For those who care about CRM, Social CRM is one of the hot-topics of the moment. Indeed there is so much written about Social Anything, you’d be forgiven for wondering how you ever survived without Twitter.
However, as with many new technologies – on their way to ubiquity – the applications that are most readily identifiable relate almost exclusively to B2C engagement, and there’s little written that is readily applicable to B2B interactions.
It’s fairly easy to see how both consumers and brand owners can impact buying behaviors and customer engagement with Twitter. On Facebook, if you’re in the business of selling fizzy drinks, then it makes sense that you’d rather be Coke with 5 million fans than Pepsi with 600,000. Facebook can be used effectively as an interactive billboard, cultivating and engaging consumers as part of the holistic brand experience.
But what of the B2B SCRM problem? If you’re a B2B sales person – already fed up with using your CRM system – what can you expect? Or what should you request?
There’s been much brouhaha from the traditional CRM vendors about the importance of Social, but their own practices don’t give much evidence of SCRM at work. On their Facebook fan pages, they’ve fewer fans that they have employees. Even salesforce.com – with its stated position of “The Facebook Imperative” – has less than 1,000 fans of Chatter on Facebook (May 4, 2010). That’s a fraction of the company’s own employee base. Maybe they’re not all fans!
Something is amiss. What’s a B2B sales person to do?
At the R&D facility at The TAS Group, our goal is to help B2B sales people sell more effectively, and then provide intelligent solutions to help them manage their business. We will shortly announce a solution that we think will leverage social networks to further that goal in a way that supports everyday selling activities and encourages buying activity.
With a paradigm that is evolving as quickly as Social Networks, I think it’s too early to have established ‘best practices’. But I do believe we have learned some lessons on our own journey, and we’d like to share those here. Think of these 10 steps as a guide that might help you to establish your own roadmap, or provoke some thinking about how you can leverage this (yet immature) movement.
1. Empathize – Put your finger on the pulse: Social networks are a wonderful way to ‘get a sense’ of what’s going on in your marketplace, with your customers, and with your competitors. Use Twitter (or other social network) to listen to the conversation by selecting some key influencers in your market that you might follow.
2. Engage – Cultivate the customer ‘where they are’: Where do your customers ‘hang out’ online? In the traditional world you’ve learned to socialize at the industry events, participate in trade associations, and network with influencers. If you’ve worked hard at it, you’re probably quite successful at what you do. But now those events will change. You’ve got to figure out where your customers ‘hang out’ in the Social Web, and engage with them there.
3. Be generous – Give something first, expect nothing in return: I think the correct ratio is nine parts giving to one part getting. Or put another way, you need to love your customers a lot first and then look for a little love in return. What can you do to help your customer? Are there resources in your company that you can provide? Can you share how other customers have learned how to best apply your product? Have you insight into trends in your customers’ industry? This is about your establishing yourself as the go-to-person when the customer is trying to figure out where to go next.
4. Influence – Be part of the “Recommendation Chain”: Remember when you used case studies and client reference calls to sell? Well now, customers will use the Social Web to ask “Does anyone out there know anything about [YourCompanyName Here]? You need to be part of the “Recommendation Chain”. (Credit: In this context, I read that term first in a post by Axel Schultze.]
5. Authentic – Be yourself, Stay the course: This is not a one shot marketing program. Return is not short term. If you’ve something to say, speak your mind. If your opinion is worth something you will begin a conversation. Above all else – be authentic.
6. Collaborate / Co-create – Play in (or start) a community: The playground is more fun if there are many people playing. Invite conversation, collaboration and idea co-creation. Consider first your immediate community – your peers, your manager, your customers – and learn what community means to them.
7. Follow – People, networks, opportunities, and accounts: Follow John, the LinkedIn group, the 100k deal you’re working on, or the key account you manage. This is important. It’s not just about who you know. It’s equally about what you know.
8. Integrated Resonance – Community, CRM, Methodology: Seek out integrated resonance – the space where what you know from your social network, integrates with what you’re told by your [traditional] CRM data, and is informed by the expertise of a sales methodology, to strengthen the relationship and progress the sale -or more aptly put – the purchase.
10. Learn – impossible to predict all dynamics: It’s still uncharted territory, and remember that one year ago we didn’t know about half of the social networking products that exist today. Listen, engage, and learn.
As I mentioned above, this post is a precursor to a solution we will shortly announce that we think goes some way to providing Intelligent Social CRM for Sales. We will also publish a much more detailed framework that will document the business challenges that we believe such a solution should address, and suggest approaches that might merit consideration.
Better still, we’d love to hear from you to help guide the final shape of these two items.
- What’s important to you?
- What Social CRM challenges are causing you most trepidation?
- What’s your experience with Social Networks so far?
- Do you have specific requirements that you think are mandatory for a Social CRM solution?
Our decisions thus far have been informed by our own usage, interaction and brainstorming with our customers, and consultation with other subject matter experts. But we’re not finished, and the dynamics in this area continue to accelerate – so we’d be very grateful for your hindsight, insight or foresight.