The collision of sales and social media was inevitable. Rich, open, hyperlinked conversations are becoming, as the profound Cluetrain Manifesto predicted, “Markets.”
That means that they are also rich with opportunities and insights into buying behavior. Decisions that are increasingly made closer to the Web. Much of this paradigm is the result of organizations flattening. However, it can also be attributed to the rapid mainstreaming of social networks and media as core business communication.
It certainly seems obvious that the social Web must mesh with CRM (or similar lead management software), but what might that look like?
Here are what I consider the pillars (i.e., opportunities for innovation):
1. Discovery: One of the most difficult challenges in sales is looking for new opportunities. Social media should help. After all, people are constantly blogging, Twittering, and Facebooking their needs, challenges, preferences. Unfortunately, regardless of how many thousands of followers you accumulate you will still only see a tiny fraction of your market. What’s even worse, even if that fraction were to increase your opportunities would only become harder to see.
RSS, the “plumbing,” if you will of most social media platforms suffers one major flaw–it assumes you know who to listen to. Social CRM needs a better discovery mechanism. Maybe the real-time search of Twitter and FriendFeed are the early infrastructure for that discovery mechanism…
2. Opportunity Monitoring: Finding is one thing, monitoring for ongoing opportunity is another. Attention in this accelerating market is only getting more precious. The ideal Social CRM will be able to monitor and flag new, emerging, or evolving opportunities.
The hazard here is avoiding our tendency to sink into a voyeuristic trance–watching and not acting on opportunities. Filtering is going to be critical.
3. Identity: Finding opportunities is relatively easy. Finding out who they really are and how to contact them can be one of the most challenging parts of sales prospecting with social media.
The Web began and continues to harbor a shroud of anonymity. People, even in social networks, seem to have a tendency towards using pseudonyms of aliases. Ultimately, this makes finding useful connections more challenging.
Any Social CRM needs to efficiently solve this challenge.
4. Synchronization: We all have our precious database of contacts. A database we are probably regularly adding to, but the average contact is still defined by name, telephone number, and email. A social CRM must enhance that contact information (automatically) with social profiles and identities.
Consistent with the identity pillar, synchronization will be challenging without standardization and growing user trust. I think initiatives like OAuth and microformats are likely to take this challenge to a solution.
5. Lead Nurturing: Finally, social CRM has great opportunity to inherently nurture leads. Integrating social media and tools into CRM will bring sales people closer and closer to the prospective client.
This engagement will naturally keep sales people top of mind of their entire database.
Social CRM has great potential to put CRM directly and effectively in the hands of sales people. However, there are certainly some essential challenges to be worked through to really hit a home run with this evolution of CRM.