Social media continues to be a rapidly expanding area of interest and untapped potential for sales and marketing leaders. We have published and presented on social media primarily as it impacts branding and reputation on the marketing side. When it comes to B2B sales organizations, its impact has been less profound. Sure, there are some Sales 2.0 advocates citing the value of social media in terms of identification and intelligence gathering for prospecting. The concept of social calling, using social media capabilities to improve the connect and conversion rates in cold calling is a good one, but any real impact from social media has escaped attention of the sales VP.
Social media’s greatest potential value to sales will be internal; enabling sales organizations to develop their own internal digital communities for sales reps to access and share knowledge, strategy, and tactics beyond their existing personal knowledge networks. Personal knowledge networks have always been important to sales reps. Over time they develop relationships with product, marketing, technical, finance, support and other internal resources to help them get what they need. That’s in addition to their network of other sales reps and managers they go to for strategy, tactics and real-time intelligence. In fact, sales organizations that went to virtual sales kickoffs in 2009 budget crisis cited the loss of the networking opportunities at the sales kickoff meeting as justification for returning to the live event. It’s not what you know, its who you know in sales and is a big part of what makes experienced sales reps successful and why new hires struggle to get up to speed.
Enter social media. A number of organizations are already using Facebook-type capabilities for subject matter experts, product specialists or even competitive intelligence teams to provide all sales with 24/7 access to the most current news, intelligence and content. They can maintain running commentary through blogs on their products, markets and competitors that allow any sales rep to tap into as needed. Moderated forums are being used to create discussion communities on important topics like product updates or pricing/negotiation tactics. Sales reps can customize individualized information portals pulling together and monitor the “nuggets” they are interested in. Sales communications functions are adding social media capabilities to portfolio to broaden their reach and impact to sales. Salesforce’s Chatter is another example of social technology being integrated into the SFA platform to allow greater levels of communication and broader capabilities for collaboration. With all the attention focused on how and where social media can impact customer interactions, it’s the ability to foster collaboration within sales that should be the focus.
And oh yeah, collaboration needs to be included in your sales enablement strategy. For many starting out, sales enablement is about content management and that’s a good starting point, but to maximize knowledge transfer to sales, social media and its undeveloped potential must included and a strategy for its execution needs to be created. Leveraging these social technologies will require new skills, capabilities and behaviors on the part of knowledge providers. Sales rep behavior will need to change as well. Collaboration is a two-way street. Being part of a community means giving information in addition to getting it. The strategy to develop this knowledge exchange needs to be considered as part of a broader definition for sales enablement.