Sales is often one of the first departments to pick up social media tools to expand the organization’s network of business contacts and garner new leads. Sales managers and account executives have flocked to LinkedIn and Bebo for quite awhile in search of new prospects and –sometimes — new markets.
Typically, this effort begins as a grassroots activity by individuals — often the newest, youngest and most enterprising – who need to develop a territory or build a portfolio of relationships. Their approach tends to follow the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” method; connect with someone they know, then try to channel their way through a variety of introductions to additional people with whom they want to connect or meet. While this can be beneficial for some individuals, there is often no rhyme, reason, larger plan or strategic intentions and goals. In many cases, the relationships depart with the salesperson.
To achieve a more strategic approach to using social tools as part of the sales process, sales executives should start by thinking through their current working patterns to identify ways in which a social business approach could support or, in some cases, change the sales process altogether.
- How does your company currently segment its market for sales? Is it by geography , industry, company size (revenue or employee), target account lists, another method or some combination?
- Who are the decision makers that you are trying to reach? How do you identify and build relationships with them? In a virtual world where we engage across a global market, does this process still work well?
- In your organization, what prospect categories (industries) are better suited to social outreach and virtual sales processes? How are you capturing them or capitalizing on this now?
- Are the social media-based efforts of individual sales people channeled into your core sales management and CRM systems, or are they decentralized? For example, does your sales force automation system gather or capture social media efforts such as the Twitter followers of a particular salesperson, or are these contacts maintained in individual silos and thus not available to others?
- Is digital reuse enabled in the social matrix? For example, are your sales people connected to each other, and thus able to leverage each other’s efforts and connections online? Are digital assets and successful techniques captured so each sales person does not need to re-create best practices for her own use?
Success with social in the sales process depends not just on using the tools effectively, but on capturing the results and relationships for long-term benefit to the organization.