"Welcome to the World Wide Web of people, an era of human connectivity on a scale
never before seen which will alter every aspect of life, work, and play." November 1, 2009


READ CHAPTER 4: "Sales in the Facebook Era"

This excerpt appeared in the June 2009 issue of CRM Magazine

We are witnessing a historic movement around the online social graph—that is, the map of every person on the Internet and how they are connected. It is the World Wide Web of people, a reflection and extension of the offline social graph—the friends, family members, colleagues, mentors, classmates, neighbors, and acquaintances who are important to us, who help shape us, and for whom we live… Data from social networks, such as where people are from, what they are interested in, and who their friends are, with the right privacy controls in place can then be implicitly or explicitly mined to make business interactions more tailored, personal, and precise…

Transforming the Sales Cycle
Sales reps can use online social networking to become more productive in two ways: to glean insights about customers and to engage in casual communications with customers. From the customer’s perspective, the sales call has the potential to become more personalized and relevant. It’s no longer acceptable for reps to generically push every product and service.Today’s reps are expected to have “done their homework” based on the information available on the Internet and on social networking sites…

I have identified eight aspects of the sales cycle that stand to benefit from the online social graph: establishing credibility, sales prospecting, getting your foot in the door, navigating customer organizations, collaborating across sales teams, providing customer references, building ongoing rapport, and ensuring ongoing customer success with postsales support.These are also very much in line with the general techniques advocated by popular sales methodologies such as Miller Heiman and CustomerCentric Selling.

Sales Prospecting Prior to social networking sites, it was both less efficient and less socially acceptable for a sales rep to directly prospect into her network. It was inefficient because there was no easy way to tell who among your contacts might be interested in your product. It was invasive because the sales rep burned through social capital each time she tried selling to someone who was not interested.

In the Facebook Era, it is a different story. LinkedIn and to a lesser extent Facebook typically have employment information (i.e., location, employer, and role) for each contact. The sales rep can search on the exact profile of the ideal target prospect and qualify the lead earlier in the cycle.The sales call feels less invasive because the interaction feels more casual and the pitch is targeted specifically to the prospective customer’s profile. The following case study profiles how one company, Aster Data Systems, successfully sourced its initial wave of customers using social networking sites.

Social Graph Prospecting at Aster Data Systems
Aster Data Systems, a start-up software company located in Silicon Valley, has dramatically grown its business through creative use of LinkedIn. As a small start-up, Aster lacked brand recognition, and did not have the budget for large marketing or advertising campaigns. To source early customers, Aster instead tapped into the company’s collective social network on LinkedIn,MySpace, and Facebook. Senior management asked all employees, not just sales reps, to tap their networks for potential prospects who had keywords like “data warehousing” in their title or functional expertise. In just a few months, the resourcefulness of this strategy has already begun to pay off. LinkedIn and other social networking sites are used to identify who among those contacts connected to Aster employees might be interested in the database product.Then a sales cycle is initiated through a combination of LinkedIn and traditional communication modes.Thanks to the power of the social graph, Aster has successfully signed on more than a dozen customers…

CRM—The First Social Network?
In many ways, traditional CRM was an important precursor to many of today’s social networking sites. At its most basic level, CRM is a fancy contact database. It is a one-way social networking tool that lets sales reps view “profiles” of their accounts, capture deal information, track performance, communicate with contacts, and share information internally with sales managers and other members of their account team. The main difference with social networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook is that these offer bidirectional visibility and interaction.This transforms the sales dynamic into much

Already, many of the innovations from social networking are making their way into CRM systems, as evidenced by the new deal collaboration features mentioned earlier and the partnership between Facebook and salesforce.com. Next-generation CRM tools will be even more bidirectional between vendors and customers—for example, Salesforce Ideas … which [takes] customer contributions to a user community and [captures] them directly inside of CRM. By making the customer an active participant in CRM, not only will companies benefit from more accurate data and better engagement, but they will also finally achieve a true 360-degree view of their customers across every touch point—whether it is online, on the phone, presales, mid-deal, postsales, or beyond.