Voices of CRM

Jul 21 2011   7:39PM GMT

IBM, Microsoft share tips on social selling

Rosemary Cafasso Profile: Rosecafasso

If sales people want to use social media tools to increase sales, then they need to respect the nuances of the social world and not club people over the head with their social presence.

I take liberties with the phrasing, but it is essentially the advice from Bill Patterson, product planning and marketing lead for Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM line and Douglas Hannan, who runs ibm.com in North America for IBM. The two marketing honchos offered insights and social selling tips on a recent Social Media Today webinar, “Can Social Media Boost Sales?”

“If it was all just about followers, we would be trying to replicate Charlie Sheen,” Patterson said.

Not that all sales people are aggressive.  But many are challenged to reign in that drive to sell.  

In June, social media expert Erik Qualman, author of Socialnomics: Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business, expressed a similar view on social behavior.

  He said folks new to social media often feel they need to sell as soon as they get on a social channel in order to justify being there. He equated this tactic to walking up to a group of people and interrupting them to talk about how wonderful you are. As my kids would say:  major fail.

Instead salespeople need to focus on creating social exchanges with the customer and be   willing to giving the customer some kind of assistance, such as links to content, that may not lead to an immediate sale.

 Social selling “isn’t a new way to spam people, ” IBM’s Hannan said. “Many of our messages are about content that help customers make decisions. So, it really is about helping those business professionals. Obviously some of that is about IBM products.”

Patterson said Microsoft relies on these four policies to govern its social selling:

 Listen first and do not use social channels to drive a certain agenda. “We use it to understand patterns and data in real time,” Patterson said.

 Give value before you get value. Customers use social channels to establish trust with their vendors and that will not happen if sales people see social channels strictly as lead cultivation.  Answer customer questions and concerns before making a pitch.

 Respond to customers. Get the answers out to customer on public forums. “The point is in answering the question,” Patterson said. “The simple act of response gives folks the impression that there really is someone at the other end of the Twitter handle.”

Do not dictate a salesperson’s online messaging. “We try to set a direction, and then have it personalized and localized,” Patterson said. The big mistake is to create canned messages and force salespeople to use them. Customers catch on quickly and find it off putting. “We don’t want to send an unoriginal message globally that may not even translate well,” Patterson added.

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