The Prospects in Our Industry Have Learned A New Language — Do You Speak It? 

by Lindsay Kelley, Dealer Marketing

We are in the middle of an evolution. Not only are we transitioning our businesses into reputable managed IT services providers, but our customers are evolving as well. More and more, buyers are rejecting our sales team’s offers to educate and inspire with meaningful insight, but why? It’s because we’re not sharing our message in the same language the prospects are speaking … digital. In this two-part series, we’ll examine the top B2B social business tool you can use to gain market share and grow your bottom-line sales. 

In Darrell Amy’s July 2014 article, How to Overcome the Number One Sales and Marketing Issue Facing Our Industry, he mentioned that the bottom line is this: If you are not one of the companies involved in the online part of the research process, you won’t get invited to the second part of the process. According to Laura McLellan of Gartner, 91 percent of sales revenue is coming through marketing channels. That means budgets are shifting and being spent on solid marketing strategies.  Wrapping these strategies around digital marketing enhances the customer experience since they’ve shifted to online research and engagement. 

In this article, we’ll explore utilizing one social technology tool in particular for finding and connecting with prospects. It is one piece of the puzzle that makes up the buyer’s new online buying process in support of this digital language. We’ve already established that cold calls are significantly less effective today than 10 years ago. So how can you reach these digitally savvy prospects? We begin with LinkedIn. 

LinkedIn — the basics

Before we can even begin to tap into this powerful B2B tool, we have to begin with your own LinkedIn profile. Whether you are a CEO or a sales rep, you have to dress the part from a digital perspective. Back when pounding the pavement was still an effective tactic for prospecting, you put on a nice pair of dress pants, a freshly pressed shirt and a handsome tie, right? You would never dream of arriving to a prospect’s door wearing anything less professional. Currently, you’re in a critical stage of your dealership’s evolution. The transition to a managed IT services provider is one that requires a level of sophistication and professionalism. You need to be positioned as the expert in the IT field. Experts are professional and represent themselves well, online and offline. Time and time again, I arrive to a CEO’s LinkedIn page when researching a product or service to find his or her digital attire akin to that of “The Dude” in “The Big Lebowski.” You would never dream of prospecting door to door in a bathrobe and dirty T-shirt, so why is it, do you think, that business professionals have unfinished, sparsely populated LinkedIn profiles? This is your digital first impression and the prospect will see “The Dude” in your incomplete LinkedIn profile if it’s not properly maintained. 

It’s time to take you shopping for your digital attire. 

Here are the bare minimum basics for every professional’s LinkedIn page: 

1. A pleasant profile picture. This doesn’t have to be a posed corporate image, just one that shows you and you alone (this is not the place for a profile shot of you with your dog unless you’re a groomer).  Have a cropped image from the shoulders up and make sure it looks like you, not a Glamour shot type of image. 

2. A relevant professional headline. This means don’t just put “Sales Manager” on your headline. This tells the world not just your title, but who you are in your career. Titles don’t have the same meaning as they used to. Take a step back and think about what you do for your customers. Your headline attracts people to you. Here’s an example of a simple, clear headline: “Digital Marketing Strategist — Providing Marketing Guidance to Independent Office Technology Dealers.” It’s clear and to the point. You can now figure out quickly what I do for people. Here’s an example of one that’s a bit more … muddy: “Co-Founder and President at AB Solutions.” The name of the company is comprised of two initials and has no context as to what challenges this person can solve for you. If you list yourself as a “Sales Manager,” that doesn’t speak to your purpose. If you list yourself as “Sales professional providing managed IT services to mid-sized law firms,” well, now you’ve captured my attention. 

3. A well-crafted summary. This is an area where you can complement your SEO initiatives and beef up the visits to your profile, thus spreading the word about your IT services. Use your summary to highlight the brand that is YOU and the story that is your technologically forward-thinking company. It’s not always about the company, but you can sprinkle in facts and insight about your offerings. It is primarily about your expertise as a professional. It’s the story of your journey thorough your career. Be sure you’re able to incorporate keywords into the summary so you get the Google “brownie points.” Keep in mind, you only have 2,000 characters in this space, so make them count. They go fast! 

4. Experience should be more about capability and less a dictionary definition of the perfect job description. Experience matters. We’ve all heard this before. But in the case of your LinkedIn profile, it’s pretty darn important. Do not just list your title and company with no summary of what it all means. As a prospect, I want to know what challenges you’ve faced, what opportunities you’ve conquered, your successes, and how resilient you are in tough spots. I’m entrusting you with my IT — my customers’ confidential information in some cases — and I want to know you have the chops to back me up. If you’re not comfortable bragging about yourself, bullet out your list. Bullets can keep it concise and easy to digest for the person researching. 

5. Build your digital credibility with recommendations. I worked for a copier dealer company in a past life. One of the founders had a deep understanding of the value of customer service and had the testimonials to prove it. Every wall in the building was lined with these framed testimonial letters to showcase their credibility and allow others to see their customers’ endorsements. It’s exactly the same with online recommendations. Not everyone will enter your building to see the walls lined with these recommendations. They have to be translated into your buyers’ language — in digital form. You have to give and receive. I like to give my clients recommendations on LinkedIn for two reasons. 1) I typically only like to work with wonderful people and I’ve never had an issue offering words of praise to these folks, and 2) it evokes a positive feeling in those I recommend. It happens even with me personally when I receive a recommendation. “Oh how nice! Susan Smith gave me a recommendation!” It goes a long way. Think of your best customers and then, selectively, write them recommendations. Then ask your best customers for a recommendation in return. It’s flattering to be asked to write a recommendation. It’s a win-win. Don’t be shy. Ask trusted people in your network to write you a LinkedIn recommendation. Line your digital walls with testimonials. 

6. Build your digital credibility with connections. Expanding on your credibility, you should be connecting with other well-respected people in the digital community. It’s not about being connected to all the people you work with, it’s about connecting to people you’ve met at networking events or conferences who could lend value. Connecting with people you don’t know is tricky, but one word of advice would be to make sure your connection request states a compelling reason to make the connection. The generic message LinkedIn auto-populates is impersonal and shows you had no real thought behind the connection. Find a commonality, something you can offer them and then make the connection. If you receive a request to connect from someone you have not met and they have not included a personal message explaining the request to connect, you can always reply, inquiring as to what prompted the connection. It could lead to a viable lead. 

LinkedIn is a digital connection to your buyers. 

You can’t be in front of your clients and prospects every day in person, but you can be in front of them socially, in the space where they’ve begun to focus attention — online. LinkedIn has so many fantastic features for you when looking to enhance your online digital presence. However, the points above will at least begin to shape your profile into a reputable and trustworthy digital persona for your prospect. 

In the next article, we’ll focus on how to use your refined profile to connect with prospects and convert them into qualified leads for your dealership.

Contact Lindsay Kelley at lkelley@dealermarketing.net

This article originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of The Imaging Channel.