How a Manufacturer Adapted Relationship Selling for Virtual Environments

Episode 128

March 30, 2021

As trade shows and conferences continue in virtual forms for the foreseeable future, manufacturers must identify ways to optimize relationship selling. In this week’s episode of The Kula Ring, Ryan Carley, Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Mason Controls, talks about how relationship selling has changed for his team during the pandemic, how they are adapting the sales process with new remote tactics, and where he thinks relationship selling is going as virtual connections continue to be the norm.

How a Manufacturer Adapted Relationship Selling for Virtual Environments Transcript:

Announcer: You’re listening to The Kula Ring, a podcast made for manufacturing marketers. Here are Carman Pirie and Jeff White. 

Jeff White: Welcome to The Kula Ring, a podcast for manufacturing marketers brought to you by Kula Partners. My name is Jeff White and joining me today is Carman Pirie. Carman, how you doing, sir? 

Carman Pirie: I’m doing well, Jeff, and look, we’re recording this, and I think all of North America practically is under a deep freeze of sorts. 

Jeff White: Yeah, it’s true. 

Carman Pirie: So, just hope everybody’s staying warm out there. 

Jeff White: Indeed. Yeah. No, we’re lucky to be indoors in a place that often is without power in the winter. 

Carman Pirie: Exactly, exactly. 

Jeff White: For days on end sometimes. 

Carman Pirie: It’s not often that the entirety of North America is… I shouldn’t say North America. I should say the U.S. and Canada. With the exception of maybe Florida, it is kind of just all… We’re all now enjoying winter together. 

Jeff White: Yeah. Yeah. I saw a stat yesterday that said something like 78% of the lower 48 is under a blanket of snow right now, which is… 

Carman Pirie: Look at you with the stats. 

Jeff White: I know. I know. 

Carman Pirie: That might be the most… This brings our how preshow banter to a different level. I mean, if we’re gonna start throwing out-

Jeff White: I have to do research. 

Carman Pirie: … meteorological stats. 

Jeff White: Well, we are Canadian. We do have to talk about the weather. 

Carman Pirie: It’s impressive. 

Jeff White: Yeah. 

Carman Pirie: Color me impressed. Well, I’m excited about today’s show. 

Jeff White: Me as well. We’ve done a fair amount of discussion about what life may look like in marketing and sales post-COVID, and our next guest is going to give us some of his thoughts about where he thinks relationship selling is going to go in a post-COVID era. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. What I like about this type of episode, or I’m hoping, is that it’s more just almost a thought experiment. Right? It’s like hey, what could be? And so, we’ll try to predict the future and just be assured that we’re wrong. 

Jeff White: Well, I mean, at least we’re basing it on what people are experiencing now, where they’ve come from, and maybe where they hope to go or where they expect to go. 

Carman Pirie: It’ll be fun. 

Jeff White: Yeah, so joining us today is Ryan Carley. Ryan is the VP of Sales and Marketing at Mason Controls. Welcome to The Kula Ring, Ryan. 

Ryan Carley: Thank you both. Glad to be here with my hands wrapped around a mug of tea trying to stay warm. 

Carman Pirie: Nice. Ryan, great to be chatting with you. I gotta say, I’m keen for you to give our listeners a bit of background about yourself and then dive into Mason Controls a little bit, because they do some pretty cool stuff. 

Jeff White: Yeah. Certainly, something, especially like pre-teen me would have really loved to see. Along with all those models of F-14s hanging from my ceiling in the bedroom. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah, so Ryan, tell us a bit about yourself. 

Ryan Carley: Sure. Yeah, so Ryan Carley, VP, Sales and Marketing, Mason Controls. I’ve been working in aerospace for about 15 years. From the East Coast, originally, I grew up with a little bit of snow. Now living in Southern California. My blood is totally thin, so I think it’s 50 today and I had to wear a scarf and gloves almost on my way to work. Really enjoyed working in aerospace for a long time, because the 14-year-old me is still very much alive and kicking, so very excited about the products Mason Controls makes. We make anything that pilots use to fly airplanes or helicopters. We also make grips that control tanks. We have naval applications. It’s kind of like that human-machine interface, and our sweet spot is taking the input from a pilot or user of a vehicle and crafting a product that really is comfortable, lasts a long time, and innovating different and new ways to do that. 

Jeff White: Very cool. 

Carman Pirie: It is very cool. 

Jeff White: Yeah. No, absolutely 14-year-old me would be all over that, for sure. Yeah. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. No, I find it pretty awesome and I’m well north of 14. 

Jeff White: Yes. Yeah. So, say we all. 

Carman Pirie: I mean, and I think the wannabe interface designer in me I think kind of… You know, there’s that-

Jeff White: True human interface, but not with a screen. 

Carman Pirie: Right. 

Jeff White: Yeah. Yeah. That’s what makes it so interesting. 

Carman Pirie: Ryan, our conversation in the lead up to this show, we chatted a lot about how sales happen at Mason Controls, or at least how they used to happen pre-COVID, so can you give us, at least begin to paint a bit of a picture of how that process worked when we could actually be face to face? 

Ryan Carley: Aerospace sales is something that is a very long cycle. As a salesperson, you might work on a project or a bid for three, four, maybe even five years before it comes to fruition, and after that it may not be another three, four, five years until you’re delivering product at full rate because of the development time scales involved. And a lot of it as well has to do with funding of governments who want to buy different aircraft or different products, and in the commercial space there’s a lot of R that goes into the R&D before a new aircraft platform is launched. 

Prior to COVID, we had a few sales folks. We prefer here at least to have sales folks directly as part of the business, so we have two guys here and one person on the East Coast, but they spend a lot of time on the road, and they spend a lot of time out in front of customers and visiting customers. Probably two and a half, on average, or maybe three weeks on average a year, including visits to trade shows, and in the past it’s all been about that kind of accidental… Well, I don’t want to say accidental, but we get a lot of accidental conversation, let’s say hallway conversations if you will, that occur. And you develop relationships that can span different customers as people move around in the business. It spans different programs, and we have sales by territory, and so folks are in the territory, they know our customers, they know the people themselves, and they live and they travel in the same area. 

It was very much about face-to-face relationship selling. Not over the phone. Not over video. So, COVID has really thrown us for a wrench into our normal sales tactics in the past year. 

Carman Pirie: I remember you mentioning it was almost the… just start wandering through the hallways and have conversation, and you kind of almost pick up business along the way. And it just struck me in that moment that there’s no hallway roaming, you know? 

Jeff White: Yeah. A total lack of hallway roaming. Where are most of your sales team coming from? Are they previously in defense, or aerospace, or the military, or are they kind of coming more from the manufacturing side? 

Ryan Carley: Typically coming from aerospace. If they have a defense background, that’s a little better for us. We are probably a 60-40 defense-commercial type business. But usually, you find people that have been in the business a long time, they have the relationships that you can utilize, whether it’s in the commercial or the defense space to bring in new business. Bringing in somebody new from outside of the business, we’ve done that as well. It’s just a little more work to hit the ground running. A little more work to kind of get up to speed on the different platforms and how the supply chain organism fits together, because it can be a little complex amongst all the OEMs and tier ones and tier twos that there are. 

Jeff White: I can imagine. And I have to think that having that experience, especially on the defense side, kind of enables those conversations to happen more freely if they’re roaming the halls of an aircraft manufacturer or something like that. 

Ryan Carley: Yeah. I can think back to when I was a sales engineer a few years back, and going to visit customers, and you’d walk down the hall and you’d be going to a meeting and you’d see this person and think, “Oh, I think I’ve seen that name on an email.” And the person’s there, so you say, “Hey, I’ve been on a couple emails with you. I’m Ryan. How’s it going?” And then, “Oh, here’s my card.” And then, “What are you working on today?” “Oh, I’m working on this program.” “Oh, I hadn’t heard about that.” You know, don’t forget we do… Oh, that’s right, you do that product. And so, then a couple months later you might have an RFP or an RFI that comes in for that product. 

Carman Pirie: Now, first off, you make that sound very easy. But-

Jeff White: Of course, it isn’t. 

Ryan Carley: I’m simplifying, of course. There’s a lot more that goes into it. 

Carman Pirie: But look, that’s obviously predicated on having customer site access, and you know, as we look ahead, right now I guess as we’re recording this, it’s mid-February, and the vaccine rollout in America is going faster than it is certainly in most of the rest of the world. There’s a few countries that are maybe ahead, but the vaccine rollout is going reasonably well in the U.S. And I think there’s some general optimism that by summer, anybody that wants to be vaccinated will be vaccinated. But as you’re looking at it as the VP of sales for Mason Controls, are you projecting we’re gonna be back being able to be face to face, pressing the flesh with customers in August? Or what do you think that’s gonna look like in terms of even when you’re gonna be able to even get back into their offices? 

Ryan Carley: We have that debate often. I have one sales guy who works for me who almost every day comes into my office, “We need to go see a customer. We need to be in front of them for this. We need to talk to them.” And I’m like, “I know, and I really want to be there.” But it’s a funny conversation to have, because it’s a two-way street. It’s our risk level and our willingness to go out and travel as a business, as people who work at Mason, but then the other side of the coin is the same exact conversation for our customers. And so far, I think that personally, I don’t think it’s gonna be back to “normal” in terms of being able to be out and about and hop on a plane for another maybe year. Maybe January ’22, when there’s more saturation of the vaccine out there, just because then everyone’s comfort level, us and our customers, is going to be even higher than it is today. 

But you know, we’re taking it case by case. I was super stoked. I had to actually look in my drawer yesterday to find my business cards, I haven’t used them in so long. Actually, I had a customer come in and visit yesterday. Socially distanced, took their temperature, wearing the mask, in a big room, more than six feet apart actually, but wearing a suit to work was like… It was awesome. I loved it. 

Jeff White: It’s pretty rare that you hear that, you know? 

Ryan Carley: I know. 

Jeff White: I was really stoked to wear nice clothes. 

Carman Pirie: I was thinking about that, though. I wonder if we’re gonna actually have a resurgence, you know, when things get back a little bit more normalish, if people are gonna be like, “No, no, no. You’re dressing up for the office now.” 

Jeff White: Exactly. 

Carman Pirie: This casual office is-

Jeff White: No more sweatpants. 

Carman Pirie: This isn’t gonna work for me, by the way, because I have like one outfit, generally, and it’s like a black t-shirt and blue jeans. Yeah. I do kind of wonder if we’ll almost over index in some of those things we haven’t been able to do. 

Ryan Carley: Yeah. I think that the other challenge I foresee is that how are we going to know when customers are in office, and where they are in office? Because we’ve had a couple of our customers who, let’s say they have three big office buildings in this office park and a manufacturing facility a few miles away, they’re thinking about and they’ve told us that they’re thinking about closing two of those buildings and just having one, and then having kind of a rotational schedule where people A through D or what have you might be in from Monday and Thursday, and everybody else is Tuesday and Friday, so then it’s just a whole other dimension in terms of travel and scheduling, where you’re like, “Okay, is this person in? And I’m gonna go over here tomorrow. But oh no, that’s the day they’re at home. Well, I can’t go to their house because that’s weird and creepy, but let me go over…” 

It’s just another complexity we’ll have to address. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. No, absolutely. Actually, I hadn’t really… I guess I’d thought about how the organizations will change, how office structures may be different. I hadn’t really, I suppose, thought about that through the lens of then just showing up at a place means what’s the likelihood that the person you want to talk to is even there? 

Jeff White: Yeah, it’s kind of the in-person thing of the problem with account-based marketing targeting right now, where you can’t target by IP because nobody’s in the office anymore. It’s like the corollary to that on a personal level. Yeah. Very strange. 

Carman Pirie: Well, I mean look, we’re looking at a situation where you’re projecting potentially another 12 months of selling a new way or having to do things differently before things are “back to normal.” I guess what does that look like for Mason Controls? I mean, how are you adapting the sales process to I guess keep things going here in the next year? 

Ryan Carley: We’ve tried to be as different as we can be, and not quite to this level, but the mindset that we have is that like, “Can I send donuts to your house,” kind of thing. Or can I send you a pizza if we have lunch? And we haven’t really done that, because that’s a little hard of course logistically, but we’re trying to think in that way of making it fun when we have a call, or making it a little bit different to make it stand out, because like you both, and I’m sure most people listening spend a lot of time in front of a computer and on the phone these days as opposed to perhaps having in-person meetings, or being able to walk around and visit people. 

What makes that pop and what makes that different? And one of the small things that we’ve found that have helped break through, break the ice a bit, is when we have a call with a customer and it’s on Zoom or webcast, which WebEx, which most are these days, whereas a year ago you’d probably rarely find that, we always turn our cameras on. And our customer may not have their cameras on, but what we’ve found is that over time, it’s almost like they get guilt tripped into turning their camera on, so you see it enough and you’re like, “Man, I gotta turn… Okay, he has his camera on. I’ll turn mine on too.” 

That, it helps, and then you see them. You see probably their house and maybe you can develop a relationship through something you might see in the back… Oh, I went to school there. And that’s that human link, that helps me, helps you. It’s a real person with a soul and a heartbeat on the other end. It’s so useful. 

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Carman Pirie: Man, yeah, I don’t know that this pickle is gonna be a cucumber again, either. I think the change is gonna be somewhat permanent for salespeople. You’re going to have to be good at selling on camera. 

Jeff White: Yeah. Or remotely in general. I mean, I think the-

Carman Pirie: But to the point, I think it’s gonna have to… I think most salespeople ought to get their head around it that I need to get good on camera, actually. 

Jeff White: Yeah. Yeah. 

Carman Pirie: I mean-

Jeff White: On camera is one thing. Good on the phone is another. 

Ryan Carley: I mean, it’s a tech savvy point too. I’m sure especially as we’re recording the podcast, as well, the first five minutes of any meeting these days are the, “Well, couldn’t hear me when I signed on, right? Gotta change my mic setting. Gotta make sure the camera’s facing the right direction on the laptop. Is somebody being loud in the office or in the room next door at home?” There’s a lot more prep I think that goes into it than there used to be, as well. 

Jeff White: Pre-COVID we did all of our selling remotely, but it was still via the phone. You were still using GoToMeeting or whatever, but you did it over the phone, and nobody turned their camera on. We tried it for a while and there wasn’t anybody into it, so…

Carman Pirie: Yeah. No, video calls just accelerated-

Jeff White: Exponentially. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. 10 years in the first two months of COVID, really. 

Jeff White: No, I have to think. What other… you mentioned looking for ways to connect with people when you’re doing this remotely. What are some other things that you’ve noticed or heard from your team in terms of things that have really helped to make that connection virtually? 

Ryan Carley: I think that they’ve discovered that it’s even more important than it was before to be able to very quickly read the tone of a customer and understand, and kind of learn their habits, as well. I’m thinking of one customer in particular that we’ve learned that typically they don’t like to answer the phone in the morning. We used to call a lot in the morning to try and find out the status on things, or ask questions, and never got a result, but this person likes to do afternoon phone calls, so we know after 2:00, then they’ll pick up the phone and it’s really easy. There’s another one that never answers the phone, which is a challenge, but if you book a meeting in and you just put it blindly in, which previously I would have said, “No, don’t do that, because that’s rude and you don’t know.” But in this day and age, for this person, it works out that book a meeting in and then they’ll get on the phone and you can have a conversation. 

I think it’s like picking up on those nuances of before it was about knowing the person’s kid, and the dogs, and a lot more of the peripheral things. I think now, with being on the phone, and being in the video, it’s about that as well, but even before you get there it’s about really paying attention to the details of how this person functions, and what their daily routine might be like, and how they’re reacting to you, to be able to tailor the conversation to make it value add for both parties. Because you don’t want to have the, “Hey, how’s it going?” And then other person’s like, “Good, but what do you need? I’m really busy.” And then my salesperson just goes on about baseball or whatever and the other person’s thinking, “Geez, I need to get off the phone.” You gotta be able to read the room just using your ears, which is a much different way to do it. 

Jeff White: Yeah. It really speaks to the changing nature of perhaps the type of person who might be good at sales, you know? The empath is probably getting more and more coverage on the sales front. I have to think. 

Carman Pirie: I’m just gonna highlight too, I think the one thing that salespeople, one critical characteristic for them going forward beyond selling on video is I don’t think any anti-vaxxers ought to be applying for sales roles. 

Jeff White: Yeah. Certainly not outside sales. 

Carman Pirie: Exactly right, you know? I mean, I think it’s a serious thing. It’s something you wouldn’t have thought of before, like if somebody would have that opinion, you’d almost think it’s a political thing, whatever. But now it’s like, “You’re not getting site access to customers if you are…” 

Ryan Carley: Yeah. That’s a really good point. We haven’t experienced that yet. Of course, we haven’t been going anywhere, and we’ve had discussions here about the vaccine, and how we can get it, and can we mandate it, and there’s a lot of things that go into that conversation when it comes to rules and regulations, et cetera. Actually, I’m not sure how that’s gonna work in the future. If today you go in and you tick a box, like do I have a fever, have I been in COVID, if you’re gonna go visit somebody potentially. I wonder if to your point there’ll be a box that says, “I’ve got a vaccine.” And if the answer is no, you know… 

Carman Pirie: I’m assuming they’re gonna have to show proof of vaccination. 

Jeff White: But I mean, even there, Ryan mentioning the idea of mandating vaccines for all of your staff, there are ethical concerns about vaccine passports and access and all that. It’s certainly very interesting. And the other thing that moves into, especially from a sales context, is the idea of where we’re going to go with in-person trade shows. Because I mean, it’s really weird to think of being in a room with tens of thousands of other people again and mingling at happy hour. It feels so strange. 

Carman Pirie: I do-

Ryan Carley: Oh, sure. Because you start getting those… I mean, I don’t know about you all, but around July is when I started to get that feeling when I watched a Netflix show and I’d see a big crowd with no masks, and I’d just think, “Oh, put a mask on those people.” 

Jeff White: Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. So, I mean, what do you think, like what do you and your team miss most about the trade show experience? 

Ryan Carley: I think the biggest thing we miss is that we use trade shows often to walk the entire show, like grid pattern, we walk up and down every single aisle over the course of a day or two. We may have a booth where we have one or two people if anybody stops by, but the biggest draw we get from it is being able to go and see our customers, of course, but also the competition, because that’s one of the only times where we’re able to walk up to a competitor’s booth, and of course they do the same to us, but have a conversation, look at their products. If we can, we might take a few photos of the product, so we understand the kind of things that they’re… if it’s all right, that they’re working on, that we may not have seen, or that might be close to ours. 

That’s the biggest reason I love going to trade shows, is to see what else is going on out there that I don’t know in my little window in Los Angeles day to day. 

Carman Pirie: That has got to be really hard to replace. Just connecting with customers, yes, it’s more difficult, yes, they’re not all in the same place at the same time at the same bar-

Jeff White: But they’re at least expecting you to interact with them. 

Carman Pirie: You can find a way to get around that. But how… I’m at a loss of how you can replace that level of competitive intelligence gain.

Jeff White: Yeah. Certainly, you’re not going to see… Waiting until it shows up on their website is not a substitute for seeing a prototype on the trade show floor. 

Ryan Carley: Yeah. That’s what I was… In thinking about that question, I was thinking well, we’re gonna spend more time on websites. But then to your point, they might… Maybe they don’t put it up and you don’t see the prototype on the floor. Or if you’re trying to launch a new product, let’s say, like we were doing this a few years ago, we’d go to trade shows and look for these small companies that we may not know about, because you can Google for days and not find the 10 companies that are out there. But on the back row of the trade show, where they have small businesses, they’re there and they needed our product. And so, it was really easy to walk up and talk to them. And today, or in the future, that’s gonna be super challenging to do. 

Jeff White: Yeah. It’s going… I mean, at least from a kind of growth perspective, it’s probably going to mean selling to more of the same people, or to fewer new customers than previously, because it’s just going to be that much harder to find the companies in the niche that you’re looking for. 

Ryan Carley: And actually, and I’m thinking about that, maybe… And so, I mentioned earlier, like we like to have our salespeople direct because it just puts them closer to the business and closer to our customer, so we don’t typically use too many outside sales reps, like commission-based reps, but there could be an argument I think in the future where you’d want… Perhaps there’s gonna be a bit of a resurgence in commission-based selling, or sales reps, or some sort of arrangement of that nature, because those are the people that in their territory would perhaps know those smaller customers better than we would, and we would normally get from a trade show, but maybe that’s a shift that we’ll see in the future. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. That’s an interesting point. I could see that making sense. 

Jeff White: Yeah. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. Have you attended any or have there been in your space many kind of virtual trade shows? And if there have been, have you been able to get any kind of similar level of competitive intel from them? Or just not the same? 

Ryan Carley: I mean, not the same. We’ve attended a few of them in the past three, four, five months, and they’ve been good. I mean, they’re very well put together. They run, that’s the one good thing is that it’s very timely, because it’s easy to be timely online. And you can still get the same engagement, you can still attend the same talks, and get a lot of the same information. One thing that I think has been good about that is that when you’re in the trade show site, I mean, basically blocking and tackling in sales is gonna go look at the attendee list. The first thing I’d do when I went to a trade show before was print the list and look at all the companies that are gonna be there. Now, you’re actually seeing the people’s names, and in some cases titles, depending on how much information they put in. 

We’ve used that in a few instances, where we may not have known somebody at a certain customer, or the right level of engagement in a customer, and in the past, of course, being in person or walking around, you might actually bump into that person. In the future, or in the today, if the buyer that you’re talking to or the engineer A, doesn’t know, or B, isn’t comfortable sharing, and there may be a mix of reasons, we actually find that okay, well, in the trade show, we can look at all the people, we have all their names. You can find them on LinkedIn and message them. 

Now, there’s the uphill battle where you’re just another message in the noise, and it’s there’s still a lot of churn to go through to actually have a meaningful conversation, because you have to separate yourself from the chaff. But that’s been kind of a cool thing, because previously you couldn’t get a detailed attendee list, if you will, from trade shows. Just companies. 

Jeff White: Do you think that that’s, as we get back to in-person events, do you think that that ability to prepare and kind of develop that target account list before you go into these events is going to continue to be a thing? Are sales teams going to spend more time kind of prepping and detailing these are the accounts and the tier ones that I want to meet while I’m there?

Carman Pirie: Is your thinking that basically because they kind of tasted the ability to do this virtually, that-

Jeff White: Yeah, are they gonna want to apply that as they go forward, I wonder? 

Ryan Carley: I think for me, at least, there’ll be an expectation that yes, that level of detail is maintained as much as it can be. I think that for the people going to trade shows, and I’m just thinking for my own experience, like when I go to a trade show, I log on the app and I put in a bit of information, but I don’t really fill everything out because it’s just an app, I have it for a day, I don’t really care. I know who I’m gonna talk to. I can imagine myself in a year or two years going back to that same behavior. Touch wood that we’re able to go do that like we were used to with 10,000 people. 

I think it may be still it would go back to being a little difficult to do that, but I think the discipline and the creative thinking around out of the box ways to prepare is something we’ll definitely keep going forward and learn from.  

Jeff White: Yeah. I have to think that trade show companies, like we’ve had the folks from IMTS and some of the other large manufacturing shows on the podcast, and they’re certainly thinking about what the needs of their attendees are going to be going forward, so I wonder how much thought they’re putting into making it better in terms of creating relationships. It’s certainly been the key thing that they’ve all been trying to replace with the online shows. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. I guess the ongoing question, is there a hybrid that happens in the future? Is it likely that we learn something from the virtual events that carry forward? Do we just go back to the old ways? 

Ryan Carley: I think a hybrid would be a really… For a trade show company, I mean, I think there’s definite value in continuing some level, when we can go back in person, but continuing some level of virtual engagement, I mean, it’d be another revenue stream for them that they wouldn’t have had two years ago, and I think you’d find people that would still like to go. Like for example, I might send one or two people in person, but maybe I have three people at the factory who are too busy to step away, or I don’t need to send five people, but I can put them online for two hours and they can pay a hundred bucks or whatever the number is, and still get some value out of it. 

Carman Pirie: As the leader of a sales organization, you’ve had salespeople selling remotely for a year, so your travel budget didn’t get depleted this year. I mean, you probably have had some great parties just as a result of… No, but you know what I mean, you’ve learned as a business that you can still sell, and you can do so without that cost. Is there any kind of appeal to that? Or does just the desire to get in front of customers outweigh the thought that maybe we could just actually do this differently going forward too?

Ryan Carley: I mean, personally, aside from the fact that I love planes, which is why I work in aerospace, and I love travel and airports, so I just want to get out there, I think-

Jeff White: That’s fair. 

Ryan Carley: I think that yeah, and the parties, just don’t tell my boss. There were some pretty good ones. No, I can’t wait to spend it. Yes, we’ve had some upside because we’re not spending anything on travel, but I would rather not have that and be able to get in front of customers, because I think having that… I mean, it’s good on a video, because you get some interaction and some humanness to it, but there’s nothing that can replace that let me shake your hand, or fist bump, or elbow, whatever it might be, and develop that rapport in person. There’s nothing that’ll replace that, “Let’s go grab a sandwich from the company canteen in between this meeting and this meeting.” Because I think that’s really… You have to be in person. 

I mean, it kind of makes me think like online dating is a challenge, I think, especially during COVID, because you need that in-person connection. You need that. You have to have something to draw you towards people. I mean, look at the beginnings of the pandemic, when everyone was at home, lockdown, it was really challenging because you just didn’t have that. I mean, that daily interaction with many different people. It’s a big adjustment, and as far as selling our products and selling into aerospace, I think in most selling you have to be able to build that rapport in person, so I’m definitely excited to increase my budget and spend it. 

Jeff White: I do wonder, though, if this is somewhat industry specific, you know? Like if there are certain industries where it’s as soon as we can, we’re going to… You know, defense and aerospace, this is an in-person relationship style thing. I’m thinking of somebody I was speaking with the other day who’s like, “I saved 600 grand not flying anywhere last year and I still sold as many widgets as I did the year before.” And he was just like, “I’m sold. This is what I’m doing from here on out.” 

Ryan Carley: Yeah. I could totally see that being different. And even within aerospace, I mean, you go talk to a company down the road from us, they’re probably gonna have a different opinion or different view. My experience is how we prefer to run our business here, and I think that at least within aerospace, as well, that whole… The network of people that you end up meeting and going through life with, so to speak, that the guy that you see on the email I talked about earlier in the podcast, there are a lot of leads that come in that way, that you wouldn’t find if you were selling online. 

Oftentimes too it’s our customers don’t necessarily… They may know, there may be pockets of people who know our products, but they don’t know it across the board at the customer, and so there’s that… You need to be able to link those webs together so you can actually sell something. 

Carman Pirie: Ryan, thank you very much for sharing your expertise with us today. It’s just been a real pleasure to kind of think through the impact of COVID on relationship selling and I know that you’ve given me lots to think about, and I’m sure the listeners, as well. So, thanks again. 

Ryan Carley: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it. 

Jeff White: All right, cheers. Thank you. 

Announcer: Thanks for listening to The Kula Ring, with Carman Pirie and Jeff White. Don’t miss a single manufacturing marketing insight. Subscribe now at That’s

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Ryan Carley

Vice President of Sales & Marketing

Ryan Carley is VP, Sales & Marketing, for Mason Controls, an aerospace company focused on providing Human Machine Interface solutions for military and commercial applications. Linking man and machine, Mason has content on many major aerospace platforms globally. In this role, he has fun working with customers both internal and external to bring solutions to fruition that delight customers. He leads a team of folks dedicated to the same mission of having fun while solving problems. In his nearly 15 years of experience, he has held a variety of roles varying from sales and customer service to continuous improvement and operations. He began his career with GKN Aerospace in their International Leadership Development Program, and holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Pennsylvania State University.

The Kula Ring is a podcast for manufacturing marketers who care about evolving their strategy to gain a competitive edge.

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Kula Partners is an agency that specializes in maximizing revenue potential for B2B manufacturers.

Our clients sell within complex, technical environments and we help them take a more targeted, account-focused approach to drive revenue growth within niche markets.


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