A while back I wrote an article about some of the changes that we are presently seeing in buyer behavior … “Salespeople! Your Customer is Now Driving the Bus!” Another shift that has been getting a lot of talk as of late is the contention that customers no longer want to be “managed” (did they ever?) and that our even attempting to do so is soooooo old-school and counter-productive.
Still, at the end of the day … someone or something is managing something or someone and, as salespeople, there are only three players that will potentially find their way into this management equation …
- Salespeople are managing their customers or
- Managers are managing their salespeople or
- Salespeople are managing themselves
While the prospect of managing my customers might be enticing, I have never looked at any application (CRM, SCRM, or otherwise) or activity as a vehicle to accomplish that goal. I have always viewed social selling applications as being tools for me to manage me. Nor do I look at these programs as a way for someone else to manage me.
Like most salespeople, I don’t like or want to be managed. Okay, I hate it! The challenge for salespeople, and this includes the good ones, is that we (yes, me) are typically just about as undisciplined as we are independent. If you don’t like the word undisciplined, please feel free to substitute disorganized. What these social selling tools do for me is that they allow me to manage my relationship efforts with my customers while at the same time helping to keep me organized and on track.
Take CRM as an example
Owners and managers love CRM for the data that can be derived from the activities. This is a natural byproduct of a well run CRM application and that data is going to be generated by your salespeople who should be using CRM to … manage themselves. Sales managers will then take this information and use it as a tool to manage their salespeople. That’s all well, good, and to be expected but, unfortunately, their weapon of choice is often a hammer and you can guess who generally plays the role of the nail.
This perception, by the way, is probably the biggest single cause of salesperson hesitancy regarding CRM adoption. What you do with this data is entirely up to you but, ultimately, data for the sake of data is a worthless indicator of just about everything. It’s the indicators that can be gleaned from the data, and then what you do with those, that counts. Only when we understand the why can we then determine the what that we need to do and the how we will now need to respond. I would suggest that you (salespeople and sales managers) …
- Look at the data instead of merely asking for, or generating, it. Sounds crazy but, I have worked with a lot of sales managers, me included, who have requested daily reports but just never seemed to find the time to actually look at them let alone evaluate them for key indicators that would contribute to either success or failure.
- CRM data will tell you a lot about your sales team, your offering, trends, and your process. This will generally require an in-depth analysis. As such, it is critical that you define your processes for performing these tasks prior to even attempting to leverage the results.
- CRM, particularly when combined with CEM (Customer Experience Management) will also tell you a lot about your customers. What messages are they sending your way? Are they tickled with you, ticked off at you, or neutral? Have you even asked them the question? Social CRM will excel in this area.
- Counting beans is fine but only if you look beyond the count. If activity numbers are low, you have to ask “why?” Are they afraid to make the calls? Is their system for customer follow-up flawed, broken, or nonexistent?
If the data tells us that sales are not closing and the pipeline tells us that they are stuck in various stages, why is that? Does the salesperson not know how to close or, more likely, how to qualify, question for need, or to present the solution? How are we going to fix that?
If I can’t manage customers, can I influence them?
Let’s look beyond the data and focus instead on sales activities. By managing my activities, am I able to manage my customers? How about my relationships with my customers? I believe that the answer to both is “Yes”. Certainly, even if we are not managing the account, we are influencing our customers and all of my activities and tools are directed toward that purpose. We earn their business and we do that daily as we continuously develop that relationship. It starts with giving and not getting.
The simple fact is that I am able to influence my customers by managing my own activities with the help of my CRM and a good social dashboard such as Hootsuite. How can we do that?
- If you want to have any hope of influencing them, you had better plan on connecting with them often and consistently. Use your CRM to set recurring reminders to do just that.
- Part of building customer relationships is based on your ability to listen and to remember what you talked about last. This type of organization results in exceeding customer expectations. Take good notes in your CRM, set task reminders, and review all activity and communication history before you make that next call.
- People buy from those who they like, trust, and respect. Who do we like? Think about it. We tend to like people who we perceive to have something in common with us. OKG’s (our kinda’ gals or guys). A good social dashboard or a Social CRM will help you to identify shared interests and will allow you to engage with your customers in real-time.
- Speaking of shared, how about connections? Shared connections = referrals and referrals = sales. Once again, there are a number of social selling tools that will help you to identify these. This capability alone has created a social selling revolution.
- By being aware of my customer’s interests (discovered via social streams), can I provide them with materials and/or education that would be pertinent to these interests? In so doing, do I influence them to invest with me? Yes I do. The new social sales model is based on education not arm-twisting. It is based on social listening.
It would appear that by managing me, with the assistance of my social selling tools, I am influencing my customers. Even better, this influence results in sales. We accomplish this, ultimately, by exceeding customer expectations. I’m happy, my sales manager is happy, and my customers are happy. Go figure. Maybe you might share with the rest of us what you are doing to manage yourself and what successes you are having as a result of that?