Sales, selling and networking – what now?

That’s the topic we’ve caught in the Made in Britain Twitter net: 8 July 2021

EVERY Thursday at 1pm Made in Britain hosts #MadeinBritainHour on Twitter. During that hour Made in Britain asks questions of its 21,000 followers and the results are fascinating. Previously this information was enjoyed by the audience at the time and then left to drift away in the Twittersphere, rarely read again. So, we have decided to capture some of the best comments and re-present them for a new audience and easy reference. Some of the responses have been edited but most have been left in their casual Twitter style.

This week we discuss sales, selling and networking in 2021.

Question one: are in-person sales meetings back to pre-pandemic levels? Has the sales process changed forever to permanently include more video calls?

Response: It is a matter of "Risk". Video meetings, whilst not as engaging as a physical meeting, may continue as they have many advantages. In specialist sales the physical meeting is important especially for non-standard products.

Response: We use both.

Response: This is very much in line with a debate I had with a client earlier on this week after the announcement. Many offices are getting ready for a full return, with a pre-pandemic normal routine, others are still very much on a hybrid basis, with staff not expected in as yet

Response: Let’s wait and see.

Response: There are a few I have spoken to, that have found the WFH and Video sales have been as effective as their old routines and are reconsidering the need for big offices. The constant "U" turns by government have led to some waiting to see how things pan out

Response: I agree....and only god knows what autumn will bring

Response: The restrictions have been a problem and an opportunity. We are only just getting used to a "New way of working". Autumn will bring what it will, we are better prepared for it now and we will adapt

Response: Think video calls have become the norm. The majority of our business is international so video calls are much easier and cost effective, plus less time consuming. There would have to be a compelling requirement to do an overseas trip or even trips to UK clients

Response: I think so too. It will be hard to move away from effectiveness of video calls especially if the people on the call already have a relationship.

Made in Britain: Do you think offices may adapt to this new way of working - give relevant staff some "impressive" physical backgrounds rather than bedrooms and virtual ones?

Response: I hope so I actually love backgrounds with sea and air!

Response: Think its relatively straightforward to do, to have a branded background 

Response: It can be custom made as a background screen and printed with branded imagery, or projected on a green screen background. Both are very doable and very smart.

Response: It makes sense to do that. An opportunity for interior designers?

Response: For us, in person has certainly not reached pre-pandemic levels, although we have had one or two factory visits which kept in line with our covid protocols I do think that video calls will be something that remains and perhaps we'll see more of even after the 19th

Made in Britain: Regulations allow visits for certain reasons - who has made the decision to not do as many in-persons now?

Response: Usually the customer, we do offer the factory tour to new customers to explain the process of metal spinning and showcase our capabilities but the majority of time it comes down to travel and time, which makes video calls a preferred method of communication

Response: In-house meetings for us have returned to normal, besides the distancing! For international meetings, we've just been gifted a brilliant video conferencing set-up by our parent company which will make this a little easier and more personal.

Made in Britain: I remember the days of video calls when they first started in the late 90s, sitting there university challenge style layout. Conference rooms now look so much better for video calls, is yours nicely branded?

Response: Oh yes, a wonderful Liverpool skyline with, of course, our logo

Response: Definitely not for us. We've only had a couple of in-person meetings this year. If it can be done via video, that's the first choice.

Made in Britain: Does that affect the amount of resource you need? Less travel time etc. More calls in a day?

Response: Pre-pandemic, some of our team would drive for up to 6 hours to attend meetings down the country. That's an incredible drain on time and resources, seems ridiculous to go back to that if it can be avoided.

Made in Britain: The RoI must be a lot higher for video calls than in-person. Be interesting to know what the success rate was across industry of video vs in-person sales meeting

Response: These are the "PROs of Video. Also Greater Geo reach. Reduced expenses. Lower cost of sales There are also disadvantages with Video unless your product is a standard 

Response: Always been on the phone for us. We only go out if you want your factory surveyed. But getting more email, text, WhatsApp and the odd video call in the mix now

Response: We are having face-to-face client meetings again now but as our clients are based across the UK and worldwide we were well versed in facilitating video conference calls even before the pandemic hit. 

Made in Britain Maybe you can answer this question for us as you've been doing virtual ones before COVID "has people's approach to video calls changed since the pandemic?" e.g. become more relaxed, less formal?

Response: Yes we would say so. A lot of people have been doing these calls from home, so there's that element of work fusing with home. 

Made in Britain: Do you see businesses having to try to reformalise the video calls or will it be permanently acceptable to be working from your kitchen etc?

Response: Personally I would like to see businesses reformalise because much of this has been down to people having to adjust and find a way of working in unprecedented circumstances through the pandemic.

Response: Video calls are still the primary medium for us — especially if the distance needed to travel is particularly large. We are slowly accepting more site visits however

Made in Britain Have your team been trained in video call etiquette? or have they just picked it up?

Response: I would rephrase that...have you included online video etiquette with customer relationship building and training?...after a year of online calls, hopefully businesses have realised the importance of such training

Response: No training, just a lot of personal experience over the last 16 months! I do recall a webinar by @NigelTPacker where he recommended dressing as you would in a business meeting though.

Response: Video calls have always been important for us as well deal with overseas customers sometimes. And, as some of us work remotely, we’re all clued up on the dos and don’ts of Zoom!

Response: Having had many video calls I would say that many have not had any training and the habits they have picked up are woeful. Training is something that has been slow developing

Response: Our in-person sales meetings our not to pre-pandemic levels (yet) although we have had a few covid-compliant meetings both internally and for customers/suppliers. We are hoping to host a few site visits soon though

Made in Britain: Are site visits a useful 'sales' tool for manufacturers?

Response: We feel that they are, for us anyway. It helps that we've just invested in our factory & facilities and we want to be able to show them off. Yes this can be done remotely via video calls etc but we want some customers to get a complete 'feel' for us and how we work

Made in Britain: Makes them remember you more too rather than just watching on a screen. Great work with the new image/branding - nice and fresh looking

Response: Yeah totally, we feel it's that bit more inclusive, they can see staff members/factory operatives etc that maybe wouldn't be included in virtual meetings. 

Response: Even as restrictions have started to lift, we are still regularly interacting with our clients via video calls. This system has worked extremely well for us and many of our UK and overseas clients.

Made in Britain: What are you using for the calls? Zoom, Teams?

Response: So far we have utilised a mixture! We tend to use whatever platform is most suitable and convenient for our clients to access.

Made in Britain: Do you have a preference?

Response: Google Meet ticks all the boxes for us!

Question two: how useful are networking events for manufacturers, e.g. breakfast networking? Have digital versions been successful?

Response: Physical networking is more productive than digital networking. Online events don't have the facility to network effectively as you are a passive observer in most. I published a book on Networking for Business contacts in 2018 explaining the three Ps of networking. The principles apply to online networking without the physicality

Response: agreed however digital allows you to assess the viability of the conversations before committing the additional time in terms of travel. I find it adds an extra qualification step in the process that's helpful for my productivity levels

Made in Britain: Is it a different skill set do you think @NigelTPacker - or if you are good at in-person networking you are also good at virtual?

Response: Video has disadvantages with poor non verbal communications. We do not see the complete picture online. Many of the platforms restrict delegates networking. It is losing many companies opportunities that physical exhibitions and specialised events have

Response: Where we have had a few people on a networking event it has been alright, its more of learning the “new way” to start with 

Response: I agree with @NigelTPacker 1-2-1 is easier but once you have a few people in a video group chat conversation can sometimes be stilted, interrupted and harder to manage.

Response: This chat once a week is about the extent of our manufacturing networking! Digital trade shows and the like are not really for us and it’s always hard to find the time to attend networking events - especially since production has been picked during the pandemic.

Response: IT's very useful and certainly holds a number of perks The ones that spring to mind include; - Brand Awareness - Contacts / leads - Word of Mouth Marketing - Knowledge sharing I would say digital versions have been great

Response: Yes all of the above

Made in Britain: Do you think digital is better than virtual?

Response: Oh i was referring to digital as the same as virtual virtual meetings as opposed to face-to-face

Response: Some might differentiate virtual as being talking/cameras on, whereas digital can cover text based networking/discussions

Made in Britain: In light of that, I would prefer virtual over digital because of the human contact in seeing who you are talking to But digital is still successful for twitter hours such as this and can help brands enforce their perceptions as industry experts.

Response: Breakfast mornings WERE very successful in the past but haven't resumed again yet. Agree with @barkstonplastic this weekly #MadeinBritainHour is the extent of our manufacturing networking!

Response: Why are breakfast mornings so successful do you think?

Response: Everyone likes free food!

Response: Networking is still probably one of the hardest to do well on video as you are either put in a small group & have separate conversation or else participate in a group chat which means that you get lost in the conversations. I find it good to meet people and then chat separately

Made in Britain: How useful is it for manufacturers in general do you think? general networking? sector specific? vertical?

Response: Depends why and where they are networking. Networking is always a great approach, you meet new clients, potential new partners and suppliers and they will come from sector specific, general business and even membership events.

Made in Britain: One of the challenges is to pick the right event? how do you decide which ones to do?

Response: In a similar way to physical networking events. Small specialised events where your customers are likely to be. Avoid your own industry unless you want to find out what is going on. 

Response: Networking events are very useful I think, it's picking the right ones to attend. Digital ones can work but as @MarketAccents said it can be hard to feel included in some virtual events as they can feel a bit 'disjointed' at times.

Made in Britain: Any tips on how to pick the right ones to attend?

Response: For us we tend to look for 'familiar faces' among the exhibitors or attendees lists. Also if all else fails it's good to catch up with existing contacts!

Made in Britain: Do the events/shows/conferences you go to often release attendee lists beforehand - that's if it isn't an open event of course

Response: Some have in the past, you can see a list of people/organisations who have registered their intend to attend a certain event.

Response: Research who is attending, topic matter and if it is worth participating to show expertise or to share knowledge.

Response: Do many events you go to share the attendee list beforehand?

Response: Sometimes you can see who is attending from social media. You can also speak to the organisers to find out who should be there.

Response: Networking and digital networking events have provided us with a wealth of opportunities to engage with other businesses. We are particularly looking forward to the trade shows we have coming up later in the year, as we have some exciting new technology to showcase

Made in Britain When is your first in-person trade show going to be?

Response: We were meant to be exhibiting at the Advanced Materials Show on the 7th-8th July, however, COVID guidelines postponed the event. Our next show will be Interplas, which is scheduled for the end of September. Fingers crossed for that!

Question three: have customer expectations of in-person sales meetings changed or are they now expecting a return to pre-pandemic levels?

Response: It is a better use of time to see whether you want to carry on the conversation. Sometimes you meet great contacts & you want to keep the relationship ticking along. That is where digital, such as Linkedin, really come in useful. I think customer expectations have changed as well

Response: I would say to the degree that they're more qualified as I think digital is a great pre-qualification mechanism to assess viability and fit

Response: Many of our clients have become accustomed to initial video calls. We tend to believe that this will be the new norm for many.

Response: Quite often people’s first response is to arrange an online meeting rather than an in person visit. I think this will be a long term change, leading to great efficiency

Response: I tend to agree with @barkstonplastic comment, most will do an initial video call/meeting and then as communications/projects progress an actual face-to-face site visit can be arranged to finalise things. Video calls are easier/quicker to set up and may be all thats needed.

Response: Yes, an in-person meeting would generally only be considered to sign off or finalise an agreement now but a video call is the default option

Response: The quick video call to show something to a client seems to be appreciated more and here to stay. For new customers a physical meeting would be more appreciated

Made in Britain: Has the sales process shortened in duration do you think?

Response: Yes, for those customers that are ready to buy, most definitely

Response: Yes I think they have - the majority of busy clients are happy to have a brief video call

Question four: what innovative ways have been developed/used for virtual product demonstrations. Will VR ever become mainstream for this?

Response: I've seen it done for certain industries, particularly in architecture i.e. new room renovations etc. which is a really effective way of visually showing the customer Could it work for metal spinning? Doubt it, perhaps augmented reality instead would favour our industry?

Response: Video has been available for many years, yet it is still underutilised. The cost today low and many can make their own video of products in action. VR headsets are still in their infancy, sending a VR link to a company without the technology is redundant. The gaming and design industries are ahead of the trend but does it help manufacturers when a video and narrative will work.

Response: Video clips are still as useful as ever for us, especially during presentations

Made in Britain: You'd think the use of video clips should have increased over the last 15 months. I wonder if they have?

Response: The use of video has definitely increased - esp with Tik Tok and Instagram Reels. We've started putting more resources into short video clips and building our YouTube channel presence.

Response: We have demonstrated with videos different finishing methods to a new client. They wanted to see and understand the binding options we offer like saddle stitch books and perfect bound books, Wiro binding 

Made in Britain: Have you then used those videos for other things? e.g website, social media?

Response: No, but I suppose we can

Response: Do, if one client want to see it think how many other do as well. It is also a great SEO opportunity. Get it done today!

Response: We currently have minimal need for virtual product demos, sending samples out + data sheets works for us currently. As @RadMaterialsLtd said AR and VR will become more mainstream for some companies and seeing how they can be pushed in the future is very interesting

Made in Britain: I hope some companies don't just do it because its available otherwise it may end up diluting the really useful applications of it. would you agree?

Response: Yes certainly. There will always be the pioneers who really push the technology and it's capabilities and those who feel it's another bandwagon to jump on. without it being of much use to them or adding anything beneficial themselves

Response: We don't tend to utilise virtual product demonstrations, generally because we don't need to. Although the idea of VR and even AR becoming ways of displaying a product sounds incredibly exciting. It will be hard to beat getting a physical product in the hand of a consumer.

Made in Britain: It's an interesting area because if it really is good then it increases the number of people who could do it at the same time – scale

Response: Looking at their applications already, it certainly makes us confident that they could be integrated further into business use. Particularly from an R&D or NPD perspective!

We tend not to edit the contributor's Twitter-speak text so if anybody would like to understand this better, email editor@madeinbritain.org and I will try to get a clearer explanation.

Join Made in Britain on Twitter at 1pm every Thursday for #MadeinBritainHour. We engage with everybody, members and non-members alike (some of whom become members as a result). Hopefully, see you there.

This page has links to all the previous Twitter conversations we have 'caught in the net': CLICK HERE.

By Made in Britain 2 weeks ago | Made in Britain news

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