Recently I had a chance to talk with Umberto Milletti, CEO of InsideView, about his perceptions on the changing sales landscape and the emerging concept of "social selling."
Jill: How do you see social media impacting salespeople? I'm talking about things like blogs, twitter, Digg, YouTube and more.
Umberto: Salespeople are now facing a new breed of prospect that I call Customer 2.0. These are socially-engaged and well-informed buyers. They have abundant visibility into the companies they are considering doing business with. They've done their homework.
Plus, the control of a company’s brand is quickly transitioning to customer-to-customer conversations that are taking place in social media…and salespeople are being pushed back further in the sales process.
Jill: In my new book, SNAP Selling, I talk about crazy-busy prospects. How does that relate to your Customer 2.0?
Umberto: Customer 2.0 is crazy-busy. He's under pressure to do more with less money, time and resources. If you're a salesperson calling on Customer 2.0, your call better be timely and relevant with a good chance of addressing their urgent business issues and challenges.
If salespeople want to be successful with Customer 2.0, they should leverage "social selling" strategies themselves. Instead of being on the defensive, they can level the playing field.
Jill: Can you tell me more about "social selling?" It's an interesting term.
Umberto: Certainly it's about sales organization adopting social media and online collaboration tools themselves. And it's also tapping into social networks to “warm up” cold calls.
But social selling is a lot more than that. It's the sales organization’s response to Customer 2.0’s demand for relevance. And, it's a fundamental shift in selling behavior to synchronize the selling cycle with the buying cycle.
Since the new social customer expects their sales rep to know about them, their companies, and their needs before engaging, social selling has to start with listening before talking.
Jill: Listening? How does that relate to social selling?
Umberto: Listening to social media means that salespeople and companies understand what is being said about and by their customers and prospects. This gives them unique insights that aren't available through more traditional sources. Of course, it's a huge task to monitor the social conversation, filter out the noise to hone in what’s relevant.
Jill: It sounds darn near impossible to me. Salespeople simply don't have the time to spend on all that.
Umberto: Social selling has to simplify the process and give salespeople the tools to tap into this valuable sales intelligence without impacting their own sales productivity. It also needs to simplify how we associate these new social insights we discover with what we already know about our target accounts to create that 360 view into the customer.
Last but not least, social selling needs to make it easy to tap into existing social networks to leverage relationships into prospects or customers to improve prospect targeting.
Jill: So where do you see it all going?
Umberto: Selling has been and will always be a relation-driven business. But “who you know” is being replaced by “what you know about who you know”.
Social selling is about enabling sales organizations to provide value by engaging their prospects at the right time with the right message – and stay relevant. And that's what I think sellers have to do today.
Jill: Thanks for your insights today. I appreciate them.
InsideView helps companies increase sales productivity by delivering relevant business media and social intelligence to customer-facing employees. To learn more about their tools, visit www.insideview.com.