Arguably, social networking is contributing to the democratisation of info and, armed with these details, customers will demand various things from sales people and companies. Customers are tuning into social network, blogs, forums, and social networking sites to gather information and earn buying decisions. Social Influence
For example, the retail car companies are undergoing significant changes with customers firmly in the driver’s seat. With the emergence of the information age consumers have a great deal more knowledge about what to buy where to buy it. Generally, customers are doing their research, checking making use of their networks and peers groups, reading or viewing the most recent comments online, and have potentially even designed a buying decision before they step into a store. This is fast becoming the norm in car sales. No longer is the sales consultant one of the first to engage with the prospective buyer, today they could be near last in the event the customer walks over the door. Smart businesses will recognise that engaging with the customer changed and to speak with and meet viable prospective buyers they have to migrate to a new level. Social Sales
From the B2B (business to business) space buyer behaviours are changing too. The buyer is either a purchasing agent or decision maker and they are generally armed with far better information ahead of when they interact with a sales person. This will demand a different relationship.
If sales people see their role as only being ‘educational’ they’ll be unable to match certain requirements and expectations of shoppers. People are getting tired of the old sales label of ‘shut up and listen’, specifically if the information they are getting is patronising, know-it-all, we’re the best, readily available on the internet in some cases incorrect or outdated.
It is important that sales people recognise that buyers are likely to be as informed about the product as they are (or at best believe they are). Clients are influenced beyond the boundaries of traditional businesses and long held relationships. We, the salesman, are unlikely is the first person the client will go to, even with established relationships. The long held tradition of key account management where every individual of influence in a customer account is mapped with a ‘blue sheet’ and armies of account teams are marched to surround the client are numbered. On many occasions, they are now surrounded by social media marketing.
Customers are using social media marketing to build up independent knowledge, and assess information and opinions. This knowledge gives the customer power, which power fundamentally changes the dynamics with the sales relationship. The internet has also opened up communication channels which includes changed the landscape forever. That old model is magnified; where in the past consumers employed to tell 5 others when they were happy with an experience and 11 or higher if they were unhappy, they’re able to now communicate, positive or negative, in real-time with other consumers over a massive scale.
B2B company is demanding a different relationship. They wish to interact with a sales person that legitimately questions, challenges ideas and innovations, which enable it to clearly articulate where did they will work to bring value past the product.
Rather than go and speak with buyers alone, sales agents and businesses will need to go to the social networks to be controlled by, observe and connect to customers to help discover a footing and observe the consumer voice.
Social Sales will likely demand that the sales team work in collaboration together with the marketing group to aid seed the right specifics of their offerings inside their markets and networks where their potential customers look to for information also to exchange ideas. Customers want to see your work in action and have feedback from the sources they trust.
Getting into the Social Sales world also requires sales agents to put aside their reluctance and adopt new technology. Social Sales may be the dawn of the new salesperson that doesn’t shy away from using information and systems with their advantage. The Social Salesperson will make the most of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems interlinking CRM functionality in order to connect with social media, marketing, campaigns, networks, etc. to trace the threads of customer conversations, opinions and ideas. CRM can no longer be ignored or treated being a telephone directory by sales agents and businesses.
The responsibility for Social Sales won’t just reside with the sales staff either, it needs to go all the way along the whole sales chain and beyond. At the recent leader’s conference, a speaker asked the 500 heads of commercial in the room whether they use social media including twitter, Facebook etc. Somewhat alarmingly, only 5 raised their hands. We should instead use CRM and social websites tools to make strategic calls – the CEO, CFO, COO, and CIO is going to be asking ‘Tell me a specific item behind the numbers’. This request is speaking about the patterns of data, customer comments, buying decisions, influences, customer experiences, emotions, and feedback that can influence what we make, how we interact with our markets and much more.
In 2010 and beyond, leaders, sales teams, and businesses will have to invest time, resources, and your money to learn how to interact during these emerging social spaces. Why? As the traditional channels on the customer such as e-mail marketing, trade shows, and face-to-face meetings is going to be less effective. In some cases you may not even be interacting with the buyer directly but with their ‘recommendation network’. The actual challenge for sales will be to identify and engage with your new networks. Social Sales involves different skills, leadership, and a culture values a collaborative style of free knowledge exchange.