Are You Ready For the Phenomenon of Social Sales?
Arguably, social media is contributing to the democratisation of info and, armed with these records, customers will demand something else entirely from sales people and firms. Customers are tuning into online communities, blogs, forums, and social networks to gather information and make buying decisions. Social Selling
For example, the retail car companies are undergoing significant changes with customers firmly within the driver's seat. Using the emergence of the information age consumers have a lot more knowledge about what to buy where to buy it. Generally speaking, customers are doing their research, checking using their networks and peers groups, reading or viewing the most recent comments online, and have potentially even made a buying decision before they take on a store. This is quickly becoming the norm in car sales. No longer is the sales consultant among the first to engage with the prospective buyer, today they are often near last in the event the customer walks over the door. Smart businesses will realise that engaging with the customer has evolved and to speak with and meet viable prospective buyers they must migrate to a new level.
Inside the B2B (business to business) space buyer behaviours are changing too. The buyer is either a purchasing agent or decision maker plus they are armed with far better information ahead of when they interact with a sales rep. This will demand a different relationship.
If sales agents see their role as only being 'educational' they shall be unable to match certain requirements and expectations of clients. People are getting tired of the old sales label of 'shut up and listen', especially if the information they are getting is patronising, know-it-all, we are the best, readily available web in some cases incorrect or outdated.
It is essential that sales people recognise that customers are likely to be as informed about the product as they are (at least believe they are). Industry is 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, despite having established relationships. The long held tradition of key account management where every person of influence inside a customer account is mapped on the 'blue sheet' and armies of account teams are marched to surround the buyer are numbered. Oftentimes, they are now surrounded by social websites.
Customers are using social media to build up independent knowledge, and contrast and compare information and opinions. This data gives the customer power, understanding that power fundamentally changes the dynamics from the sales relationship. The internet has also opened up communication channels which includes changed the landscape forever. The existing model is magnified; whereby the past consumers utilized to tell 5 others when they were happy with an experience and 11 or maybe more if they were unhappy, they are able to now communicate, positive or negative, in real-time with other consumers on a massive scale.
B2B clients are demanding a different relationship. They wish to interact with a salesman that legitimately questions, challenges ideas and innovations, and will clearly articulate that they will work to bring value after dark product.
Rather than go and talk with buyers alone, sales agents and businesses need to go to the social networks to be handled by, observe and communicate with customers to help locate a footing and take notice of the consumer voice.
Social Sales will even demand that the salesforce work in collaboration using the marketing group to help seed the right specifics of their offerings within their markets and networks where their clients look to for information and to exchange ideas. Customers be interested in your work in action and obtain feedback from the sources they trust.
Coming into the Social Sales world also requires sales agents to put aside their reluctance and adopt new technology. Social Sales will be the dawn of the new salesperson which doesn't shy away from using information and systems to their advantage. The Social Salesperson can make the most of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems interlinking CRM functionality for connecting with social media, marketing, campaigns, networks, etc. to monitor the threads of customer conversations, opinions and ideas. CRM can no longer be prevented or treated as being a telephone directory by sales reps and businesses.
The responsibility for Social Sales won't just reside with the sales team either, it needs to go completely along the whole sales chain and beyond. With a recent leader's conference, a speaker asked the 500 heads of business in the room whether they use social networking including twitter, Facebook and stuff like that. Somewhat alarmingly, only 5 raised their hands. We have to use CRM and social websites tools to make strategic calls - the CEO, CFO, COO, and CIO will be asking 'Tell me the product in question behind the numbers'. This request is referring to the patterns of info, customer comments, buying decisions, influences, customer experiences, emotions, and feedback which will influence what we make, how you interact with our markets plus more.
In 2010 and beyond, leaders, sales teams, and businesses should invest time, resources, and money to learn how to interact of these emerging social spaces. Why? Because the traditional channels on the customer such as email marketing, trade shows, and face-to-face meetings will be less effective. In some cases you may not even be interacting with the consumer directly but with their 'recommendation network'. The real challenge for sales can be to identify and engage with one of these new networks. Social Sales involves different skills, leadership, plus a culture values a collaborative model of free knowledge exchange.