Rethinking sales in a social CRM strategy

19th Jan 2010

Before you start thinking "where the heck is he going to go with this, does he want us to ditch our Sales people?", let me reassure you - it won't happen so I won't try to argue in that sense. All I'll be talking about here is that we could take the opportunity that a Social CRM Strategy can offer to change the approach we have been taking to organizing for Sales activities. In this post I will concentrate on B2B Sales as this is what I am most familiar with (see Mitch Lieberman's "Is B2B the new B2C" for more thoughts on the subject).

To condense something that very complex, Marketing has been about getting the attention of potential customers to turn them into lead that Sales can then work with. Sales is about building a relationship with these leads and turning them into prospects and then into clients. To simplify again, Sales - especially in B2B - has come to mean an entity that is specialized in building the relationship between your company and its clients. Note here that I say "building" and not "building and maintaining"... The primary role of Sales Managers is to go out and generate revenue from these relationships. And, unless they have a stake in generating recurrent revenue, they will concentrate their efforts on building new relationships to fill their pipeline. Also, if the fish is not big enough, it may not be fed enough to grow...

Trusted Advisor

So what Sales people actually do? Some cynics would say "press the flesh and cash the check"...but hey! if it was that simple, everyone would be doing it, right? In my point of view, their main role is to establish a trust relationship so that when their prospect decides to invest their time, resources, effort and money, they can be fairly sure that it will not be in vain. The Salesperson serves as a proxy or go-between between the prospect and the company and she takes ownership of that relation (and will be held accountable when things go awry) as a Trusted Advisor, and it is for this that they get their commissions.

Educating the Customer

The way I see it  (at least for in the 'traditional' sense of Sales Management), the role is mainly about educating the customer about the benefits of the product or service that the company has to offer. Marketing activities will have generated initial curiosity and an interest to go out and obtain a better understanding to see whether the offer is likely to meet up to its promise, and that it corresponds to the Customer Job it pretends to solve. In Sales Management a there are a number of methods such as SPIN or Xerox's Customer-Centered Selling and derivates are commonly employed to (try to?) manage the Sales Cycle. The Salesperson acts as an educator, but also as a gatekeeper to feed information and other supporting material into the prosepct's Learning Curve according to what she believes is the right timing to do so. The Salesperson also serves as a coordinator between internal resources to come up with deliverables such as RFP responses, Presales demonstrations, references, organisation of visits to existing clients etc etc. Prospects rely heavily on the Salesperson, as she is the main touchpoint to get the understanding they need to build their purchase decision on.

Then came along an itsy bitsy spider that spun its web...the 'Social Customer'...

This blog post continues here.

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