Social Selling: The New CRM Sales Imperative


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Sometimes you just need to push the envelope.

For years, excelling at customer relationship management (CRM) practices has meant learning how to master these three customer-facing capabilities: marketing, sales, and service. Then social networks came along.

Today, consumers are spending more time than ever not just online, but on social networks. Accordingly, businesses have a new CRM mandate: learn how to overlay social capabilities, to ensure that they’re courting customers on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or anywhere else where customers or sales prospects gather.

Of course, for many businesses the bottom line will be simple: How do we use social networks to sell more?

4 Best Practices For Social Selling

The short answer to that question is that organizations that want to excel at social selling must master four best practices:

  • Relationship networking: Detail the methods and technologies you’ll use to connect with prospects, customers and influencers, using social media and social technology
  • Social commerce: Use social technology to make offers directly to prospects
  • Profile management: Design, create and implement a “social business profile” for each customer or prospect
  • Social activity alerts: Capture information from social networks and translate it into sales alerts and next-step activities

Here’s more about each of those best practices, and how to put them to work:

Relationship Networking

Relationship networking means this: How will you connect with prospects and customers on social networks? In terms of specific social networks, LinkedIn is probably the most common one now for business use. But with newer technologies such as Radian6, you can also integrate Twitter streams or Facebook profiles into what your social network intelligence-gathering activities.

The payoff from this work may be high-level, or it may be more mundane. For example, if you’re a pharmaceutical sales representative who’s planning to call on a doctor next week and try to secure five minutes of her time, but you see on her Twitter feed that he’s about to be out of the office for two weeks while on her honeymoon, then you’ve just saved at least an hour of your valuable time. Likewise, if you see a prospect posting new tweets, it’s a good sign that they’re at their desk, meaning it’s a good time to try and get them on the phone.

Social Commerce

How do you use social technology to actually create sales proposals for people? Putting this into practice could involve designing specific landing pages for social customers, then emailing them or tweeting about it. Delta Airlines, for example, has created a Facebook page that allows customers to book flights, and seen its Facebook fan count increase sharply as a result.

Another example involves American Express, which has been teaming up with foursquare to offer discounts. Namely, anyone who uses foursquare on their smartphone to check-in to a location they’re visiting, and then pays with their AmEx card, can see a discount or earn loyalty points. Meanwhile, both organizations get to gather more data about their customers’ habits, which gives them a foundation for improving their future marketing and sales efforts.

Profile Management

How will you set up and structure the profiles that you capture about your social customers, to maximize their relevance and ease of use? That’s a crucial question to consider as you pursue social CRM capabilities, and first requires detailing your social CRM business goals, to ensure that your sales activities work toward delivering those targeted results.

On a related note, the forthcoming winter 2012 release will include customer social profiles. For users, that will obviously provide a straightforward approach for supporting profile management best practices.

Social Activity Alerts

When it comes to social selling, creating social activity alerts is a relatively advanced capability, which defines how information captured on social networks can be used to automatically trigger next steps in the CRM system, including sales activities.

In a best-case scenario, for example, say your CRM system is “following” someone on Twitter who’s a prospect, and that person says something on Twitter that’s relevant to the types of products you sell. For example, say you’re following a medical technician, who poses this question: “We’re in the market for a new MRI machine; who’s got the best price/performance these days?”

As a result, your cloud CRM system will automatically create a sales activity triggered by the Twitter comment. Now, while this sounds relatively advanced — to me as well — I think we’ll see this capability get built into CRM systems in the near future.

Just Jump In, Now

When it comes to social CRM — including service, marketing, as well as sales — it’s important to note that no one has all of the answers. But with customers spending more time on social networks, the imperative for organizations is to create a social CRM attack plan. Start by asking the right questions, to ensure that your social CRM sales efforts lead to business returns.

In other words, when considering relationship networking, profile management, social commerce, or social activity alerts, first detail your organization’s social-CRM-related business requirements — for example, to increase penetration of existing accounts, or to convert 5% of new customers via social networks. Then design and implement a social selling plan designed to deliver those results. Finally, get selling.

Learn More

Why become a social business? The answer is simple: more than 800 million people use Facebook, while Twitter has 175 million registers users. Either you’re selling to those people, or you’re missing out.

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user Steve Jurvetson.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adam Honig
Adam is the Co-Founder and CEO of Spiro Technologies. He is a recognized thought-leader in sales process and effectiveness, and has previously co-founded three successful technology companies: Innoveer Solutions, C-Bridge, and Open Environment. He is best known for speaking at various conferences including Dreamforce, for pioneering the 'No Jerks' hiring model, and for flying his drone while traveling the world.


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