A Social CRM blue print?


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This first attempt to define sCRM is written in the spirit of Paul Greenberg’s recent key note at SugarCon : “It’s time to talk about what needs to be done and how to do it, instead of what to call it [sCRM].

Sorry this is a *long* post – probably my longest, but there is quite some stuff to think about…

I guess before we run and do a new CRM system, we need to ask ourselves why?
We all know customers changed behavior – we are all a customer of somebody else – and so we know what it is. However it may be a good idea to look into that in greater details and what the underlying consequences are.
Changes, consequence, result:

If we need some information we search and find almost anything any time in the web.
We no longer ask a vendor to send us information.
The Lead flow and incoming inquiries are dramatically reduced.

We can learn very quickly from other people, because we now find them.
The “reference selling model” is less powerful and less trustful.
We all know what those “three hand selected references” are
We rather ask the question publicly: “Does anybody have experience with…”
Type it into Google and you will be surprise:
Results 1 – 10 of about 2,820,000 for “Does anybody have experience with”.

Once the well educated customer asks vendors for opinion he/she almost made the brand / product decision already
Sales teams see “blue birds” more often than ever before. At the same time sales cycles seem to be much longer as the “influence” of sales is greatly diminished.
In accordance to CSO Insights the number of miss or unpredicted deals is rapidly growing and forecasting becomes a serious problem.

You’ll probably find some more major implications of the changing customer but the three above are probably indicator enough that the change is significant with significant implications to businesses.

What does that mean to CRM (both as a strategy and as a product) – again regardless of what we call it?

1) Customer Identification / Location
We need to “visit” our customers where they are. And they are by order of magnitude easier to visit in their social networks and communities than in their physical office location. (not saying that F2F is less important)
sCRM Strategy
Sales leaders need to train their teams how to identify the locations of their customers and how to approach them on those places
sCRM Product
An sCRM system need to provide a way to keep all those customer “hang outs” and that means be able to store all the network profiles, groups and locations
Result: From a physical address book to a social network aware navigator

2) Prospecting
As prospects prefer to ask other customers about their experience, prospecting must happen where those questions are asked. That is in the social web more than in any other physical location.
sCRM Strategy
Sales teams need to be trained to identify those searches and know how to respond without bluntly selling. Social selling is a technique that provides a personalized experience to the prospect.
sCRM Product
The sCRM product need to provide much more individualized ways to listen and learn, socialize and act in the right moment.
Result: From cookie cutter sales process to a customer experience aware sales engagement

3) Sales Engagement
As prospects go through their own learning process, it looks like sales people have no more influence. That’s true for the old sales processes but as we empower sales people with new processes they win back the chance to be part of the buying cycle early on and increase their chance to win the business
sCRM Strategy
Sales teams need to follow new processes, acknowledging and respecting the customers buy cycle and become a guide in the buy cycle instead of dictating a sales cycle.
sCRM Product
Social CRM products need to shift from an account focused architecture to a people focused system. As such sCRM systems need to be build from ground up for the new processes like the old CRM systems were build for the old processes.
Result: From Account centric to a People based architecture

4) Data Sources
As we go more and more towards a joint engagement, we will need to recognize that data are no longer “owned” by a sales team and as a result the CRM system can no longer be the only data source.
sCRM Strategy
A strategic decision need to be made that sales teams as part of their collaborative nature can no longer be imprisoned behind a firewall. Information management need to be taken to a new level: IT must differentiate between proprietary and to be protected data – AND – generally available and openly flowing information.
sCRM Product
An sCRM product is no longer THE system – instead it needs to be a hob or a springboard into other systems that are used by the customers. More so the sCRM system need to be open enought to allow the customer access to be able to truly collaborate. If not it remains to be a SFA tool.
Result: Opening from an inhouse database to a connected information resource

5) Predictability
While forecasting was a combination of the progress in the old sales process and a best educated guess from the sales person, in today’s world that model must fail if we acknowledge the above dynamics.
sCRM Strategy
Businesses need to be able to build their revenue projections based on new processes and more than ever take relationship strength into account.
sCRM Products
Social CRM products need to support the new forecasting model and combine buy cycle evolution and relationship strength in a predictive model that allows a more precise forecasting and reduce the “fudge factor”.
Result: From forecasting guesswork to predictive models

To summarise sCRM
* From a physical address book to a social network aware navigator
* From Account centric to a People based architecture
* From cookie cutter sales process to a customer experience aware sales engagement
* Opening from an inhouse database to a connected information resource
* From forecasting guesswork to predictive models

Now there are a bunch of tools out their such as social media monitoring tools, community systems…. which all call themselves social CRM as well. IMHO those are all important tools and places including Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Slideshare to contribute to the overall customer engagement model and need to be part of a social customer engagement strategy – I just wouldn’t call them a CRM or sCRM product for that matter.

In case you are interested to see the above put to reality and into a product, you may want to join the introduction:

Axel Schultze
CEO of Society3. Our S3 Buzz technology is empowering business teams to create buzz campaigns and increase mentions and reach. S3 Buzz provides specific solutions for event buzz, products and brand buzz, partner buzz and talent acquisition buzz campaigns. We helped creating campaigns with up to 100 Million in reach. Silicon Valley entrepreneur, published author, frequent speaker, and winner of the 2008 SF Entrepreneur award. Former CEO of BlueRoads, Infinigate, Computer2000. XeeMe.com/AxelS


  1. Great article. No doubt social networking is redefining CRM. For further reading, Intelestream has recently published a whitepaper about the subject. The whitepaper defines the concept of Social CRM, offers strategies that can help organizations better leverage social networking as part of their overall customer management strategy, and outlines steps that businesses can take to develop a tangible integration between social networking and traditional Customer Relationship Management. The paper can be read at http://www.intelestream.net/en/whitepapers/the-power-of-social-crm.html


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