B2B Social Selling Meets CRM

I recently wrote about how intelligence is different, and much more valuable, than data for the B2B sales professional. I described intelligence as going far beyond the basic facts and figures about companies, and creating a broader view of the prospect, which incorporates recent business events, social conversations and social relationships.

In other words, social intelligence.

What do B2B sales professionals need to boost their productivity? The answer: easy access to this social intelligence within their workflow, at the point of need and at the time they want to engage the prospect in a relevant conversation. In-context access will render social intelligence an empowering tool for sales teams, instead of the distraction that it can easily become.

Social Intelligence: It’s more than just CRM
Naturally, this is where one would expect CRM to come into play because it is intended as the ubiquitous technology infrastructure to facilitate customer-facing interactions. Unfortunately – and to the disappointment of many sales organizations – CRM hasn’t delivered on its promise of significant sales productivity gains, or on its ultimate promise of synchronizing the business process between two key stakeholders (the sales professional and their target buyer). Instead it has remained mostly in the ranks of workflow automation. This makes CRM useful for automating structured processes and reports for management, but not for enabling effective relationship building or customer engagement.

I believe social intelligence, integrated into the CRM workflow, has the opportunity to move CRM beyond its current limited application (and thus adoption) into a highly effective customer engagement platform, and in the process transform selling as we know it.

Social Selling: Enabling Customer 2.0 Engagement
Adopting this new model of social selling is not optional for businesses, rather a requirement if they want to meet the demands of a new breed of informed, socially-engaged customer who has taken control of the conversation. Integrated social intelligence can level the playing field for businesses by making it easy for sales professionals to listen to and participate in the conversion in a timely and relevant manner for successful customer engagements. Put simply, integrated social intelligence is an essential enabler for businesses in the quest to successfully engage Customer 2.0.

Powered in part by new methodology and in part by new technology, the usage of social intelligence by sales organization is one of the three primary use cases of what many are calling Social CRM (the other two being marketing and customer support). While there is much debate about the ultimate definition of this next generation approach to CRM, here are a couple of good ones that support my point:

Of course, the success of a Social CRM strategy for sales requires much more than access to social information about prospects. It requires a fundamentally different selling process. As Wim Rampen states in a post at CustomerThink, “Implementing social tools, and doing absolutely nothing differently than before, would not make it…a Social CRM [or Social Sales] strategy.” We now have access to vast new avenues to gather customer data and insights, but how the data is aggregated, transformed into intelligence and integrated into the sales workflow are the primary factors in determining the success of a sales organization “going social”.

So how exactly is social selling enabling a more successful outreach and engagement with the socially-savvy Customer 2.0? Next week, I will lay out three tips for implementing intelligence into your sales workflow, and will elaborate on the effectiveness and applicability of social selling as an integral part of a business’ Social CRM strategy.

Connect Your B2B Customers with Social Media Profiles

Business is getting more and more social. Understanding how social it’s becoming is a challenge to many B2B marketers. Where do you go to find out if your prospects and customers are on social networks? If so, which ones?

It’s now possible to append your B2B customer and prospect databases with social media addresses and other social marketing data. This new social layer makes it possible to connect and engage with your audience across multiple channels. With this data, you’ll know the “Four W’s” of your audience:

Who: demographics, occupation, location and more
What: interests, brand affinities, lifestyles, and influence
Where: social sites used and online hangouts
With Whom: friends and associates

Reasons why you should map your customers and prospects to social media:

1. Determine if you should be on social networks
If you are unsure about whether or not you should be marketing via social media, using social appending tools will help you understand the social activity of your contacts.

2. Determine which channels to use
Learn which channels your customers or contacts use most frequently and speak to them where they are most comfortable.

3. Determine where to best devote resources
Optimize the time you spend engaging and identify potential new channels to engage your key contacts.

4. Identify influencers
Do you know who your most valuable brand advocates are? Use the number of Facebook friends, tweets, followers, etc. to identify and engage your contacts with the most marketing influence. Create content or VIP offers to target and reward this very important group.

5. Increase relevance
Gather insights from a Twitter feed or LinkedIn profile to provide marketing intelligence which can be used to create more personalized communications. Those communications can then be distributed to the most relevant segments of your database.

6. Compare prospects to customers
If you know the social behaviors of your customers, compare that to your prospects. Learn about the differences between the two groups and adjust your prospect messaging accordingly.

7. Target new customers
Once you how your customers behave in the social networks, use that information to go after others with similar profiles or behaviors.

8. Be more effective with sales and retention
Provide your sales team with prospect or customer social profile information and allow them to learn more about the contact which will promote a more authentic conversation and sales experience.

Companies that provide social marketing contact appending or influencer identification services include:

Rapleaf helps you better understand who your customers are so you can personalize communications and boost interactions while lifting conversions. Using Rapleaf can help you reveal and understand your customers’ demographics, interests, occupation, social media memberships, friend connections and more.

Netprospex is a directory of user-contributed business contacts verified with their proprietary CleneStep technology. Quickly find, view and download business contacts including phone and email addresses. NetProspex has a large database of 14 million verified B2B contacts.

Klout allows you to find and engage Twitter influencers based on topic or hashtag so you can understand their network value.

When you have an email address, Flowtown allows you to find which social networks your customers are on.

Have you used social network data to customize your B2B marketing efforts? How did it work for you? Do you see this becoming more popular as B2B marketers grow more savvy in the social marketing space?

4 Ways to Bridge the Social Media Gap With B2B Sales Team

The common disconnect between B2B sales and marketing teams has recently been amplified by the emergence of social media. When it comes to B2B social media efforts, salespeople often have very little exposure and experience with both professional and personal usage of social sites and new media.

As this blog post points out, the two segments have different cultures, mindsets and compensation structures. Although sales staff may not understand the ins and outs of marketing strategies, timelines and budgets, they were at least familiar with more traditional approaches such as public relations, customer service and advertising, and understood these methods have proven returns for their overall sales goals.

As B2B communicators begin to use social media to support lead generation, it’s important to provide tangible measurements and examples of how sites such as Facebook, company and industry blogs, Twitter and LinkedIn can build new customer relationships, foster existing connections and, ultimately, move product out the door.

Here are four ways to begin to bridge the gap between B2B social media and B2B sales teams:

1. Create regular social media updates

Your sales force is constantly seeking information about new prospects, market news and sales forecasts, leaving little time to catch up on the latest social media news, scan competitors’ blogs or do a Twitter search on an upcoming tradeshow. A regular newsflash – sent weekly or monthly – can keep the sales team up to speed on general and industry social media news and up to date on internal and competitor updates.

Not sure what to include? Recap breaking social media news from the previous week (such as Twitter Ads or Facebook’s new “Like” feature) that could impact internal social media efforts; round-up blog posts from industry thought leaders; link to transcripts of applicable Twitter chats; point out changes and updates to competitors’ social media sites; highlight a post on the company blog that received more attention than usual; and suggest new blogs and Twitter accounts that could help the team learn more about sales, the industry or social media in general.

2. Leverage existing communication tools

If your PR staff is doing its job, your sales team has discovered communication tools that pull double-duty by satisfying brand awareness and supporting lead generation at the same time. Perhaps you’re already sending out a quarterly e-newsletter to influencers, providing special offers to new customers or hosting a monthly networking event for industry members to meet and mingle, and the sales team has seen measurable results.

Find ways to integrate social media efforts into the communication tactics your sales team has already bought into: In the e-newsletter, drive readers back to your blog for more information on a new product. Post those special offers on Twitter and Facebook. Record and tag videos and photos from networking events on Flickr and YouTube, which provides another touch point for sales to reach out to potential customers.

3. Track leads that come from social media

Your B2B sales staff is already tracking the source leads in your CRM system. The sophistication of this system depends on the size of your company, but it is still important to know whether leads are from your Web site, tradeshows, advertisements, referrals or press releases. Similarly, it’s also important to track when leads stem from social media efforts.

Make sure your organization’s sales team can note when a lead comes in from the company blog, Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn pages. Close the loop by routing this information back to the PR and marketing team, especially if those leads result in sales, so the data can inform future social media efforts. It may sound simple, but this small step will begin to show B2B salespeople the sales impact of social media.

4. Provide monthly analytics reports to sales team

Just like B2B social media pros use weekly and monthly analytics to measure sentiment and create content strategies, salespeople have specific numbers and measurements that will help shape their own goals.

Find out what information would be helpful to them. Do they want to see blog visitors broken down by location? Would knowing the ages of Facebook fans help them better target their B2B sales efforts? What page within the website receives the most traffic from Twitter, and should it be beefed up with a lead generation form? Knowing the measurements your B2B sales team is interested in will help you provide them with more targeted numbers.

What techniques have helped you communicate social media’s value to your salespeople?

Blackberry Apps for Your B2B Sales Force

After covering BlackBerry apps for B2B marketers and PR professionals, this week we’re taking a look at BlackBerry apps that facilitate B2B sales.

B2B salesmen and women are constantly traveling, and their nomadic lifestyles demand mobile support. In the field, even a laptop can be cumbersome, so it’s important to have sales solutions that fit in your pocket.

As the go-to choice for most sales teams, it makes sense BlackBerry has many apps designed to close deals and deliver results:

1. Salesforce Mobile

Customer relationship management (CRM) is an integral part of an organization’s sales strategy. Salesforce.com, one of the most popular solutions, has a mobile version for users to upload customer information in real time, right after important customer calls, e-mails and visits. The app helps to manage sales and prospect data outside of the office, which equals less time at your desk and more time in the field.

Thanks to a recent Salesforce update, the Mobile Lite app is now free for all Salesforce users, including Group customers.

2. Oracle Mobile Sales Assistant

If you use Oracle as your CRM system, its Mobile Edge app will take your CRM data on the road.

Mobile Edge puts all of the traditional CRM account, contact, opportunity, activity, lead and ticket information on your BlackBerry, syncs with your phone’s address book and utilizes custom objects, pre-loading device data, centralized administration and interface mapping. Its latest update in October 2009 introduced support in 12 languages, opening up new opportunities for global B2B companies.

While this free demo will give you a peek into the mobile app’s features, you’ll have to contact your Oracle rep for full installation and connectivity.

3. Kindle

E-book readers have become a part of B2B marketing tool kit, delivering novels, industry e-books and blogs (like Social Media B2B) in one sleek package – but what if that package is still too big for salespeople on the go?

Amazon just released a beta BlackBerry app that puts more than 400,000 books on your smartphone. Kindle owners can access their libraries and notes, and the app automatically synchronizes your last page read and annotations.

While it’s not a replacement – BlackBerry Storm owners will be at an advantage, as Bold, Curve and Tour screens require constant page turning and squinting – the Kindle app for BlackBerry extends the convenience of an e-reader.

4. VQ Mileage Tracker

Tracking mileage and gas on business trips and customer visits can be tedious and time-consuming. There are many mileage tracking apps available for the BlackBerry, but VQ Mileage Tracker (currently discounted from $14.99 to $6.99) goes one step further and does all of the work for you.

The app automatically calculates mileage every time you’re in the car, and stores the data until you generate a report with information on the date and time of each trip, address and miles driven. The app also uses BlackBerry or Google maps to pinpoint each trip.

5. MyCommission

More sales equals more money, and the MyCommission app ($2.99) helps salespeople figure out just how many dollars they’ll take home at the end of the day.

The app allows you to enter the account name and status (committed, in upside or are pipeline) of each deal and calculates the resulting commission.

What BlackBerry apps have you found to be helpful in the sales field?

B2B Social Media and the Customer Service Funnel

Many B2B companies understand the idea of the sales funnel and track their leads using a CRM system like Salesforce.com or a module integrated into their ERP system, but they are not using the same organized process to handle customer service. According to a May 2009 study, only 40% of companies stated that their employees have the tools to handle customer service. With the explosion of the use of social media for customer service in 2009, the landscape for B2B customer service has become more complicated, and needs structure that can account for a variety of incoming inquiries.

The original sales funnel features four segments as customers move through the funnel: Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action. While not a perfect model for the sales process, it made some sense, and has even be updated to the more practical segments of Leads, Visitors, Prospect, Customer. We can apply a similar model to the customer service process, except as potential customers more through the sales funnel, their numbers are reduced through qualification of one type or another. The customer service funnel metaphor is not about reducing the numbers, but about making sure all parts of a potentially disparate process wind up in the same place.

A business customer using your product or service discovers a problem, or a potential customer doing their research before a purchase has a question about it. Before the advent of social media channels and the acceptance of tweeting a problem, sometimes out of frustration, a customer would write a letter or call a customer service phone number. The toll-free phone call, or a call to an account manager, is still the most likely customer action to address a problem or ask a question, however, many customers are announcing these online. This may be addition to contacting the company, but sometimes the online request is the only option chosen.

Your company may have dedicated resources to creating an inbound call center to handle both sales leads and customer service calls. If you company is smaller, or your customers have relationships with their account manager, the calls flow in that direction, never making it to the call center. And who in your organization is managing Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or industry online forums and monitoring social web mentions? Maybe marketing, communications, or even an outside firm.

The most important part of the process happens right here. You have to have a central tracking repository that links these events to the customer and no matter where the awareness happens, it needs to be entered into this system. While a CRM system is ideal for tracking these sort of cases, not all members of your social media team have access, and small companies may not be able to invest in these levels of solutions. At a minimum, enter the incident into customer notes in your database with a list of next steps and who is responsible for those steps.

In traditional customer service communications, there is no need for acknowledgment. There is no need to discuss written letters anymore for B2B customer service, and the acknowledgment of a phone call is to receive the information from the customer and respond with an answer or a time frame to respond with the answer. But on the social web where someone tosses a complaint or question out, the acknowledgment serves two purposes. The first is to let the customer know your company heard the cry for help. These tweets in the night are becoming more common. The second reason is so other people see your company has responded. Even if the response is requesting the customer follow you back so you send them a direct message, the public response is an important part of the process.

The goal of any customer service program is to resolve customer issues, while not expending too many resources in the process. Many call center operations focus on reduction in call times rather than customer satisfaction. The public nature of customer service on the social web changes the nature of the customer relationship. A full resolution of customer issues needs to move higher up in the customer service process. The reach of an unhappy customer is now greater than ever. Some of these customer interactions become more costly as marketing staff and account managers get involved, so a clearly defined process and system for handing these back to customer service is important, as cost tracking is still relevant. After resolution of these issues where social media played a role, keep a record of successes for future presentation to management of the benefits of social media.

What are some changes you have seen in customer service not that social media opens up the company to public issues.

Facebook Changes Privacy Policies, Impacts B2B Marketing

Yesterday when logging in to Facebook, users were greeted with a box stating that their privacy settings were going to be updated.
The first paragraph is directed towards users and implies that Facebook is making things easier to manage with both a reduced set of controls and the ability to control individual posts and updates. But it is really the second paragraph that revels their true motives and is the part that helps B2B companies.

At the same time, we are helping everyone find and connect with each other by keeping some information – like your name and profile picture – publicly available.

As a user continues to click through the screens, Facebook provides its recommendations for how these settings should be configured. These recommendations encourage you to make family and relationships, work and education and all status updates and posts public and available to everyone. Does this make it easier for your friends and family to find you on Facebook? Sure it does. But it makes it much easier for B2B companies to find their customers, prospects, vendors and partners.


Facebook is trying to manage both sides of their equation and serve their users who create profiles and provide Facebook with its huge valuation by constantly updating their status and checking their wall several times a day. The value of this data is what Facebook is counting on for their next phase of monetization and growth. The way that your B2B company can leverage that data is part of that plan. The success of B2B companies using social media is to connect people to each other to strengthen existing relationships and to forge new ones.

How does a company go about finding their existing connections on Facebook?
Currently searching for users on Facebook is very limited because many people’s privacy settings prevent information being shown to those that are not their friends. Facebook is encouraging users to allow access to more information, but isn’t really touting the benefits of this openness. The benefits are to B2B companies who can now more easily prospect on Facebook. Just because this data now may be available doesn’t mean that people want to be pitched on Facebook. You still need to find common ground and engage with prospects in the hopes that they will respond.

As more and more Facebook users make their status updates public, this information will be searchable both within Facebook and outside of it. In their continuing quest to improve search by incorporating more real time updates, Google announced earlier this week that they plan to index Facebook’s status updates in the same way they are leveraging Twitter’s real time updates.

Facebook Changed Your CRM System
With its move to open more data to the public, Facebook set the tone for the next generation of business data collection and analysis. We have talked before on Social Media B2B about the future of CRM systems and how they will get more social. Facebook helped this prediction become a reality. Along with YouTube and Flickr, Facebook is one of the largest resources for user generated content and, more importantly, the content is directly tied to people, not fake user names or closed accounts. Soon you will be integrating Facebook data into personal profiles in your CRM system and creating systems to analyze broad industry issues to help make important business decisions.

Make sure your employees understand the implications of these privacy changes. Plan for ways this newly opened firehouse of information could help solidify business relationships and influence organizational decision making.

Do you think Facebook has other motives behind these changes?

6 iPhone Apps For Your B2B Sales Team

A lot of talk is happening around the importance of mobile in the future of B2B sales and marketing. The future is great of course, but today I wanted to share some mobile applications that are available today. We all know that it is critical that B2B sales teams have the tools and information they need to succeed. Because of this, many organizations are switching to the iPhone as the device of choice for its sales teams.

One of the great things about the iPhone platform is the huge diversity in applications available. However, that is also its biggest problem. Busy sales people do not have the time to comb through the app store and see which applications could help them. Today, I share with you 6 B2B iPhone applications that could help make your sales team’s life a little easier and I encourage you to share this post with them. This list spans from mobile CRM apps to simple tools that may make sales travel a little easier.

Please note that all the links below connect to the application page within iTunes and you will need to have it downloaded to see the full application details.

Milebug icon
1. MileBug Mileage log
Price: $3.99
When you are a sales person constantly on the road, it is the little things that can drive you nuts. One of these is keeping track of your mileage and separating personal and business travel. The MileBug application helps solve this problem by making it simple to keep track of business and personal miles while traveling.

milebug screen shot

sales and commision icon
2. Sales & Commissions
Price: $1.99
Keeping track of sales and commissions is critical, especially for small businesses. This straight-forward application aims to do just that, by helping you record and track sales across a sales team. While large sales organization likely have their own system for this, the Sales & Commissions application could be ideal for independent sales people and small business owners.

sales and commision screen shot

Oracle Icon
3. Oracle Mobile Sales Assistant
Price: Free
Many large B2B organizations use enterprise level CRM systems to help manage sale sand prospect data. If your business uses Oracle, then using this mobile application is an extension of the work you are already doing. Oracle packs the features of its CRM software into a mobile application that can help make sure sales can enter and access data from the CRM system.

oracle screen shot

radio finder icon
4. Local Radio Finder
Price $.99
Ever travel across multiple states in a car? Many sales people do it every week. One annoying thing is not knowing what radio frequencies are in the current town you are in. The Local Radio Finder app is simple and makes it easy to see all of the FM and AM stations in a town so that you can quickly find the station playing the music or news you want, while you’re on the road.

radio finder icon-1

airline icon
5. Airline Seat Guide
Price: $1.99
While sales people travel a lot, it is impossible to remember every airplane on every airline in the world. Knowing your airplane allows you to pick the right seat. As we all know the right seat can make or break a long flight. The Airline Seat Guide shows you the seats on every airline around the world so that you can quickly know where your ideal seats are located on each plane.

airline screen shot

Salesforce.com iphone app
6. Salesforce.com
From talking to many B2B businesses, Salesforce.com seems to be the choice for CRM system of choice for many small, medium and large businesses. If you are a current Salesforce.com customer, then using their free iPhone application is a natural next step. As mentioned with the Oracle application, mobile CRM applications that can make the user experience easier can help increase the amount of data that is put into the system and then used to help generate sales.

salesforce.com screen shot

What other iPhone applications do you or your sale teams use to make life easier? Is your organization making the switch to the iPhone?

Video: Social Media CRM – Connecting Your Sales Force To The Social Web

Mike Schneider recently presented about Social CRM at the recent Social Media Business Forum Event in Durham, NC. At the event Jeff did an interview with Mike about Social CRM and its impact on B2B companies. We heard from many of you that you would like to see Mike actual presentation. Here it is!

Below is video of Mike’s presentation. The first minute the camera is getting set up, but after that it is on a tripod.

Mike has spent his career solving problems using technology with a focus on marketing and analytics. He is currently Vice President Director of Contributions (an analytics and emerging technology group) at Allen & Gerritsen. Follow him on Twitter twitter.com/SchneiderMike.

Salesforce Gets More Social, What Does This Mean For The Future Of Social CRM?

Salesforce.com the maker of the popular web-based CRM system recently announced the support and integration of Twitter into its platform via its Force.com App exchange. Salesforce previously had already supported integration with Facebook and is moving fast to integrate with data from the social web. What does this announcement mean for the future of social CRM?

Social CRM currently is a moving target and really the term “social CRM” does not properly address the business issues and implications of the situation, but like the term “social media” it had to be adopted for conversation purposes. When it comes to CRM software many issues are becoming hot topics. When we talk about social CRM, I believe we are really talking about the next generation of CRM software, but more importantly the next generation of sales and engagement.

The correct CRM system should amplify the skills of great sales people. The problem with today’s CRM solutions, stems from the wide variety of vendors and custom developed systems. Many companies have invested a great deal of time and money developing their own proprietary CRM system. The issue with this is scale.

Any CRM system of the future needs to be able to:

1. Be accessed from any computer or mobile device
2. Needs to integrate with real-time data provided through online platforms, for which Facebook and Twitter are only the beginning.
3. Must facilitate online, phone or in-person engagement from within the platform.
4. Needs to be backed with support to manage and update databases to help ensure the most accurate information

Cloud storage and computing can help address some of these problems, but the greater issue is that businesses need to be focused on the future needs of their CRM system. The data provide by any CRM system truly makes an impact when it provides relevance between a customer and a business. To ignore important sources of relevant data and to not scale a system for future use, means running the risk of losing touch with customers.

The CRM + Social Media Problem

“Relationships” is the one word we all hear when talking to B2B sales driven organizations. To the sales team and executives relationships are critical to closing a sale. For this reason most companies use some type of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. CRM software allows organizations to have dynamic records of their customers complete with contact information, business information, notes, etc. CRM data is priceless to many companies, but as the social web develops incorporating user generated content is critical to improving customer relationships.

Social media as moved past a marketing and communications function to become a function important to all aspects of business. I have long thought that integrating data from the social web into CRM systems will be a key opportunity for improving B2B relationships and sales. With the increase in popularity of real-time social applications like Twitter and FriendFeed the issue takes even greater importance. This social data will begin to change the design and features of CRM software and the demand for customized real-time information will become a “need” not a “want” for B2B sales forces.

Though this issue is often under discussed, I want to give create to Chris Brogan and the team at Radian6 for putting together a Rockstars of Social CRM event and then sharing the video on the web for all of us to learn from. The video is below and contains some great information on social CRM, you may want to skip the first minute or two if you already know about Radian6 and their SalesForce.com integration.