Face-to-face sales are crucial to maritime business; use new tools and media to boost your sales!
By Ryan Skinner (email)
Maritime business, particularly big-ticket items, is often driven by the hard-working, and hard-pressed, salesmen and women who globe-trot, deliver pitches and press flesh. Why not give those people wings? Here are a few ways to extend the reach of your sales force dramatically through new social media platforms and web technology.
1) Get on LinkedIn. Now.
Some will say "duh", but many professionals aren't in this valuable space. Those who are never look back. One marine entrepreneur told me: "I joined LinkedIn and found a dozen contacts immediately. Then I connected it to my contacts in Outlook and I was in touch with hundreds. Now we know when we'll be nearby, and can meet up." Once on LinkedIn, join some groups, such as Maritime Executive's group, the Maritime Group, Maritime Network or the Maritime Industry Network. Monitor discussion of your product areas, and comments from key customer targets.
2) Get on Twitter. Yes, twitter.
No, you don't need to tell people what you ate for breakfast. Today, you can be totally passive on twitter and gain tremendous intelligence on what's going on in shipping. Sign up, for example, to James Tweed's excellent twitter list of 40 shipping twitterers, including major shipping media like TradeWinds, Lloyd's List and Fairplay. Then get Tweetdeck running on your laptop and you'll have a constant stream of news that can boost your knowledge of business opportunities. Often, running oversight of headlines is all you need.
3) Use Google Alerts.
It's free and easy. You just enter keywords that you'd like to follow - your specific industry area, product names, your company name, competitors - and you'll see day-by-day everything that lands on the web that affects you. Review this intelligence for five minutes every morning. This mini-briefing can be invaluable.
4) Share content.
Email is more than a project management or blind sales (spam) tool. It is a great way to build up key relationships by sharing knock-out stories. If you see an article or web-page that would interest a client or contact, drop him or her a line with the link. Develop your own content - a case study with a big shipowner or a technical challenge you solved with a shipyard - and share this with a personal email. "I thought you might find this interesting... Maybe we can sit down and talk about doing the same for your company... "
5) Turn sales presentations into automated online shows you can share.
Use a program like SlideShare to turn your sales presentation into an automated presentation that can be viewed independently by contacts online. This has the advantage that you can adjust, adjust and adjust to optimize your pitch. Put it on your LinkedIn profile. Attach a link to your email signature.
5 1/2) Create iPhone- & Blackberry-friendly presentations.
2010 is the year mobile and video hit big-time. This is no longer something for high street consumer brands. If you have elegant and concise presentations of your maritime technology for contacts to see on their iPhone, you're increasing the reach and impact of your elevator pitch exponentially.