-in-law “opened the door” made the introductions and set in motion what would become a sale and a strong business relationship. Linkedin is specifically designed to facilitate this method of relational prospecting.
The search function is also a great way to schedule sales calls. If you know you are going to be in an area, use it to find potential clients in the same area. See if they know any of your existing connections and ask for the introduction.
Throw Yourself Out There
Linkedin has many ways for you to be visible to your clients and potential clients. See if your clients have a corporate group on Linkedin, see if vendors can join. If you are able to join, start discussions in their group about your solutions. Please don’t plague their pages with advertisements, you will quickly lose favor. Asking them what they do about pallet rack repair or personnel safety in the warehouse is probably appropriate though. Check back at regular intervals, you might find discussions started by employees that you can participate in.
Ask your customers to join your corporate group and publish meaningful information regularly. This info will be sent right to every members email in-box on a daily or weekly basis.
Join any and all groups that you think might be beneficial to you. There are many sales and industry related groups that discuss relevant topics.
Visit Linkedin Answers and see if you can participate. This section of Linkedin is extensive. Find your area of expertise and jump in. The “experts” get quite a bit of visibility here. In fact there are many questions like, “What type of forklift should I have if I have…?” and “Is there an automated storage system for …?” If you were there to answer these questions instead of me, you might have gotten the sale and believe me there was a sale.
Like I stated at the beginning, Linkedin might be the best sales tool since the phone. It is certainly your best chance of “selling” something through social media today. Get out there and get Linkedin.