Arguably, social websites is contributing to the democratisation of info and, armed with these details, customers will demand different things from sales people companies. Customers are tuning into social networks, blogs, forums, and social networking sites to gather information making buying decisions. Social Selling
As an illustration, the retail car companies are undergoing significant changes with customers firmly from the driver's seat. With all the emergence of the information age consumers have a lot more knowledge about what to buy where to buy it. Overall, customers are doing their research, checking making use of their networks and peers groups, reading or viewing the latest comments online, and also have potentially even made a buying decision before they take on a store. This is fast becoming the norm in car sales. Not is the sales consultant one of the first to engage with the prospective buyer, today they may be near last if the customer walks with the door. Smart businesses will recognise that engaging with the customer changed and to speak with and meet viable prospective buyers they have to migrate to a new level.
Within the B2B (business to business) space buyer behaviours are changing too. The customer 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. Social Sales
If sales representatives see their role as only being 'educational' are going to unable to match certain requirements and expectations of clients. People are getting sick and tired of the old sales label of 'shut up and listen', particularly if the information they are getting is patronising, know-it-all, we're the best, readily available on the internet and in some cases incorrect or outdated.
It is crucial that sales people recognise that customers are likely to be as informed about the product as they are (or at least believe they are). Industry is influenced beyond the boundaries of traditional businesses and long held relationships. We, the sales rep, are unlikely to be the first person the customer will go to, in spite of 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 customer are numbered. On many occasions, they are now surrounded by social networking.
Customers are using social networking 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 in the sales relationship. The net has also opened up communication channels which has changed the landscape forever. The old model is magnified; wherein the past consumers employed to tell 5 others if they were happy with an experience and 11 or more if they were unhappy, they are able to now communicate, good or bad, in real-time with other consumers on the massive scale.
B2B customers are demanding a different relationship. They need to interact with a sales person that legitimately questions, challenges ideas and innovations, and will clearly articulate where did they will work to bring value at night product.
Rather than go and speak with buyers alone, sales people and businesses require to the social networks to listen to, observe and interact with customers to help locate a footing and take notice of the consumer voice.
Social Sales may also demand that the salesforce work in collaboration using the marketing group to help seed the right information about their offerings within their markets and networks where their customers look to for information and to exchange ideas. Customers are interested in your work in action and obtain feedback from the sources they trust.
Entering into the Social Sales world also requires sales agents to put aside their reluctance and adopt new technology. Social Sales is the dawn of the new salesperson that does not shy away from using information and systems to their advantage. The Social Salesperson is likely to make the most of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems interlinking CRM functionality to connect 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 a telephone directory by sales representatives and businesses.
The load for Social Sales doesn't only reside with the salesforce either, it needs to go all the way up along the whole sales chain and beyond. At a recent leader's conference, a speaker asked the 500 heads of economic in the room whether they use social media marketing including twitter, Facebook etc. Somewhat alarmingly, only 5 raised their hands. We have to use CRM and social media marketing tools to make strategic calls - the CEO, CFO, COO, and CIO will probably be asking 'Tell me a specific item behind the numbers'. This request is talking about the patterns of data, customer comments, buying decisions, influences, customer experiences, emotions, and feedback which will influence what we make, how we interact with our markets and even more.
In 2010 and beyond, leaders, sales teams, and businesses will have to invest time, resources, and money to learn how to interact during these emerging social spaces. Why? Since the traditional channels on the customer such as e-mail marketing, trade shows, and face-to-face meetings will likely be less effective. In some cases you may not even be interacting with the customer directly but with their 'recommendation network'. The true challenge for sales may be to identify and engage with these new networks. Social Sales involves different skills, leadership, and a culture values a collaborative model of free knowledge exchange.