Note: Jon Ferrara, the Founder and CEO of Nimble, will be the special guest on the Wednesday Edition of Talk Business With Howard Radio, broadcasting live at 11 AM/Eastern Time (8 AM/Pacific Time) on Wednesday, November 7, 2012. Thank you, Jon, for this guest blog post and being on the radio show to talk about CRM and social selling… and what’s new at Nimble. -Howard-
Social Selling Embraces The New Customer Relationship by Jon Ferraro
Traditional CRM emphasizes contacts, calendars and closing deals. You need a new kind of tool to manage today’s more personal interaction.
CRM, as we’ve come to know it over the last couple of decades, is about a journey. A journey taken by each of your customers through – well, through your CRM system. There’s a beginning, a middle and if you’re lucky, an end, a closed sale. The information you store about customers in your CRM system fits neatly into little labeled fields.
But do all of these details tell you enough about these individuals to give you a complete picture?
What do those lines in a CRM database tell you about their unique personality? Their myriad online connections? Their needs, their problems and their preferences?
Social selling takes you on a different kind of journey. Your customers don’t exist as isolated collections of entries in contact records. In fact, you don’t even think of them as “contacts” whose existence can be summed up in a series of fields on a screen. Rather, you’re in a dynamic, constantly-evolving relationships with them. You’re learning about their pain points and their passions, just as you share yours with them, and your discovering all of this in real time, not in a two-month-old report.
Today’s Cornerstone: Social Relationships
Sound too touchy-feely? It’s effective, state-of-the-art sales technique. But it plays on business themes that have succeeded for decades. Sales hasn’t changed since the early 60s, the days of Zig Ziglar. It’s all just electronic now.
Today’s small and mid-sized busiensses are in a state of flux. They’ve seen the economy start to improve and then stagnate again, and they’re unsure of what’s on their financial horizons.
So there’s tremendous pressure to increase revenues which, of course, comes from selling a product or service. But these sales are built on something that has always been a critical element of the sales process but which has become the centerpiece of attracting business today: your relationships with your prospects and existing customers.
Yesterday’s Software Ineffective
Social media have caused this sea of change, but these sites have been a mixed blessign. On one hand, you can listen to your potential customers as they tell you and others on their networks what they like and don’t like, what they’re doing, what they want and what they need. That outpouring can give you tremendous insight into who would be receptive to learning about you and how you might help them.
On the other hand, social media have buried you in communications and connections. You know what you need to do but you don’t have enough time to do it all. With all of the noise in your email box and your social networks, it’s hard to know where to focus your efforts.
Traditional CRM systems can’t begin to handle this continuous, massive flow of information. While they’re powerful, often flexible tools, they don’t accomodate social selling. They also require data entry – lots of it. And what salesperson wants to waste time sitting at a computer, filling in fields in his or her CRM software, when the end result will be a report on things that have already occurred?
Sifting Through The Clues
The information database that you create in a CRM application may be useful in planning an effective approach for an individual customer. But it’s based on notes that were taken a month ago and weren’t entered into a system because there simply wasn’t time. And if doesn’t know anything that you haven’t told it.
In the meantime, while those notes were gathering dust, your customer was providing all kinds of clues on social networks. You could have been developing relationships and assessing the likelihood of a future sale. Or maybe you would have just stumbled into a couple of leads while you were listening to real-time conversations.
As you develop these social relationships online, though, you need tools dedicated to the management of social relationships, tools that help you:
– Pull together all of the conversations with your targeted audience: the emails, the tweets, the status updates, the activities – every related detail
– See the connections that your customers and prospects resonate with – and who they don’t. Who are they influenced by, and who influences them? Opportunities lie in those associations.
– Determine which networks are attracting the people who you want to attract.
– Tailor your interaction so that you’re delivering the most effective message to the most potentially receptive people at the most opportune time.
Social Relationship Management Requires The Right Tools
Sounds like a tall order, but a good social relationship manager needs to do all of those things and more – within an exceptionally clean, simple, intuitive interface. It needs to understand that the sales role has changed, that the new social selling is about developing and nurturing relationships with prospects and customers who have already done their research on your products and services and don’t need a sales pitch.
Today’s customers want to know you, the person representing the product online. Can you solve a problem of theirs? Make their lives a little better or easier or more productive? Why should they engage with you and not the competition? An effective social relationship manager offers tools to accommodate that interaction wherever it occurs online, tools like comprehensive profiles that include each individuals streams of social activity.
Further, these tools should automatically record every personal exchange you’ve had with customers and prospects and provide pathways for immediate online communication as well as future, scheduled messages. They need to quickly pull up a list of everyone who has asked for a sample or free trial, or who live in your eastern metro sales district, or who purchased a product in the past that’s been recently upgraded.
Simplicity, Clarity, Focus
Your social relationship manager needs to synchronize with existing calendars so no time-sensitive opportunity is lost. It should alert you when someone has changed jobs or is celebrating a birthday or will be attending a meeting with you. It must provide a way to track the progress of pending deals. And to accommodate the other online worlds that your customers inhabit, it should integrate with best-of-breed applications that support related sales and marketing efforts.
It should do all of this with minimal work on your part, letting your focus instead on the constant, real time sharing that holds the keys to successful business relationships. The best social relationship managers help you easily monitor and network, and they facilitate insight that can help you turn casual online exchanges into relationships and prospects into customers.
A social entrepreneur at heart, Jon Ferrara founded GoldMine Software in 1989 where he served as the executive vice president of the company until it was sold in 2000. GoldMine is one of the best selling CRM products that helped pioneer the entire Sales Force Automation (SFA) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) market.
After selling GoldMine and watching the immense rise in power social media was experiencing, Ferrara entered the start up world again when he noticed a distinct lack of any products that effectively combined Relationship Management, Social Listening and Engagement, and Collaboration with Sales and Marketing. In 2009, Jon founded Nimble to create an extensive Social Business platform to fill this gap.
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