As you know, my view is that social can be leveraged as strategy, and the tools and processes for execution, for customer service, for marketing, for internal efficiencies. I have never bought into the concept of using it for sales. However, I am always interested in challenging my own thoughts and reached out to Chris Butler, COO of WeCanDoBiz (pro social sales), and Mike Muhney, Co-Founder of ACT! (who is stil not pro social sales). What follows are some insights they shared with me on their views and experiences. I hope you learn as much from this as I have.
Q. What is your sales experience?
Chris: I have worked in Sales and Marketing on and off for about 20 years. I started in the software industry working in the UK for US software vendors initially as a Pre-Sales Consultant and, as such have a pretty technical background. I worked for CA as the UK and Ireland Global Sales Support Manager before joining Telenor as Head of Business consultancy with a large team of pre-sales guys working for me. Following that, I worked as Sales Director for a large UK consultancy and then headed out into the big wide world of entrpreneurialism. A couple of start-ups later, here I am. I am a Member of the Institute of Sales and Marketing Management and have run many sales training courses for guys at all levels.In business you are always selling and if you are not you are not ‘in business’.
Mike: Nothing short of absolute. I began my career with IBM back in the mainframe era as a sales guy. Back then, before you were given your territory, you had to attend a full-time 6-month sales training program in which you were nationally ranked. The bottom 10% of the class was fired. I graduated in the top 10% (6 out of 66). The training was nothing short of intense, professional, and renowned. I don’t believe any MBA student would find any 6-month period of their studies to be more intense than IBM Sales School. I spent 5 years with IBM and won multiple “Hundred Percent Club” awards.
I also held sales positions with Digital Systems (DEC’s largest VAR selling turnkey systems to CPA’s) where I was ranked #1 out of 42 salespeople after my first year, and #2 out of 42 my second year. I left there and joined Computer Associates, where I was ranked #1 again for their new national group selling their newly-released relational database product CA-Universe. I left Computer Associates to Co-Found Contact Software International, and Co-Created ACT!, the product that forever changed the way people manage their business relationships and which created the category known as Contact Managers. ACT! is also attributed with having started what became the CRM industry as well. ACT! is still on the market today, 22 years after its’ creation, and has never relinquished its 75%+ market share leadership role.
I afterword’s was recruited by Deloitte Consulting to become a Senior Manager in their CRM Division. This was a global position, of which I was one of only three global spokesmen and Business Development Manager for the CRM practice. Asked to focus on Europe exclusively, I developed a three-way strategic partnership European-wide between Deloitte, Hewlett-Packard, and Baan, capitalizing on the combined sales and marketing resources from each of us but primarily from HP to promote a Deloitte implementation solution. This strategic partnership within 6 months produced previously untapped multi-millions in added revenue to Deloitte by leveraging others efforts at no cost to Deloitte. I was recruited from Deloitte to become the EVP and GM of International Operations for Saleslogix, the SMB CRM company, which was later bought by Sage out of the UK in 2002. Since then I have been involved in a number of ventures as an investor, board member, speaker, and international business builder. Presently, I have just started a new software development company.
Reflectively, I can say that no matter what, every ounce of energy, at every point along the way of my career, I have been selling. It doesn’t matter what you do, be that law, medicine, politics, whatever, one is always selling. Before I came up with the name ACT! for instance, I code-named it YES!, which was an acronym for “Yes, Everybody Sells!” In fact John, right now right here on this blog article of yours I am “selling” my credentials to your readership. Selling never, ever, stops.
What is your experience with CRM?
Chris: I have been exposed to CRM systems of one variety or another since the day I entered sales and in fact before that, early in my career I wrote various client management systems in my days as a developer (yes, I did that too!) In the intervening years I have used everything from proprietary in-house systems to Salesforce.com and Act! and everything in between. In recent times, as I hope you will know, we implemented WeCanDoCRM within WeCanDo.BIZ bringing the power of CRM tools to the ‘social market’
Mike: Multifaceted and intimate. Again, I Co-Invented ACT! and globally developed its’ market on the merits, benefits, and value of developing more effective business relationships through an extreme customer-focused lens. If ACT! is my child, and ACT! produced the CRM industry, then you can say I am the grandparent of CRM, there at the birth of both my progeny. Add to that the stints at Saleslogix and Deloitte, along with public speaking on issues surrounding CRM, I guess you could say it is certainly wider and deeper than most. I can also say that I’ve seen the worst side of it as well, unlike the Contact Management realm, where enormous failures have occurred and been ultimately either rejected or sabotaged by the very people CRM is primarily intended to serve – the salesforce – due to a host of factors outside of the control of these salespeople.
What is your experience with social media?
Chris: I am currently COO of WeCanDo.BIZ. We are a growing business network, operating globally despite our UK roots and predominantly in the SME/SMB space. So from a business perspective, I have there from concept, through planning, development, implementation, growth and change of a highly dynamic social media business. From a historic perspective, I first started to take notice of social media in the early 90s when the only real stuff out there was usenet bulletin boards and they certainly weren’t called social media then. I have, as a techie, participated in building systems within corporates where communication was driven across heterogenous networks and messaging systems and in the world of the web I have been a keen user and adopter of social media technologies since the late 90s when I discovered Ecademy (although I did little with it at the time). As well as being a Social Media business owner, I am also a singer and I use the web to carry my songs. There is a huge convergence in technologies happening right now with things such as OAuth, OpenID and Facebook Connect making it so much easier to ensure that the message is consistent.
Mike: Like many, fairly new. I have had a LinkedIN account for years, a Facebook account for 2-3 years now, and most recently earlier this year I have been using Twitter.
I find LinkedIN nominally useful, primarily for forums. I nearly detest Facebook and find it virtually useless with an incredibly horrible user-interface outside of a family-and-friends perspective. (How’s that for taking a position?). Regarding Twitter, I do see, and have experienced, some pluses with it – but more down the road as it and its’ ecosystem produce better and more useful versions of it. I find it overwhelmed with “fluff” yet with some rare jewels that I have already benefitted from. I can say that I now cannot imagine any company, of whatever size, not having a Twitter account for a connection with its’ customers – as long as it is meaningful and balanced regarding frequency and content of messages.
The challenge will be to properly find balance with other competing activities to obtain maximum benefit with the least amount of effort to strike a “Useful Use” value to the user community.
How can social media benefit business, government, individuals today?
Chris: My answer to that is ‘with care’. It is absolutely clear that social media can be used for huge benefit. But as I have said in my blog, what you put out there is persistent. Make sure the message is right.
For business, there are a couple of aspects worth exploring. One is to find the things you need, be that sales leads, products, services and so forth. The other is to tell the world what you do and that is where I would espouse caution. People really don’t like being overtly sold things through social media. That is becoming increasingly clear. The messages are often annoying, often too regular and more than occasionally impossible to verify. There is though, seemingly little wrong with announcing, say, a new product or service through a mechanism which invokes Twitter (as an example) BUT do it once and let the power of the initial message be carried by those who Retweet. If the message is strong enough and people buy into it the job is done. A highly effective method of using the power of the referral. Trust sells. Conversely, I would suggest you take a look at some of the #tags on Twitter like #fail (#btfail is a good example). Bad news and public complaints are not good for business and corporates are starting to react. There are already businesses in the UK who invest time and energy into monitoring any complaints they see on Twitter and responding (again – #btfail is one).
For Government it is an interesting concept. A great example of government using social media is http://www.direct.gov.uk This site is available on the web, via TV set-top boxes, via Satellite TV, Cable and mobile browsers. You can pretty much do anything there from finding out about schools to taxing your vehicle to filing your tax return. Very powerful and very widely used. Equally there is the Twitter President, Obama. Case proven. Social media can fund US election campaigns. There are systems being developed within Law Enforcement within the UK to enable messaging to be used via various media (including SMS) to alert locally and in real-time should something untoward (like, say a wanted person be seen in your neighbourhood) occur. So, examples aside, social media can certainly be used by government to drive awareness and to facilitate the citizens’ abilities to interact with it. The biggest thing to avoid in my mind however is the cataclysmic problem of old grey guys trying to appear to cool. Keep it businesslike
On an individual level, the benefits one can derive from social media are as myriad as stars, well, almost. The great thing with social media is that it is what you want it to be. Niche networks are growing for pretty much everything and the ability to cross-authenticate so much more means that the barriers to entry are lowering. This part of the question for me is really a whole seminar series in itself so suffice to say, Social Media for the individual is whatever you want it to be and the benefits are whatever you decide you need.
Mike: The answer to this question is too long to provide for purposes of this blog. It is infinite, it is pervasive, it is powerful, it is ubiquitous, it is intoxicating, it is liberating, it is empowering and it is like so many other essentially wonderful things in life, inherently destructive and harmful as well through an endless list of abuse, misuse, “propagandishness”, and manipulative for ill-gotten intent about others. Like the internet with it vast benefits to us all, part of the cost of having it are elements surrounding porn (especially child porn), trafficking in drugs and people, addictive gambling, scams, etc, and social media tools, especially Twitter in my opinion, will have its’ own share of these “dark side” elements.
Can social media be use as an effective sales tool?
Chris: Social media as a sales tool? Well as I have hinted above, my answer to that is be careful. Try not to do too much selling. The business is out there. Go look for it rather than shouting about what you do too much. By all means, use your website, traditional methods and everything else you do but get smart; when we at WeCanDo.BIZ introduced our Twitter Sales Leads Tool we did it for a reason. There are about 27m Tweets per day currently and growing – and there are a lot of people out there asking for stuff. We have just provided a way to go find it, simply and easily. It won’t be the last leads tool we have included but nor is it the first. Our Biz Needs have been generating business for suppliers since day one. So maybe we took a slightly different approach but it all goes back to the old tenet: no need, no lead. So, social media as a sales tool? Absolutely. It is there now and will only grow. We will not be the only organisation that works this out but we are the first to do what we have. Again, focus on what people want and use smart stuff to find it. I know I love it when potential members ask me what the benefits of what we do are and I show them lists of people who want the stuff they sell actually asking for it via social media. And social media for referrals? One Tweet saying how good someone’s service is powerful. If that gets Retweeted a couple of dozen times, think what that will do for your reputation and potential sales? Now that is cool!
Mike: If we define “sales” to mean those individuals whose strict focus is to target, develop, and produce more revenue in a true “relationship oriented” capacity resulting in a larger, along with more loyal customer base, disallowing the marketing and customer-service side of departmental efforts to provide customer connectedness, I would have to say “No – not yet”. I am not talking about a retail-oriented entity such as a hardware store attempting to “sell” to its community for instance, but rather the more professional element of selling that is one-on-one in relationship development. One-to-many is both inherent in the marketing and customer service side of the house, but not this type of sales and salesforce. Although the world has become more virtual in many aspects and even preferred by the consumer base (i.e. Amazon), some things will still remain personal and private in the selling capacity. As a salesperson within this definition, social media ranks way below the merits of digital-relationships via direct email between you and me as prospect/customer and seller. There is a point of impersonableness with tools such as Twitter that these types of salespeople will not want to wander beyond.
What is the most important thing for sales people to focus on today?
Chris: As always, knowing their market and working out the best ways to sell to it. Using all of the traditional tools but also grasping that there is a truly new way of working which will not be going away (although it will certainly evolve). Now is no time for sales people to bury their heads in the sand. I won’t say evolve or die but I will say evolve or struggle and watch those who do change simply sell do more faster.
Mike: Summarily, the answer is, has always been, and will always be, the customer, and with the tools that we have been addressing here via social media, now more than ever to develop and retain a competitive edge and further differentiation from competition. The prospect/customer community is now more informed, more aware, and more powerful due to digital enhancements providing greater knowledge, and salespeople, and their companies, will have to themselves find the means with which to better find, keep, and satisfy the customer – with or without social media.
What are you or your company focused on today?
Chris: As a business we are focussing on expanding the capabilities for our members, existing and future, to do more business faster. It really is that simple. We provide the tools that make finding business on the web simpler and allowing you to manage an opportunity once you find it from cradle to grave. We are looking to integrate more functionality and to increase the numbers of areas we enable to find real leads. WeCanDo.BIZ is all about doing business; now!
Personally, I am spending a lot of time researching different areas for expansion and enhancement and keeping a watching brief on the big wide world of CRM, watching a lot of announcements and seeing some interesting stuff. But I keep asking myself, specifically with regard to Social CRM, why is so much so-called SCRM just a rebadge with a snazzy internal ‘facebook’ type function? Beats me. I think I’d rather stick with our business network with its fully integrates Social CRM. And I am also writing and recording more songs – look me up here if you like, I’d love you to sign up as a fan http://www.reverbnation.com/chrisbutler (see, I am human).
Mike: I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you. I have just started a new company as a software developer targeting a market that makes the total population of CRM and Contact Management users look tiny in comparison. I am “underground” now for the foreseeable future, but watch for me later, cause I’ll be out there again.