Sales Challenges series, part 1
In this economy, we all face sales challenges. Topping the list are those related to messaging, prospecting, and closing the sale.
Each of these challenges can be mitigated through the effective use of CRM and community solutions in the Sales Challenge series will investigate each and provide solutions to mitigate them. To start off, we’ll focus on the messaging.
However, these challenges interconnect so in our third and closing article in the Sales Challenge series, we’ll address integrating the solutions to achieve a holistic resolution.
In today’s social media world, it’s important to think less about selling and more about engaging prospects in conversation. You must find ways to engage them and energize value to them.
What you want to do is to spark two-way conversation and like any relationship that means inspiring mutual participation. Said another way, speak to prospects rather than at them, the latter being more of the traditional marketing model.
You have multiple options for sparking conversations with prospects. Certainly your sales teams can continue to make cold calls and your company may succeed in gaining enough traction to make the expense in this activity worthwhile. However, in today’s world, there are so many road blocks to breaking through that cold calling isn’t terribly effective.
Unless…..I’ll come back to this in a moment.
Online communities – the solution
A great way to start a conversation with a prospect is via an online social community. The beauty of online communities is that they’re opt in.
Some folks will try to cloak their identity in communities, more especially in large consumer-focused ones. However, at least within the B2B community, many folks will give you relevant information when they opt in, including their names, titles, company names, phone numbers, and an email address. The more value they perceive in your community, the more likely they’ll provide you with that information.
B2B communities will tend to have a different flavor than those of B2Cs. In the former, think of a greater focus on sharing information. In the latter, the connections themselves are likely to be as much or more important.
Communication avenues in social media include:
- User profile pages and free-flowing posting to these profiles. Think Facebook (and B2C communities more commonly).
- User discussions (either B2B or B2C).
- Wikis (could be either, depending on your products or services).
- File sharing (more likely B2B information sharing).
- Resource centers (download or view information such as white papers, case studies, webinars, etc.)
Once you have a visitor engaged on your community site, then you’ll likely find it much more likely they’ll take your phone call when your sales reps contact them. The time to call will be when they’ve reached the qualified status based on your lead scoring criteria.
Your company can select from a variety of community options so you’ll want to give due consideration to the right one for you. Generally, though, the available flavors revolve around mass communities like Facebook and MySpace and company-sponsored communities.
Decide what level of participation is best for your company depending on your products and services mix versus your available resources to participate. Some companies will elect to participate in both mass and company-sponsored communities while others will choose one or the other. We recommend that if your company’s market is B2B and you can only choose one, then go with a company-sponsored site.
If you elect to go the company-sponsored route, you have numerous social software solutions that span a wide pricing range. Larger companies with a B2C focus may want to look at solutions from Jive or Awareness. These solutions a provide more Facebook-like community experience, with a strong focus on the membership profiling functionality.
B2B customers may gain greater benefit from solutions that focus on user discussions, wikis, and file sharing.
The solution we Intellicorers like the best for the B2B market is GroupSwiim. It’s what we sell and implement because we know it’s the best of breed solution. Rather than spin off into a sales pitch, let me direct you to our product information if you’d like to learn more about our GroupSwim solutions.
What’s next in the series
As I mentioned in the opening, messaging is just one of the top sales challenges. In our next article, we’ll look at those related to prospecting and closing the sale.