Social Collaboration for Sales: Cutting Through the Hype

©IDG Communications, Inc. Photo contributed by Matthew Mikaelian.

You know that you need to improve sales productivity and effectiveness. But where do you focus your company’s resources? Top items on the list include evolving your sales operations function, better leveraging customer intelligence, getting your pipeline in shape, and treating sales enablement as a strategic initiative versus a tactical maneuver. But what is this social media craze that sales automation vendors keep pushing for improved sales productivity?  Can on-line chat applications really help here?IDC’s research in this area clearly demonstrates that there is opportunity to leverage these types of applications from a sales perspective.  However, don’t fall into the trap that all you need to do is simply turn on the social collaboration switch!  Key findings from work by IDC’s Sales Advisory Service include (case study companies are also referenced in the below insight):

  • Buyers demand that sales representatives (reps) and their support teams evolve. Buying teams are larger and more sophisticated than ever before, and only the most knowledgeable and prepared sales teams will succeed in winning and retaining their business. This new reality will demand more advanced techniques to be used by sales teams to leverage all the resources available across their organization – with social media being an example of a new technique.
  • Social collaboration for sales enablement offers the opportunity for sales reps to improve the productivity of their time spent preparing for customer interactions. (refer to below figure) Inefficient use of this time today can equate to up to 10% of revenue, from an opportunity cost perspective. Toshiba’s sales reps have full access to subject matter expert moderators and user-generated content through Toshiba’s social collaboration platform to rapidly identify and locate sales intelligence (e.g., competitive information) and sales tools. Another study participant’s sales reps can collaborate more effectively among their own sales teams by leveraging a social collaboration platform versus email and shared drives.
  • Identify your location along IDC’s Social Collaboration for Sales Enablement Maturity Model (refer below) and learn from the key success factors (and mistakes) of other companies in developing and executing your own strategy. LivingSocial’s sales operations team focused on specific “value-add” activities relevant to sales reps to encourage adoption prior to focusing on more advanced areas of social collaboration. (i.e., focus on existing business processes) Toshiba executed specific tactical activities for launch of its social collaboration initiative to accelerate adoption (additional key success factors and case study details are provided in this document).

Just a few key success factors for deploying and maintaining your social collaboration application:

  • Deploy social collaboration as part of existing business processes. (e.g., use it to support your sales help desk)
  • Collaborate with teams outside of sales. (e.g., product and field marketing teams live for the opportunity to help your sales reps through on-line interaction)
  • Put community managers in place. (i.e., don’t reply soley on your sales reps to respond to on-line/chat inquiries)
  • Enable sales reps to access on-line chat capabilities directly through your existing sales force automation application. (i.e., don’t give them another place to go in order to tap into your social collaboration capability)

Clients of IDC’s Sales Advisory Service should refer to doc. #233340 for a complete review of how to develop, execute, and sustain a social collaboration for sales enablement strategy including case studies (e.g., Toshiba, LivingSocial) from leading firms in these area.


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