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How Social-Networking Strategies Transform Sales Practices

Blog-seley Blog-sales20 Today’s guest blog was written by Anneke Seley, author of Sales 2.0 (amazon). Last week, she conducted a highly rated session on social-networking strategies at the Sales & Marketing 2.0 Conference in San Francisco.  

If attendance at the Sales & Marketing 2.0 Conference is any indication that Sales 2.0 has struck a chord with today’s sales and marketing professionals, last week’s event in San Francisco proved that companies are indeed looking for ways to improve the way they market and sell to today’s customers. More than 500 strong met to hear keynote presentations and panel discussions that included more than 40 sales and marketing leaders. But if Sales 2.0 is a more effective and efficient way of selling for both the buyer and the seller, enabled through technology (my simplified definition), what is the impact of Sales 2.0 on our customers’ businesses?  How are their experiences with us improving, and how is that translating to improved results?

That’s why I kicked off my highly interactive presentation (“Social Media That Generates Qualified Leads and Revenue”) with a description of Customer 2.0, a new kind of buyer who, according to Sirius Decisions, spends 70 percent of the buying process online before ever speaking to a sales person.

See  video of Anneke speaking at Sales & Marketing 2.0 Conference, November 2010 (thanks to Barbra Gago!)

At the conference, I told the story of my LinkedIn connection with Justin Davison, an IT manager outside of Pittsburgh whom I’ve never met but with whom I’ve had numerous thought-provoking online conversations.  Justin, emblematic of many of today’s buyers, felt so strongly about letting us salespeople know that we must change our ways in order to succeed that he posted “Moving Beyond Cold Calling – An Open Letter to Vendors” on Spiceworks, his community of choice.

In Justin’s words:

“My time is limited but my workload is not.”

“Unprepared salespeople impair my focus and productivity.”

“In the world of social media, I am not secretive about the projects I am working on.”

Customers like Justin make it easier for us to be effective and useful salespeople who don’t waste buyers’ time trying to sell them something that’s not relevant.  We can read their personal and company blogs and Twitter streams to find out what they are thinking about and what’s going on in their business and industry. We can check out their connections, work histories, and slide presentations on LinkedIn. We can discover their friends and hobbies on Facebook. And we can view their personal and company videos on YouTube.

But even if your customers haven’t chosen to share details of their personal and work lives on social media, there are still ways to make selling and buying more effective for them.  With business-intelligence products like those promoted at the show (InsideView, iSell, and FirstRain), we can capture deep, consolidated company and industry information and thereby identify prospects most likely to benefit from our offerings. With marketing-automation products  (e.g., Marketo, Eloqua, and those integrated into CRMs, like Oracle CRM On Demand), we can detect which Web pages our clients and prospects linger on, as well as the content they download. This information gives us hints about what work challenges they may be facing. Armed with this information, we can tailor our conversations accordingly and help our customers solve the problems they face – rather than pitch them on a generic solution.

Sales 2.0 helps customers be more efficient, too. By providing robust and valuable information online and sales and product expertise by phone, we respect the buyer’s time.  With scheduling-automation products like TimeTrade, we can significantly curtail the process of finding mutually available time on everyone’s calendars – which can be time consuming and exasperating for our customers, as well as our salespeople.

Justin Davison lists the top-priority projects he is working on in his online profile. Gerhard Gschwandtner, the producer of the Sales 2.0 conferences and creator of the Selling Power media empire, predicts that the day will come when our prospects enter their own opportunities into our CRM (customer relationship management) applications – the ultimate acceleration and alignment of the buying and selling process. 

How is your Sales 2.0 approach helping your customers – and making them more effective and efficient?

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I wish I could attend this conference too! Change and improvements in social networking strategy is exactly what my company needs

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