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Sometimes, business owners feel like they have to chase down customers in order to find new business. The sales process can be exhausting if you are taking this approach, and it's not how it's meant to be done. The key is to have your customers approach your business, because your team has already attracted them to your brand.
Recently, our CEO sat down with a B2B strategist who uses her experience in business, sales, and leadership to get teams motivated and energized to win both new and recurring business. In this blog, Hollywood Branded learns about converting your connections into customers with a LinkedIn expert, Charlie Whyman.
Charlie is a LinkedIn Trainer and a B2B Development strategist and coach who has spent the last 13 years in international business, leadership, sales and marketing roles helping drive innovation and bring new products and ideas to market – with a special focus on highly technical industries.
She helps her clients by providing them with a proven system to attract new leads and convert customers. After working with Charlie, her clients feel confident starting conversations with people online. She's also the host of The Curiosity Key Podcast where she gives other curious thinkers, innovators and change makers a voice to help inspire and empower more people.
Question: Can you tell us a little bit about your background and what got you to where you are today?
Answer: A whistle stop tour. I originally studied engineering, electronics/electrical engineering, at university because I love technology. I love to create things. I love to make things. I was kind of funneled into this engineering degree because everybody was just like, "Oh, that's the right path for you." But what I found was that I was way more interested in human behavior, psychology, and business. I was really not in a very amazing place at that time. I did two years at university and then realized, you know what? This is not for me.
I ended up in Sardinia. I was living on a property that had an olive grove and being a bit of a foodie I thought, you know what? I'll use this opportunity to learn as much as I could about making olive oil. Then I thought, this is so good, I need to get this in front of more people. So I started my first business, which was 13 years ago, making and selling olive oil in the U.K. It was sold in market stalls with other Sardinian fine foods.
I got really in to branding and marketing because, if you can imagine an electronics engineer branding and marketing olive oil. It was kind of like, "It's clearly the best olive oil you've ever tasted in your life. Why wouldn't you want to pay for it?" So, it was a pretty steep learning curve. But the oil won. It went to Great Taste Awards two years on the trot and it was a really fun adventure. But I needed to learn more. I had a really bad experience with learning from school and university and I still wanted to get more in to innovation and helping people. I've had a very colorful career. It's been lots of different roles. I spent two years working in public sector in sports and health care specifically focusing on innovation and bringing ideas to life, getting them funded, bringing them to market.
I was actually offered a job for a company that sold laser scanning technology to surveyors, engineers, mining engineers, and I knew nothing about what a laser scanner was. I knew nothing about the surveying market. I knew nothing about that particular type of engineering, civil engineering, structural engineering, that sort of thing. I was way out of my depth, but I was like, You know what? This sounds really interesting, so I'll get involved.
So, I took the job as a marketing assistant. Never mind that my only marketing experience was coddling together a brand in a company fair for my olive oil. I learned a lot. I learned from my mistakes. That was amazing and I spent six years at that company where I went from marketing assistant when I joined to the global head of sales and marketing within a kind of a two and a half year period and then got very much involved in sales marketing and was a key part of the leadership team for well over three years.
Then I left that company, went to head of marketing role for a group of companies that served the global shipping industry selling innovative solutions for healthcare and performance monitoring, which then a year later kind of gave the motivation to say, "You know what? I really want to start my own company. I want to work with more individuals, more companies, to help them launch products. I want to get their brands out there, give them a voice, and basically make B2B marketing fun and interesting because I think it's not always fun and interesting and it should be."
Now, I think that brings me to where I am today. I've sort of made things up as I've went along for the last couple of years and I kind of definitely, it's all about training and education for me at the moment.
Question: So, LinkedIn. I know this is like your favorite tool. Why do you love it so much? Why do you think it's this godsend of marketing for B2B companies?
Answer: I attribute a lot of my success to LinkedIn because I think if I look back, I didn't finish my engineering degree. I'm not a trained marketer. I've never done a formal marketing qualification. I've been on a few sales training workshops. I'm not specifically trained in that, yet somehow I manage to go from just being a marketing assistant to running the sales and marketing for a global company and then going and getting a job as the head of marketing for a group of companies.
All of that is coming through LinkedIn. My sort of methodology is all around curious thinking because I'm a very curious person. It was the inspiration for starting my podcast. I teach a lot of people to kind of like unleash their power, the natural power, of curious thinking to do more because it's all about asking questions and being interested in what the people that you are talking to does and is about.
My agenda as that marketing assistant, if I go back sort of 11, 12 years ago, was never to become a head of marketing or head of sales, whatever. It was never to sell. It was to find out how I could help people be successful through whatever it was that I was doing. I used LinkedIn to originally, I was just making it up as I went along. I was traveling the world going to all sorts of different B2B events in the mining industry, surveying industry, sort of talking to engineers.
If you imagine back then, I looked about 12. So I tried to be taken seriously as well, which was also a bit of a challenge, especially in countries like South Africa, for example. And it's a male dominated industry. But I think because I was going to all these events all around the world, the thing that didn't make sense to me was that you were relying on building relationships with people that you only communicated with once a year at these particular events and I was involved in selling them marketing equipment where the sales cycle was sort of, it could be as short as six months or it could be as long as three years.
I was like, you know what? If you can keep the communication channels going so you're not waiting for a year to meet that person and reestablish trust and rapport, how else can you keep in touch with these people and communicate that's not email, because everybody's email inboxes, it was like you needed a reason to email people or if you didn't have a reason then it was considered spam or just that boring marketing stuff.
So I used LinkedIn. I connected with everybody I had a conversation with and even if they asked me a question I didn't know, I went off to find the answer. And instead of just kind of keeping that response to that one person that asked it to me, I posted it as an article post on LinkedIn.
At the time I didn't really realize what I was doing, but what I now realize is that I was essentially growing my own personal brand. I was kind of driving a content strategy, which then reached more people, that was helping educate people, and then positioning myself and the brand that I was working for as a real expert in that field.
It kind of evolved from that a little bit. And then more and more over time people saw me as that kind of trusted expert or that person that they could go to that was approachable that was not going to try and sell them something that they didn't need. It was a case of, well, if the advice that I was giving you, or rather, if your need was what I could help you with then I would continue that conversation. If not, I put you in touch with somebody that I knew that could help you.
Building relationships has been a very natural part of life for me. I grew up, both my parents had small businesses. One of them went bankrupt and the other one was a car dealership, so it was kind of, my dad used to sell cars to people in the community that came back five, 10 years later to buy their next car because it was all based on relationships. For me, that was just the natural way of doing things. I found that through LinkedIn I was able to find new people to talk to. I was able to keep conversations going with people I've met and it didn't feel forced. It didn't feel unnatural. It felt very genuine.
Question: I know you've mentioned getting your employees involved in your company pages. What are some of the best practices to do that? Usually, it's the last thing anyone wants to do is, another thing you need to do for the company. Another thing on top of that in your eight hour work day. What are some of those best ways? How can you effectively leverage and get your employees to make themselves more involved on LinkedIn and get them to be more involved in your company as well?
Answer: It's a great question and the first thing I would always recommend that every company does is really outline the, what's in it for me? We talk about this from a marketing point of view. When you're marketing to your audience, you have to make it, what's in it for them to engage with your brand? So, exactly the same when you're looking internally, because internal marketing is also just as important.
When you look at your sales team, for example, and your marketing team, it's like, what is in it for them for them to be using LinkedIn? From a sales team point of view, it's that if they're not using LinkedIn, then they're missing a huge amount of opportunities and probably leaving a lot of deals on the table. Because from a sales point of view, you can shorten your sales cycle, for one. That's normally the biggest one. You can have a better relationship with your client. You can address objections and follow up with your prospects a lot easier, a lot less demanding and forceful, so there's a lot more toys available that you can leverage from that side of things. Also, you can use it as a way to keep in touch with your marketing team without marketing constantly hounding you for information.
From a marketing point of view, the what's in it for me is that it helps them feel a bit more connected to sales and the customer, because this was always one of my biggest bugbears, is that because I worked as head of sales and marketing for three and a half years and then moved to a head of marketing role, is that I didn't have as much control or contact with the end customers and with the sales team.
In my opinion, you are much better and more effective marketer if you speak to customers, if you understand objections, and you really get in to the behaviors and the motivations of your target market. You can't do that from the sidelines. It's completely to let their staff know what's in it for them and then they need to either incentivize them by educating them as to how to leverage LinkedIn, motivating them by saying, "There's different rewardings, " if you need to reward your staff.
Creating like a LinkedIn advocate within the company. Having a little meeting every now again just saying, "How are you using LinkedIn? How is it coming along?" Because one of the biggest barriers to individuals using LinkedIn is not actually how to use the system, it's implementing regular habits and being consistent across the platform. The more consistent you are, the more visible you'll be and the better the brand and the trust and the visibility that you'll have. Having somebody to say, "Have you done anything on LinkedIn this week?" Just to remind you and give you that accountability really, really helps.
And then, actually again, it's that education side of things because if employees tag the company in a post, so if they're talking about a customer demo, if they're talking about a customer case study, if they were to tag that company, then the company page has access to that post because they've been mentioned and if somebody uses a hashtag with their company name, again, the company page will be notified of that post and they can link the two.
It's just like that education as to the little things that they can be doing to then help the marketing team get visibility as to what sales are doing and also for sales to then get visibility as to how to get in front of the target market and jump on those sales opportunities. Because a lot of times prospects can be commenting on some of these posts and unless you've got somebody from sales taking advantage of those, you're going to be missing those opportunities.
Hopefully that's a kind of like whistle stop tour of things that you can do. But if you visit my LinkedIn profile, I think you're going to put a link in the show notes, it's just LinkedIn.com/in/charliewhyman, I've got an article which is all around how to create and grow a company page.
LinkedIn is a resource that almost all of us can be better at utilizing. Charlie shares so much more information in the full podcast episode below, check it out and see what you can do to improve your LinkedIn game today!Marketing and sales... we believe you can never learn enough about these topics! They are so crucial to the success of your business, and you better believe we have a library of content on focused on these topics. Check out some of our favorite blogs about marketing and sales below!
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Topics: Business Advice, Podcast Interviews, HB Podcast