Friday, July 3, 2009

Social CRM & Creating Demand in a Hyper-Connected World

How do you create demand in a hyper-connected world? How is Social Media changing the discipline of sales? And what is "Social CRM"?

Brent Leary, a partner at CRM Essentials and author of Brent's Social CRM Blog, will be discussing these topics in an upcoming Webinar--Driving Demand in a Demanding Market--sponsored by Oracle and hosted by the Details about the Webinar can be found at the end of this blog post, but Brent also took some time to share his thoughts on these topics with Experience: The Blog readers.

Brent sees firsthand the way Social Media is changing Client Relationship Management (CRM). Of course, we all know that Social Media offers new and better ways to create and foster relationships, but it also presents some new challenges. As Brent notes, "'Selling 1.0' doesn't work well at all with social media."

Here is my online interview between Experience: The Blog (ETB) and Brent Leary (BT) on the topics of Social CRM, metrics, and how to drive demand in a hyper-connected business environment:

ETB: Brent, your blog focuses on Social CRM. You also wrote an article for Inc. entitled "Traditional CRM vs. Social CRM." (Note: Because the Inc. Technology page is broken, I have linked to Google's cache of the article.) Can you perhaps start by briefly defining "Social CRM"?

BL: Social CRM is the integration of social media tools and strategies into a company's traditional CRM processes of marketing automation, salesforce automation and customer service. It's about creating content that turns Google information searches into conversations, which eventually transitions into long-lasting business relationships.

ETB: When many people hear "CRM," they tend to think of Client Relationship Management software, but of course the concept is far more holistic than that. How is Social Media changing the understanding and execution of CRM programs?

BL: Increasingly, business relationships are beginning online with a search for information or a query to friends and colleagues on social networks. Blogs, podcasts, video and other forms or social media are being used to create opportunities to engage customers and prospects in conversations that can lead to more formal business relationships.

ETB: How is your organization, CRM Essentials, utilizing Social CRM to drive prospecting and sales?

BL: I've been blogging for over four years and podcasting for almost three. Social media has allowed me to share my thoughts and opinions on the CRM industry, which opened me up to a totally different audience of people. So I can honestly say social media allowed me to build relationships with people I would have never had access to any other way. It allowed me to move from an implementation-focused business to a thought-leadership-driven practice.

ETB: Do you see significant differences in Social CRM for B2C versus B2B organizations?

BL: I think it really breaks down more to the cost of the product and service and the complexity of the sale. The more expensive the sale is, the longer it may take to build the relationship needed for a prospect to feel comfortable enough to enter the formal sales cycle. Likewise, the greater the number of people involved in the process, the more complex it becomes, which means more "know-like-trust" building via social media/social networks may be necessary.

ETB: On your blog, you shared a link to an article that reported on a survey indicating that "companies are struggling to locate enough social-media-generated revenue to justify the time and resources expended on them." I'm curious if you believe the survey results to be accurate--meaning that Social Media is not yet proving an effective tool for B2B sales--or if you felt the survey was affected by perception issues, lack of definable metrics for Social Media, or poor utilization of Social Media by sales personnel.

BL: I think it's hard to measure social media success on traditional ROI measures. Additionally, social media should be viewed as a relationship-creation and -extension tool, not as a traditional sales tool or to deliver traditional sales messaging. In fact, "Selling 1.0" doesn't work well at all with social media. People want good information and an opportunity to dialogue, not to be sold to in the traditional sense. So if you measure social media with traditional methods, and you use social media to deliver traditional messaging, chances for success are minimized dramatically.

ETB: So, how should those interested in sales create demand in a hyper-connected world?

BL: Listen to others via blogs and social networks that your customers and prospects listen to. Share valuable information that will help those customers and prospects succeed - and don't lead with sales information. Participate in the ongoing conversation that are already taking place. Be viewed as a valued member of the online communities in your industry, which will make people much more likely to listen to you when you do speak.

ETB: There has been plenty of attention give to the benefits of Social Media to the sales function within enterprises. What about the risks? What risks do you see in our hyper-connected world and how can sales leaders mitigate these?

BL: Once again, leading with sales-speak will turn people off. People are more interested in having the problems solved and not why your product is great. Using social media to share information and be viewed as a valuable resource can spread like wildfire and create business opportunities more naturally. But building the wrong kind of online reputation can spread even faster.

ETB: On July 15th at 1 pm PST / 4 pm EST, you will be a speaker for a Webinar entitled, "Driving Demand in a Demanding Market." Aside from you, speakers include Dave Brock, President and CEO of Partners In EXCELLENCE, and David Bonnette, Group Vice President of Oracle's North American CRM sales organization. Who should attend this Webinar and what do you hope they'll take away from the experience?

BL: I hope people who attend will walk away feeling a little more comfortable about finding opportunities to engage customers and prospects with social media. The past week has seen people send 65,000 text message a second to share the news Michael Jackson's death. And we're still learning from the Obama campaign's use of social media on his way to the presidency. It's pretty apparent that social media is having a tremendous impact on all aspects of our lives, including business.

If you find this blog post of interest, be sure to check out the Webinar, Driving Demand in a Demanding Market. You can register on for the event, scheduled for Wednesday, July 15th at 1 pm PST / 4 pm EST. Information to be shared includes:
  • Tips to get your sales team smarter and more productive
  • How to identify the right deals and avoid wasting time on dead ends
  • Tools that help manage and measure critical sales performance metrics
  • The role Technology can play in making an impact on your bottom line

Blogger's Note: I was asked to help promote this seminar. I agreed to do so only if I could generate some interesting and unique content for my blog. No money changed hands; this is not a "sponsored conversation" or other euphemism for advertising in Social Media. I believe the seminar and the information furnished by Brent are worthwhile and pertinent to those who read Experience: The Blog. Please let me know if you agree or not!

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