Real Social Selling? PeopleMaps Has an App for That

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One of the great debates in the blogosphere is whether selling can really be social. Mostly what I’ve seen so far is social media being used a thin veneer on top of old processes.

The consensus from in-the-trenches reps seems to be that while social media can help them find out more about prospects, the selling process itself is pretty much the same. So-called “social CRM” applications do a good job mining social information to enhance marketing/sales processes…but the processes really aren’t “social” in a collaborative or conversational sense.

Warm Calls

Let’s take one very important step in B2B selling: getting a chance to actually talk to a key prospect. If you’ve ever been in sales, you know that making cold calls is a brutal way to make a living. It’s tough to even get someone on the phone, and developing a relationship from scratch can take a long time. Meanwhile, quota pressures don’t let up.

That’s why savvy reps try to find someone to introduce them—that’s called a “warm referral—and the odds of sales success go up dramatically (2-4 times according to The Complete Guide to Accelerating Sales Force Performance).

Well, now 7 Degrees has launched PeopleMaps as a new service to leverage the “business graph” and help reps get that oh so important “warm” introduction. Essentially PeopleMaps uses…

  • Your own personal contact information (from Outlook, Gmail, etc.)
  • Your social network information (from Facebook and LinkedIn)
  • Public data freely available on the Internet (search engine visible)
  • Premium data from other licensed data services

…and then constructs a social graph of your contacts based on frequency of contact and other characteristics.

OK, a social graph is fun to look at but the real power is finding the best way to make a connection with Big Who. PeopleMaps will visually show the best path to connect with your prospect. Then you can use this info to reach out to people you know (first degree contact) and ask them to introduce you to the next person in the chain. And on from there to reach your target.

This ConnectionPath can also be applied to a company, which has its own map of relationships. And although I’ve talked about sales reps, PeopleMaps could be useful for anyone that needs help with warm introductions, such as business development, venture capitalists, or fund raisers.

There’s a free option, but I suspect most B2B reps will want the professional version that includes Salesforce.com integration, prospect ranking and lead assignment.

Secret Sauce

Although PeopleMaps is only about two years old, CEO Tim Sheehan says they got a “running start” in September ’07 by acquiring a powerful social graph engine from Cogito. This engine, which enables creation of the social graph from multiple sources, is the key competitive edge, says Sheehan.

I’m not one to gush about new technology very often, but folks this really is a breakthrough application that moves beyond the social veneer that most CRM vendors are providing with Twitter integration and the like.

Yes, selling really can be social! Now, I’m off to pitch Barack Obama on a healthcare idea. Hey, PeopleMaps tells me I’m only 2 contacts away.

Further Reading:

2 COMMENTS

  1. Bob,

    I caught this on Twitter a few days ago, signed up and was also a bit in awe. This is especially true given the recent conversation that keep trying to state that SocialCRM has no part in sales (OK, I am embellishing just a little, but that is what it feels like sometimes).

    Thanks for the post, I think this is going to be very big in a short period of time. Is there an iPhone app, do you know by chance?

    Mitch Lieberman
    @mjayliebs

  2. Mitch, my take is that social media is a tool that like everything else follows the path of least resistance… and quickest return. Generally that means doing the current job a bit better.

    Marketers saw an immediate and obvious benefit to using social media to “get the word out.” And more recently as a tool to monitor brands. Both are core processes where social media adds value.

    In customer service, social media (including communities) help cut costs. Sure there are advantages to engaging, but deflecting cases/calls has an immediate ROI and that’s what gets executives to open their wallets.

    And sales? Well, that’s taking more time. The first phase of adoption was mainly intelligence gathering. Reps need prospect info, but their core job remains getting an audience with the right person, making the pitch and closing the deal. So I’m not surprised that reps are a bit skeptical about how social media will truly change their jobs.

    PeopleMaps provides a powerful tool that addresses a high leverage problem — getting a warm call with a decision-maker. That’s why I think it’s a game changer for B2B reps that need this.

    All that said, the core idea for those who pitch Social CRM as a strategy is to create a conversation. I think most of the examples currently are social-enhanced CRM 1.0 processes that fall far short of truly engaging with customers and prospects. Maybe there’s still a role for people after all?

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