How Do You Look To Your Prospects?

Web tools have and are changing the sales landscape in a big way.  We are now using these tools to identify prospects, learn about their needs, communicate with them in meaningful ways, and manage the resulting relationships for long term success.  By integrating these sales web tools into our daily activity we are able to sell more, sell more quickly,  and sell to more customers than if we have chosen to stay with the old ways.  My work with web tools has been focused on improving the results and efficiency from the salesmakers side of the transaction.

I received an inquiry last week about my availability to speak to a regional association of Purchasing/Procurement professionals.  Guess what the topic is that they want me to speak to them on?

“How to use web tools and social networking to research, select and manage vendors.”

I must admit that this was one of those times when I sit back in my chair and say “huh”.  Up until this request, I had not considered how the tools that I write about, teach and speak about could be used by those on the other side of the transaction.  After the initial conversation, I realized that not only is there a tremendous opportunity for those in purchasing and vendor management to utilize many of the very same web tools, but that many in sales are woefully ill-prepared if those they seek to serve use some of the same tools to select a vendor.

How do you look to your prospects?

How do you compare with others competing for their business?

I will share my thoughts over several posts in the weeks ahead but you can get started on answering these questions today.  Follow these steps to get a quick handle on how you stack up using LinkedIn®.  With over 50 million users worldwide, there should be no argument that it is THE place to begin your review. You do have a LinkedIn Profile?

Begin by opening LinkedIn and viewing your profile. Do your best to read it through the eyes of your prospective customer.

  1. Is your title accurate?
  2. Does your summary capture and present your value and that of your company?
  3. Specialties-Do you have the key words and terms that your prospect is interested in?  Are the current “hot topics” and buzzwords from their industry included?
  4. Which Groups do you show you belong to?  Are any Groups industry or professional groups that your prospects belong to?
  5. Are you showing  books that you are reading via the Reading List application?  If so, are they of interest to your prospects? Do some reflect your professional approach to sales?
  6. What about your references?  Are the recent and relevant? For your current position?
  7. Are you considered/noted as an “Expert” by LinkedIn users through your answers to questions that are relevant to your prospects?
  8. Is your Experience section current and accurate?

One technique that I find helpful for this exercise is to print out the PDF of your Profile, so that you can view it as others might.  In my preparation and research for my presentation, two buyers already have  mentioned that they print out the PDF of the profile so that they can read it at their leisure or keep it in their “file”  Have you ever viewed your Profile in this way?  If you have not done this before, browse to your Profile and then click on the PDF icon on the right hand side of the screen as shown by the arrow, then print it out.

LinkedIn Profile PDF View

Next step is to review what your Company Profile looks like.  I find that many LinkedIn users did not even know that there is such a thing and are substantially underwhelmed by what is showing in the Company Profile.  I use the Search bar at the top of the LinkedIn Home Page and select Search Companies” from the pull down menu as shown below.

Search Companies graphic

You should also search LinkedIn using the keywords that your prospect or customer would most likely use.  Don’t know what those are, just ask them.  I do this by to the “People Icon” in the header of  LinkedIn, then applying any search criteria that might be used by my propects.  Important areas to consider are:

  1. Keywords
  2. Location
  3. Industry

Other criteria might also be relevant and of interest to some buyers include Groups and Language.  Additional area that you should review are the  “Interested In” pull-down box and the “Sort By” boxes.  Are you well positioned in both areas where appropriate?

This is new ground for me as I approach this speech from the Buyers perspective.  It has already opened my mind to additional activities that those in sales need to focus on.  I still come across sales professionals and sales leaders from time to time that have not embraced web tools and social networking.  Once Buyers and Vendor Management professionals begin to use these tool in their work, you had better be up to speed and engaged.  I’m just saying…

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  • Hey Miles we met at the Chris Brogan event. Great article! Very interesting so basically your saying that the semantics web is going to be able to pre-qualify our own needs for us and help source where to buy products or services. So producers need to start putting themselves out there where they can be found and pre-qualified, not pre-qualify their leads? Wow producers are going to have to become value centric, find new ways to create value for their products. Makes me think of a conversation I was having this morning with one of my developers about the “experience economy.” Thanks for the article, very thought provoking.

    • Josh, you got the gist of it. Previous sales strategy focused on sales finding customers but now successful sales organizations are realizing that customers are seeking them. What is important to realize is that there is now an opportunity to engage into the conversation stream much earlier than before. It is possible that by the time the salesmaker identifies and contacts the prospective customer, they have already been eliminated. I am simply suggesting that if you are in a sales role, that you need to accept the fact that customers are using web tools to research and select you as much as you are using the same tools to identify and select them.

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