Arguably, social media marketing is contributing to the democratisation of info and, armed with these details, customers will demand something more important from sales people and corporations. Customers are tuning into online communities, blogs, forums, and social support systems to gather information and make buying decisions.
For instance, the retail car companies are undergoing significant changes with customers firmly in the driver's seat. Together with the emergence of the information age consumers have much more knowledge about what to buy where to buy it. On the whole, customers are doing their research, checking making use of their networks and peers groups, reading or viewing the most up-to-date comments online, and have potentially even designed a buying decision before they walk into 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 might be near last once the customer walks through 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.
In the B2B (business to business) space buyer behaviours are changing too. The buyer is either a purchasing agent or decision maker plus they are armed with far better information prior to they interact with a sales rep. This will demand a different relationship. Social Influence
If sales agents see their role as only being 'educational' they shall be unable to match the requirements and expectations of customers. People are getting fed up with the old sales label 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are getting is patronising, know-it-all, we are the best, readily available on the internet in some cases incorrect or outdated.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 crucial that sales people recognise that customers are likely to be as accustomed to the product as they are (or otherwise believe they are). Customers are influenced beyond the boundaries of traditional businesses and long held relationships. We, the salesman, are unlikely to be the first person the client will go to, despite having established relationships. The long held tradition of key account management where every person of influence within a customer account is mapped on a 'blue sheet' and armies of account teams are marched to surround the buyer are numbered. On many occasions, they are now surrounded by social media. Social Sales
Customers are using social networking to build up independent knowledge, and assess information and opinions. This information gives the customer power, and that power fundamentally changes the dynamics in the sales relationship. The web has also opened up communication channels that has changed the landscape forever. That old model is magnified; whereby the past consumers accustomed to tell 5 others when they were happy with an experience and 11 or maybe more if they were unhappy, they could now communicate, whether positive or negative, in real-time with other consumers on the massive scale.
B2B clients are demanding a different relationship. They want to interact with a sales person that legitimately questions, challenges ideas and innovations, which enable it to clearly articulate where did they will work to bring value past the product.
Rather than go and speak with buyers alone, sales representatives and businesses need to go to the social networks to hear, observe and talk with customers to help locate a footing and take notice of the consumer voice.
Social Sales will even demand that the sales staff work in collaboration with all the marketing group to help you seed the right information about their offerings inside their markets and networks where the clientele look to for information and also to exchange ideas. Customers want to see your work in action and get feedback from the sources they trust.
Coming into the Social Sales world also requires sales reps 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 for their advantage. The Social Salesperson could make the most of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems interlinking CRM functionality for connecting with social media, marketing, campaigns, networks, etc. to follow the threads of customer conversations, opinions and concepts. CRM can no longer be prevented or treated like a telephone directory by sales people and businesses.
The obligation for Social Sales doesn't just reside with the sales team either, it needs to go all the way along the whole sales chain and beyond. At a recent leader's conference, a speaker asked the 500 heads of commercial in the room whether they use social websites including twitter, Facebook and so on. Somewhat alarmingly, only 5 raised their hands. We need to use CRM and social media marketing tools to make strategic calls - the CEO, CFO, COO, and CIO will probably be asking 'Tell me the product in question behind the numbers'. This request is discussing the patterns of data, customer comments, buying decisions, influences, customer experiences, emotions, and feedback that may influence what we make, the way you interact with our markets plus more.
In 2010 and beyond, leaders, sales teams, and businesses will likely need to invest time, resources, and money to learn how to interact during these emerging social spaces. Why? Because the traditional channels towards the customer such as marketing via email, trade shows, and face-to-face meetings will probably be less effective. In some cases you may not even be interacting with the customer directly but with their 'recommendation network'. The genuine challenge for sales can be to identify and engage with your new networks. Social Sales involves different skills, leadership, and a culture values a collaborative label of free knowledge exchange.