These days any conversation about CRM probably leads to the mentioning of social CRM. Throughout the past two years, there has been much healthy debate about what social CRM is, how it’s being deployed throughout the enterprise and what makes CRM a social thing. Indeed, this will be a major topic as the CRM Evolution Conference kicks off today in New York City. The definitions line up along the varying uses of this versatile platform. Social CRM actually means a lot of things to a lot of people: community management, customer support through social channels, and social sales and marketing – benefiting both B2C and B2B companies.
While this social evolution of CRM provides fodder for thought-provoking discussions for industry analysts and pundits, for the B2B sales professional specifically, what matters most is on-the-ground usage, and the fact that you now have access to an increasingly more social – and thus more intelligent – selling platform.
A Birdseye View of Social CRM in B2B Sales
Recently, we’ve talked about Customer 2.0 and discussed how the control of a company’s brand has transitioned from corporate marketing departments to customer-to-customer conversations taking place in social media. Customer 2.0 has abundant visibility into the companies they are considering doing business with and is well-informed, and naturally, they expect the sales reps who call upon them with to be the same.
As companies are becoming more aware of their customers’ increased activity in social networks, they are looking to create a virtuous cycle by first listening to the customer, distilling the relevant bits and then using these insights as keys to accelerating their customer engagements going forward. But given social intelligence about customers can be anywhere and everywhere, how can we efficiently monitor the vast social media landscape without adversely impacting sales productivity? How can we easily associate any new social insights we discover with what we already know about our target accounts to try to create that 360° view of the customer? Essentially, how do we enable this new, social selling?
This is where social CRM comes in and is essentially the business’ response to meet these emerging requirements of Customer 2.0. Social CRM can be defined as the connection of the social data about customers, wherever it may be, with existing customer records in a CRM system, to arm companies with new forms of customer intelligence. It is the evolution of CRM from a repository of static customer data to include dynamic social intelligence. Social CRM enables social selling by engaging the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted and transparent business environment.
Enabling Social Selling
As our lives are socialized, so, too, have the business processes and platforms we use daily. Whether it’s through native deployments such as the recent salesforce.com Chatter, which allows real-time collaboration with coworkers, or through the myriad CRM applications being developed for monitoring, measuring, filtering,or using social activity in a CRM-relevant way (think social sales intelligence on your prospects from LinkedIn and Facebook, or measuring a swell in customer complaints on Twitter), CRM has been pushed across the social line.
So how exactly does social CRM enable social selling? Not surprisingly, it starts with monitoring the social conversation, wherever it may be happening. By listening before talking, sales organizations can gain new perspectives and insights into the customer that are otherwise not available through more traditional news sources. Armed with these new insights, sales people can engage their prospects in more timely and relevant conversations about how they can address their urgent business needs – and even find out about opportunities they weren’t aware of before.
However, social CRM has to cross two hurdles to deliver upon its promise of more successful engagement with Customer 2.0. First, given the preponderance of social activity, it needs to tackle the quantity versus quality problem by filtering out the noise. Then, it needs to make these golden nuggets readily usable by presenting the relevant social intelligence alongside the rest of the customer data within the CRM framework. By powering sales teams with relevant intelligence, directly within their workflow, and enabling them to engage the customers at a deep and personal level, social CRM make social selling a reality.
So, the 4 key steps to how social CRM enables social selling can be summarized as:
- Monitor the social conversions
- Filter out the noise to hone in on what’s relevant
- Map these relevant insights to existing customer records within CRM
- Provide value by engaging customer at the right time with the right message
Remember that the “social” in social CRM does not refer to social media – it is about social engagement to gain the trust of Customer 2.0 to build a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship. On the sales-usage front of CRM, that is, after all, what social selling is all about!
Have you experienced any brush with social selling or social CRM? We’d love to hear your thoughts and stories.
Umberto Milletti is the CEO and founder of InsideView, the Sales 2.0 leader. Umberto has been a thought leader in the convergence of technology and content for the last 10 years. Follow Umberto on Twitter at @umbertom.