What are the advantages of Sales 2.0?

9th Dec 2009

Customers are getting used to conducting more business online, rather than face-to-face. Dustin Newport explains how new sales techniques involving social media technology - Sales 2.0 - not only help shorten sales cycles but can gain more customers.

In the old days, businesses and salespeople used to spend inordinate amounts of time preparing for, travelling to and attending face-to-face meetings. Scoring a chance to meet in person with a prospect, and then spending the effort and money on travelling to the meeting, was seen as the best way to practise and secure new business. Times have changed, however, and as communication technologies evolve, so do sales techniques and business methods.

The online conferencing, forums, journals, micro-blogging and other social networking applications that enable groups of students, academics, friends and families to interact are being applied to help businesses stay in close contact with their existing customers and generate new ones. Collaboration and interaction brought about by Web 2.0, are also contributing to creating a lean and fast moving sales environment. The cost-cutting and efficiencies Sales 2.0 provides are not only highly suited to businesses’ current needs, but also improve the relationships with customers, bringing them closer and providing more meaningful, more effective interactions.

But what do we mean by Sales 2.0? For many organisations, sales meetings are now conducted online (e.g. using WebEx, Dimdim or  Glance). Meetings can be supported with interactive presentation tools for customer exploration that helps to understand pain points in a business and display large amounts of complex information in an easy to navigate display.

By Sales 2.0, I refer to the use of web-based tools to create highly interactive, yet efficient, customer relationships. The trend for most business processes nowadays is for customers and users to manage their own activities online. This way of working extends to sales meetings and, for example, allows potential customers, who may be unsure about committing to a meeting, to commit fewer resources and meet in a way that is more convenient and cost-effective for everyone. 

These technologies are also convenient for salespeople and account managers working remotely. For example, it is easier to commit and re-schedule, if necessary, an online than a face-to-face meeting in a diary. From the customer’s perspective, this provides more flexibility and a further incentive to meet.

Closer relationships

Once new customers come on board, a closer working relationship fostered through social interaction tools will be mutually beneficial - for example, by providing regular reports and having meetings with customers online. This allows to check on progress and identify any potential issues before they become something that cannot be resolved at a site meeting.

Online forums also allow customers to exchange knowledge with each other and discuss industry issues. Engaged customers are more rewarding ones, and the feedback, input, advice and general experience that customers can share through social networking forums means that a company now has the resources and information to be closer to its customers than ever.

Product updates, issues and successes can be discovered, acknowledged and acted upon almost instantly through the new tools. The interaction not only with customers, but also from the customers amongst themselves leads to new sales, further industry understanding and happier customers. Communities can be very productive. A lively community will also enhance search engine visibility as a brand or company receives more mentions online or hosts a forum where multiple users interact and contribute, making the business easier to identify by search engines.

With tools like these, despite not being in the room, what really counts – the information we are trying to impart and the way the products and service we offer will help a particular prospect’s business – can be conveyed extremely effectively. This can lead to a significant increase in new customer wins, a shorter time to close sales, and cost savings brought about by more effective use of time and resources.

Dustin Newport is commercial director for MindGenius.

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