The Social Business Engine (part 3 of n) – Sales

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“If you see a fork in the road, take it” Yogi Berra made this statement many years ago. What is  great about this quote is that he was simply giving directions to his house. His house (at the time) was located on a loop at the end of the road leading to it. It did not really matter which way you turned, you ended up at the right place. Many people have joked about the quote, as it can be interpreted many different ways. Here is the relevance in the statement:

Yogi had a destination in mind!

I know that I am preaching to the choir, but when you are faced with a decision – the fork in the road – be sure that you understand the ultimate destination (not just the tactical one). Evolving your current business into a Social business will involve many decisions. Good friend and colleague Esteban Kolsky posted what I jokingly said to him could have been my third post in this series. Please take a look, his words are worth reading. I do not think that I will take as firm of a stance as he did, but as you design your own Social Business and the Engine that drives it, the function of sales needs serious evaluation.

The Destination remains the same – creating buyers and adding value

Notice, I did not say “sales force” or “sales person” I am speaking to the function, not the person. If the destination is to create buyers, and add value does it matter who ’sold the deal’. It is mostly about ‘Trust’. There is the trust in the person who advises the buyer and there is the trust by association when that buyer is introduced to the company with whom they would like to do business with, the exchange of value.

I wrote previously, something Esteban referenced as well:

“As a buyer, people are more likely to trust someone who they feel is an ‘expert’ – oh and someone they know. In the eyes of the buyer, the seller must display professionalism, an understanding of the need, empathy.”

So, who is this person and do they need to be directly associated with the company? That I believe to be at the heart of the issue. Trust now appears to be about two things – trusting an intermediary, who is compensated as well as establishing trust with the company who the buyer would like to transact with. Since the compensation is based solely on the transaction, is a 3rd party really a value add?

Esteban also states the following:

“In this new model, a sales person is the one who brings the right customer to the right transaction, not by secretive manipulation to extract the maximum value possible — but to ensure that both sides receive and even value exchange for the transaction.

They become trusted advisors to the client and to the organization, brokering the relationship.  They change their roles from distrusted information gatekeepers to trusted brokers.”

I do not have strong arguments to counter what Esteban is writing. However, I do not believe that in order to transition from the “information gatekeepers” to active participants in the Social Business the sales function is required to live outside of the company four walls. That said, it might be better for them to be there – the decision is yours, make sure you have the data to help make that decision.

It is possible that sales people could simply change their behavior. The qualifications to meet the needs of the role are the same, if they exist outside, right? This will be an industry, cultural and business size decision. What Esteban describes sounds a lot like partners in the ecosystem. If we solve the convergence of  Enterprise 2.0 and Social CRM (and/or Social Business) this is less of a problem as well. They can be either place – it does not matter.

The exact path is not as important as the destination, I cannot prescribe. I believe that Esteban and I are in agreement that what the buyer really wants is to get past the barriers and walls and directly to the people and information with whom they can understand the true value proposition of whatever it is they are trying to buy.

Bringing this home a bit, regarding the Social Business Engine. As your business becomes more social, it is now more than a simple alignment of sales and marketing. It is an alignment of People and Processes who support these functions, whether they are inside your four walls or not.

To end with another great Yogi Berra quote: “If you don’t know where you are going, you might end up someplace else.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Mitch,

    After pondering your and Esteban’s articles, I’ve come back around to where I started. I agree with you and Esteban that buyers want to remove barriers so they can understand the true value proposition a company is offering.

    However, I don’t see the role of good sales people changing all that much. Good sales people have always understood the sales process is a partnership – and gaining the win-win means building and maintaining trust. While companies may use social connections to do their own research outside of the sale person, the latter will still be someone they turn to for information and insight.

    Additionally, an outside sales rep is not going to know a company as well as an insider will. Buyers will still look to sales reps (and account managers) to help them navigate their vendors’ corporate waters when needed. The reason is because buyers don’t want to be experts in the vendor’s company but in their own (don’t take the need for “navigation” is a negative thing because I don’t mean it that way.)

    “Bad” sales reps will be increasingly marginalized because their win-lose mentality will be exposed in a social business world. And buyers will move away from these types of reps (and their companies) and over to “good” reps who are willing to do the work to build a trusted relationship.

  2. Kathy,

    I agree with your comments. I admit, that I ‘waffled’ a bit, and left the actual decision to each business. There will be some places able to social sooner than others….and we will be talking about dragging the late comers into the fold in 5-10 years.

    Mitch

    Mitch Lieberman
    http://twitter.com/mjayliebs

  3. Kathy
    I would take your idea of ‘navigate’ and think of it in terms of a concierge.

    A highly skilled listener who can listen to what a customer is saying and then direct them off to an internal resource (i.e. a product manager), knowing that the customer will come back to them for (i) either more help, or (ii) to complete a transaction

    Mark Parker
    Smart Selling
    http://www.smartselling.com

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