How to Adapt B2B Manufacturing Sales Strategy for the COVID-19 World

b2b-sales-manufacturing-covid-19

For manufacturing salespeople, it’s been challenging to navigate selling in our COVID-19 world. The tried and true sales tactics such as face-to-face meetings, trade shows, and conferences have been canceled for the foreseeable future. According to a study by McKinsey & Company, 90 percent of sales have moved to a video conferencing or phone sales model, and while some skepticism remains, more than half believe this is equally or more effective than sales models used before COVID-19. It is hard to know how our post-COVID world will look, but it is evident that the shift to implementing more digital sales efforts will remain.

 

Digital trends have been growing for many years now, with more and more manufacturers adopting inbound marketing and actively working to improve their digital footprint. Now, with people unable to travel and sell as they normally would, digital trends have accelerated. B2B sales operations are going to be drastically different from our pre-coronavirus world and it is important that manufacturers adjust their marketing and sales strategies to not only fit our world now but also how our business operations will look moving forward. 

Below, learn 3 considerations you should use when adapting your B2B sales strategies to fit our ‘New Normal’ Business World During COVID-19:   

Amp up your customer outreach

Sitting and waiting for leads to come to you and relying on your great industry reputation is simply not an option. Now, with face-to-face meetings, conferences, and trade shows canceled for the foreseeable future, it is time to develop a clear approach for prospect and customer outreach and lead generation from all possible channels: outbound lead generation (direct mail, cold calls, and emails) and inbound lead generation (search engine optimization, social media marketing, public relations, pay-per-click ads, and email automation.)

 

Meet with your sales and business development team to discuss what leads they are actively working on. Additionally, take inventory of what professional associations, personal networks, and LinkedIn groups each of your team members are involved in. I guarantee there are great prospects from your team members’ individual networks that are not in your CRM. Just as important, do you even have a coordinated, central, and easy to use CRM?  Now, as salespeople are confined in their homes or offices instead of on the road, take this opportunity to figure out where your prospects are and develop a strategy to reach them.

Review your sales process & develop a consistent, structured process

In busy times, it is easy to get complacent and go through the motions of your B2B manufacturing sales process. Complacency is not an option in our ‘new normal’ and every deal matters–more than ever. Making assumptions based on past data or interactions with customers is simply not an option. 

 

Adapting your approach to an inbound marketing and sales approach is an excellent way to personalize your prospect’s interactions with your brand. Inbound marketing allows you to track engagement all in one easy-to-utilize platform (web page views, document opens, email read, content downloaded, etc.) That way, your salespeople are informed about who that prospect is, how close they are to making a purchasing decision, what that prospect needs, so that your salespeople are better equipped to provide prospects with the solutions they need.  

Adapt to our digital-centric business world

In times like right now, the saying “the only constant is change” rings truer than ever before. It is important to understand that every customer you are selling to is doing business in uncharted territory. Prospects that have gone dark may get acquired by another company, giving you an excellent opportunity to re-engage. Companies are all evaluating their current suppliers, so it could be the perfect time to follow up with previously cold leads. While making the switch to a new vendor, product or solution may not have been in the cards pre-coronavirus, making the switch could seem more advantageous to your prospects now. Always come from the perspective of first helping your prospects and customers and second, improving how they do business. Run your typical sales pitch by your team and brainstorm how you all can adapt it to speak to the unique challenges and concerns your prospects and customers are facing right now. 

 

It’s hard to believe that we are months into the ‘new normal.”. B2B manufacturing sales need to shift to an inbound marketing and sales approach in order to stay competitive and relevant. While COVID-19 has presented many challenges for salespeople, it also provides great opportunities for salespeople to take inventory of their sales and marketing efforts, streamline the sales process with a systemized digital approach, and refine messaging to resonate with prospects and customers’ biggest challenges. 

I'm ready to increase lead generation with inbound marketing

Interested in revamping your sales strategy to a more digital approach? We can help. At Felber PR & Marketing, we work exclusively with business-to-business manufacturers and help them drive quality leads, determine the best tactics for their unique goals, and provide manufacturing salespeople with real-time data and insight into their prospects so they can sell smarter not harder. 

The Power of an Automated Marketing, Sales and Service Platform

 

 

 

In the video above we share three of the most powerful tools within the HubSpot Platform. For those not familiar, HubSpot offers a complete marketing software that aligns the tasks of three critical components in a company – Marketing, Sales, and Customer Service. In our past blog Why Now is The Time to Get Your Database in Order – From Your Kitchen, we provided an overview of the tasks you can accomplish with a central CRM.

For marketing teams, automating the process of qualifying leads is a huge time savings. Not every website, trade show booth, or incoming phone call lead is ready to buy. HubSpot allows you to nurture your leads over time with helpful, relevant, and most important prospect-specific content. These automated workflows can deliver content, assign tasks to sales teams based on prospect behavior, and help you measure the effectiveness of your campaign. Your leads will naturally progress to become marketing qualified or can drop out of your system, saving time that would be wasted on unqualified prospects.

A huge part of the effectiveness of HubSpot is central CRM. Every user, regardless of their role, has access to the prospect record. As marketing leads progress to sales qualified leads, the handoff is beautiful. Sales can see how engaged a prospect has been based on website visits, content consumed, and even how the prospect converted to a lead in the first place (did they respond to a paid ad or download an eBook for example).

As the sales team naturally hands over their newly minted customers to the service team, it’s great to know, once again, that every detail of the journey from first contact to prospect to customer remains in the central record. Keeping customers engaged is achieved with the frictionless experience within HubSpot Service. Whether your customer wants to chat with a live person, search a knowledge base, or simply track their job ticket, all is done on the same platform. No longer does a company need to cobble together multiple platforms that do not integrate seamlessly. Interested in a product demo? Call us at (330) 963-3664 or email RobFelber@FelberPR.com

 

 

 

 

Why Manufacturers Need Inbound Marketing to Survive COVID-19

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COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of manufacturing business operations and most significantly, how we sell. Manufacturing companies have long relied on word-of-mouth referrals or benefited from their years in business and strong industry reputation to sell. Business-to-business manufacturers have also utilized annual industrial trade shows and exhibitions as sales tools to network and build customer relations. 

 

Due to COVID-19 shutdowns and regulations, manufacturing salespeople now more than ever are having to change the way they sell. Barriers such as limited face-to-face business meetings and canceled events and conferences have left manufacturers with the challenge of planning how to sell without being able to rely on past practice and the traditional sales tactics they know and love.

 

The key to resilience in this challenging time is to develop a digital sales and marketing strategy to mitigate this loss. Alternatively, and not to sound too alarmist, it could be a significant factor in which manufacturing companies survive and which companies do not make it through COVID-19.

 

If you are a B2B manufacturer that has not considered inbound marketing, it’s time to go digital to meet the demands of selling in our COVID-19 “here to stay” world. 

 

Let’s face it, nobody has any idea how long this will last nor what long-term changes COVID-19 will bring to how we do business next year, next month or even next week. However, in the coming months, your prospects and customers are going to be hesitant to shake your hand or allow you into their facilities.

 

By adopting inbound marketing, you are creating an environment via web and social media where relationships can be built and introductions to prospects, and influencers can be fostered. This is very similar to the transition in the auto industry. Absolutely everyone goes online to look at cars before visiting a dealer (if they even go to the dealer anymore!)

 

Manufacturing salespeople who typically would be on the road visiting customers or exhibiting at trade shows are now confined to their homes or offices, making it the perfect time to work on an inbound marketing strategy. 

 

Steps to success with Inbound Marketing

First, take the time to research where your prospects and customers spend their time online, what they read, and where they get their advice. Second, review your front door image – your website. Has your old website not been generating leads for a long time? Or even worse, did you invest money into a pretty new website that has more bots and college students filling out your forms than prospects? Are you seeing traffic convert to qualified leads in your CRM?

 

Right now is an excellent opportunity to also take inventory of your website, social media, the content you are offering via blogs and the efficiency of your sales CRM. The great thing about adopting inbound marketing principles is that it doesn’t have to be a massive overhaul of your website. Your inbound marketing strategy could be as simple as updating your website copy to focus on your ideal buyers (or as we call it in marketing terms buyer personas).

 

Use this time to update forms so you are asking better qualifying questions. Better questions will keep your salespeople from wasting time talking to weak leads. Find good technical writers and develop content that your prospects find valuable. This helps to build stronger relationships with prospects and customers. 

 

Once you have your website up-to-date, Google Ads and LinkedIn Ads are great tactics to drive better leads to your brand. We have many clients right now who are utilizing digital advertising and have seen an influx of strong, qualified lead conversion through targeted ads offering a strong content offer such as a technical paper or eBook.

 

An inbound marketing approach isn’t about changing every aspect of how you sell. It’s about enhancing what you do well, creating a digital footprint so people can discover you. Developing content that drives sales, and giving your salespeople the knowledge to identify which prospects are good leads and which ones are not will help your team sell smarter, not harder. 

 

Interested in adopting an inbound marketing strategy? Unsure where to start? 

 

At Felber PR & Marketing, we work exclusively with business-to-business manufacturers and help them drive quality leads, determine the best tactics for their unique goals, and provide our manufacturing clients with optimal return-on-investment from their marketing efforts. 

 

Do you have 30 minutes to discuss your manufacturing company’s marketing strategy? No fee, no pressure. We’ll answer as many questions as we can in this half-hour.

 

Yes, I want to talk about my marketing. 

 

The Content Golden Rule: If You Have Not Seen It, It’s New to You

In 1998, NBC, looking to encourage viewers to engage with past shows they missed, launched a campaign called: It’s New to You Summer. The intent was to get viewers to watch summer reruns. Now, 22 years later, with the world streaming by us faster than COVID vaccine rumors, it might seem strange to think about watching live shows, with all of our on-demand options available today. Back then, if you missed a show live, whether due to a power outage, a way too talkative neighbor, or that call from mom that you just had to answer, you were dependent on the rerun (which ironically had the same risk of missing due to the aforementioned potential interruption)

Watch the promo from 1998

The same holds true with your prospects and customers. If they have not seen your blog, sales collateral, or that white paper you wrote three years ago, it’s new to them – and just as valuable. Our blog started in the first decade of the 2000s. It’s pretty funny looking back at some of what we considered as content in 2008. Check out this gem about American Idol! Note the missing graphic and often broken links. Our entire blog can be found here.

Our manufacturing clients use content to introduce their company, describe their products, and reinforce reputations with such elements as video interviews, infographics, and case studies. The content, even those pieces written years prior, still has educational value. Additionally, having a vault of content not only provides your sales team with more descriptive weapons for their prospect interactions, but in itself shows a company’s depth of experience, strength, and capabilities. What articles or content elements are you using to enhance your sales emails and proposals?

Another reason to reference published content from your website, blog, or pressroom is the search engine optimization benefit. Those illusive Google algorithms, properly fed so to speak, will help those searching for related topics find and rank you, and your beneficial content, that much higher. So, while you and your team know your material cold, even to the point of boredom, you must acknowledge that the newly appointed buyer or just-out-of-school engineer has NOT seen it – hence it’s new to them.

So, check out these recent and not so recent gems – still relevant today.

How to develop strong downloadable content offers that generate leads

Why a Biannual Content Audit is Essential for Sales Effectiveness

 

5 Unique Ways to Prospect on LinkedIn

Selling is a social process – people do business with other people. And LinkedIn is one of the most valuable social tools in a sales professional’s toolkit. In this week’s Tactic’s Thursday video, learn 5 unique ways to prospect on LinkedIn. If you find the video valuable, I highly encourage you to check our brand new Leveraging LinkedIn for Manufacturers 2nd Edition eBook. In the eBook, you will learn: the essential elements of a LinkedIn profile, how to increase recommendations & endorsements, ways to growing your network, content marketing on LinkedIn 101, and how to sell better with LinkedIn!
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5 Templates to Connect with Someone on LinkedIn That You’ve Never Met

The secret to getting strangers to connect with you on LinkedIn is your introduction. 

It is imperative that each connection request is customized to make a strong first impression. In this week’s Tactics Thursday video, learn 5 different angles you can use to personalize your LinkedIn connect request and improve the likelihood of a stranger accepting your request!

 

1. The Expertise Angle 

The example uses below uses the expertise angle. By sharing that you were looking for someone with their specific experience, I’m showcasing that you did your homework on their profile and how it made them successful. 

“Hi [Name], 

We’ve never met but your profile came up when I was looking for top engineers at HP. I’m impressed by your background and would love to learn what drew you to work at HP I’ve been especially impressed by HP’s innovation in 3D jet fusion. Can we connect? -Your Name”

 

2. The Project Angle 

In this approach, you highlight a particular project or accomplishment mentioned on their profile. Then, share how it connects to something you are working on. 

“Hi [Name], 

I found your profile when I was looking for people with experience utilizing HubSpot. I just started using it as well and would love to learn more about ways to better utilize the sales tools. I would love to add you to my network. Best, [Your Name]”

 

3. The Point-of-View Angle 

In this example, you ask to connect with someone by seeking their perspective on a topic related to a skill set you both share.

“Hi [Name], 

We’ve never met before but your profile came up when I was searching for like-minded 3D printing industry professionals in Cleveland. I wanted to get your perspective on polymer 3D printing. Can we connect?

[Your Name]?

 

4. The Admiration Angle 

This approach is best when you are reaching out to someone that you admire who is light years ahead of you in your career.  

“Hi [Name], 

We’ve never met but I found your profile when searching for leaders in the 3D Printing Industry. Given you’ve been working in this space or 10 years, I was hoping we could connect. I’d love to learn more about the trends you’ve been seeing in AM. Can we connect? – [Your Name]”

 

 

5. The Mentor Angle 

This approach is essentially a way to say thank you and explain to someone how their work has shaped you or taught you something in your career. 

“Hi [Name], 

I’ve been following your content on LinkedIn for the last year. Your wisdom has helped me advance my knowledge of powder bed fusion. Your recent article on 3D Printing Trend Predictions for 2020 was your best yet. Can we connect?”

 

Interested in learning more about LinkedIn? Looking to improve your personal brand, grow your following, and use LinkedIn more effectively as a B2B sales tool?

Register for LinkedIn 101 for Manufacturers Webinar on July 9th, 2020!

How to export contacts from LinkedIn for ultimate sales opportunities

You probably spend a lot of time cultivating valuable connections by prospecting on LinkedIn but how do you take it a step further? How do you take those contacts from LinkedIn connection to engaged prospect and ultimately, close them as a customer? In this week’s Tactics Thursday video, I walk you through the steps of exporting your LinkedIn contacts to an Excel spreadsheet. Then, I give my best practices for how and when to enroll those prospects in automated marketing emails so that you can close those prospects as customers quicker and more efficiently.

Google Chrome Plugins I recommend in the video:

Hunter 

Contact Out

Interested in learning more about LinkedIn strategy? Register for our upcoming LinkedIn 101 for Manufacturers Webinar below!

Register for LinkedIn 101 for Manufacturers Webinar on July 9th, 2020!

5 Components of a Stellar LinkedIn Recommendation

How to Write a Great LinkedIn Recommendation

Most of us have worked with great bosses or colleagues that we would happily recommend on LinkedIn if ask. The problem is, the idea of writing a recommendation can seem overwhelming to people who aren’t natural-born writers. I’ve taken this daunting task and turned it into a simple 5-step, 5-minute process so you can write LinkedIn recommendations like a pro.

Step 1: Start out with a grab-your-attention sentence

“I would describe Lola to others as the glue that holds our sales department together.”

“Few people have the opportunity to report to a manager who is also a trusted mentor and friend—but I did when I worked for Jeff.”

“Unbelievably efficient is the phrase that comes to mind when I think about my time working with Susan.

 

Step 2: Describe the relationship between the recommender and the person being recommended

“I had the pleasure of working with Francesca on the ManufacturingWorks Resource Development Committee for the last 3 years”

“I hired Eleanor and the team at ABC Agency after seeing her online portfolio, and she’s completed several flawless projects for me since then.”

“Juan has expertly filled the role of National Sales Manager and streamlined our sales efforts between both inside and outside sales teams for the last 2 years.”

 

Step 3: Showcase a special trait

“I was impressed by Leslie’s ability to handle even the toughest clients. That skill typically takes years to develop among customer service professionals, but it seemed to come naturally to him.”

“I always admired Aretha’s ability to command a room and get people on board with initiatives–even the most strongwilled individuals who were initially on completely different pages.”

“Christian’s ability to project manage and handle strenuous deadlines was unlike any I’ve seen before and made a dramatic difference in the productivity level of our team.”

 

Step 4: Highlight their personality

“Paul always made sure that Monday morning sales meetings were never without donuts and coffee. Talk about a great way to motivate a team!”

“Frieda is a champion for women and makes sure that all the young women on her team are mentored and encouraged to take on leadership opportunities at our company.”

“No matter how tense a meeting, Reggie made sure that everyone’s opinions were heard and that nobody left the meeting without a smile.”

 

Step 5: Close with your final recommendation

“Vanna would be an asset on any team.”

“Any employer would be fortunate to have Lincoln on their sales team”

“Ruth is an incredible leader and team member. I can recommend her unequivocally!”

“I found Matthew to be friendly, articulate & a great person to work with & would recommend him to anyone.”

 

Have a great LinkedIn recommendation you’d be willing to share? Post it in the comments below!

Yes, we're ready for marketing for manufacturers.

How to develop strong downloadable content offers that generate leads

Conversion is the key to return-on-investment that your manufacturing website may be missing. Your manufacturing website needs to have more conversion opportunities than your ‘contact us forms’, as many people on your website are not in the decision-making process where they are ready to talk to a sales representative at your company.

In order to have optimal lead generation opportunities on your website, you need to have great downloadable content offers on your website that people will be willing to fill out a form in order to read. That way, your company is not missing opportunities to nurture prospects through the sales cycle with email automation and great content.

In this week’s Tactics Thursday video, I give 3 strong manufacturing examples of downloadable content and give my tried and true tips to work toward the goal of having 2 great pieces of downloadable content on your website.

Request Your Free Inbound Marketing Assessment

Tactics to Increase LinkedIn Endorsements and Recommendations

linkedin-recommentations-linkedin-endorsements

In today’s digital world, having reviews is essential. Reviews help us determine if the restaurant down the street is worth a try, if the latest app really lives up to the hype, or even just to see what people are saying about the newest iPhone release. So while we often look to review platforms such as Google and Yelp for this information, why is it many neglect to see the importance of reviews for themselves professionally?

linkedin-for-manufacturers-ebookMost people know LinkedIn is an important tool for staying connected with professionals in your field of work, but what few realize is the necessity of utilizing the endorsements and recommendations features available on the site.

Both the recommendations and endorsements on LinkedIn allow users to give people an accurate depiction of what they do. Though it is essential to utilize both features, they do work very differently within LinkedIn. In this week’s Tactics Thursday video, I break down the importance of recommendations and endorsements and my tips to get more of them on your LinkedIn profile.