Arguably, social networking is contributing to the democratisation of information and, armed with this information, customers will demand something more important from sales people and corporations. Customers are tuning into social networks, blogs, forums, and internet sites to gather information making buying decisions. Social Selling
For example, the retail car companies are undergoing significant changes with customers firmly from the driver's seat. Using the emergence of the information age consumers have much more knowledge about what to buy where to buy it. Generally speaking, customers are doing their research, checking making use of their networks and peers groups, reading or viewing the newest comments online, and also have potentially even made a buying decision before they step into a store. This is fast becoming the norm in car sales. Not is the sales consultant one of the primary to engage with the prospective buyer, today they may be near last once the customer walks from the door. Smart businesses will realise that engaging with the customer has evolved and to speak with and meet viable prospective buyers they have to migrate to a new level. Social Sales
From the B2B (business to business) space buyer behaviours are changing too. The client 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 people see their role as only being 'educational' are going to unable to match the requirements and expectations of clients. People are getting fed up with the old sales model of 'shut up and listen', especially if the information they are getting is patronising, know-it-all, we are the best, readily available on the internet in some cases incorrect or outdated.
It is essential that sales people recognise that customers are likely to be as accustomed to the product as they are (at least believe they are). Customers are influenced beyond the boundaries of traditional businesses and long held relationships. We, the salesman, are unlikely is the first person the consumer will go to, even with established relationships. The long held tradition of key account management where everybody of influence in the customer account is mapped over a 'blue sheet' and armies of account teams are marched to surround the client are numbered. Most of the time, they are now surrounded by social media.
Customers are using social networking to build up independent knowledge, and compare and contrast information and opinions. This information gives the customer power, and that power fundamentally changes the dynamics in the sales relationship. The net has also opened up communication channels which includes changed the landscape forever. That old model is magnified; whereby the past consumers accustomed to tell 5 others whenever they were happy with an experience and 11 or even more if they were unhappy, they're able to now communicate, whether positive or negative, in real-time with other consumers on a massive scale.
B2B customers are demanding a different relationship. They want 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 past the product.
Rather than go and speak to buyers alone, sales reps and businesses require to the social networks to be controlled by, observe and interact with customers to help discover a footing and observe the consumer voice.
Social Sales will also demand that the salesforce work in collaboration with all the marketing group to assist seed the right information about their offerings within their markets and networks where their clients look to for information also to exchange ideas. Customers are interested in your work in action and get feedback from the sources they trust.
Getting into the Social Sales world also requires sales agents to put aside their reluctance and adopt new technology. Social Sales could be the dawn of the new salesperson that doesn't shy away from using information and systems with their advantage. The Social Salesperson can make the most of CRM (Crm) 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 being a telephone directory by sales agents and businesses.
The duty for Social Sales won't just reside with the sales team either, it needs to go all the way up along the whole sales chain and beyond. In a recent leader's conference, a speaker asked the 500 heads of economic in the room whether they use social media including twitter, Facebook and the like. 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 is going to be asking 'Tell me any particular item behind the numbers'. This request is referring to the patterns of information, customer comments, buying decisions, influences, customer experiences, emotions, and feedback that may influence what we make, the way we interact with our markets plus much more.
In 2010 and beyond, leaders, sales teams, and businesses will have to invest time, resources, and funds to learn how to interact during these emerging social spaces. Why? Because the traditional channels for the customer such as e-mail marketing, trade shows, and face-to-face meetings will likely be less effective. In some cases you might not even be interacting with the customer directly but with their 'recommendation network'. The true challenge for sales is to identify and engage using these new networks. Social Sales involves different skills, leadership, along with a culture values a collaborative type of free knowledge exchange.