Tag Archives: sales associates

How sales professionals can use social networks to best serve the customer

When we think of putting the customer first we should think about the initial, and most consistent, contact they have for their purchase:  the sales person.  Today’s sales professional must use his or her social network to be successful.  And that success will come from using their social network to take a ‘customer-centric’ approach.  Certainly the marketing department is hip deep in the social media milieu…It’s not to be ignored.  But, I’m speaking to the sales professional in this thesis.
A Sales Professional Is Many Things
The best sales people must follow a disciplined process.  Customers have gained power and gone global, channels have proliferated, more product companies are selling services, and customers expect a single point of contact.  The sales person has to play a number of roles in this relationship:

  •  Company leader. The best sales people actively help formulate and execute a territory strategy, and they collaborate with all functions of the business to deliver value to customers.
  • Customer champion. Customers want senior level relationships with their supplier.  Customers expect an inside peek at their offering to be sure their buying decision is sustainable over time.  They need to understand product strategy, see future offerings in advance, and participate in decisions made about future products.
  • Process guru. Although sales professionals must look beyond the sales and customer processes they have honed over time, they can’t abandon them. The focus on process has become more important because buying decisions are being thrust on some users without buying experience. 
  • Organization architect. Good sales leaders spend a lot of timeevaluating and occasionally redesigning the sales organization’s structure to ensure that it supports corporate strategy.
  • Course corrector. Sales leaders must pay attention to what’s coming, because the business world changes constantly.  On the other hand they have to pay attention to the situation on the ground right now; to thrive in ambiguous environments and to respond when quick adjustments in priorities are needed.

The Best Sales Pros Have Powerful Social Networks
Social networks are critical.   It’s an oversimplification to say the more contacts you have, the more leads you’ll generate, and, ultimately, the more sales you’ll make. Different configurations of networks produce different results, and a nuanced understanding of social networks will help the best sales people outshine competitors.

 Different social networking abilities are required in each stage of the sale:
  • When we’re identifying prospects, we need our networks to help us acquire precise and timely information about opportunities from contacts in the marketplace
  • As we meet many people in the prospect’s organization our network helps us gain buy-in from all levels, titles, locations & disciplines
  • As we create solutions we need specialists with knowledge outside of our purview so we can bring value to the table
  • And when we’re closing the deal we need to mobilize our contacts from prior sales to act as references

A sales professional’s network often pays off most handsomely through all of these social, and sometimes indirect, contacts.   But we have to ask ourselves do our contacts know all the same people, or are their associates widely dispersed?
What Is The ‘Right’ Social Network For A Sales Executive?
The right social network can have a huge impact on the sales professional’s success. It’s misguided to believe the key is having a large circle filled with high-powered contacts.   It’s better to cultivate a different kind of network: select but diverse, made up of high-quality relationships with people who come from varying spheres and from up and down the corporate ladder. This diverse crowd can help those in sales learn, make decisions with less bias, and grow personally.
Six critical kinds of social network connections:
People who provide information, ideas, or expertise;
Formally and informally powerful people, who offer mentoring and political support;
People who give developmental feedback;
People who lend personal support;
People who increase your sense of purpose or worth;
People who promote work/life balance.
The best kinds of connections are “energizers”–positive, trustworthy individuals who enjoy other people and always see opportunities, even in challenging situations.
Four Simple Steps To Keep A Sales Professional’s Social Network On Track
If you’re a salesperson and you want to improve your social network, here is a four-step process you might want to consider to improve it.

  1. Identify who your connections are and what they offer you,
  2. Back away from redundant and energy-draining connections,
  3. Fill holes in your network with the right kind of people,
  4. Work to make the most of your contacts.

Today’s world of sales is all about the customer.  Today’s social network is a gift to sales people, allowing us to best serve our customers with the best information, the best relationships and the best thinking.  A sales person’s social network allows them to keep their fingers on the pulse of the marketplace, readying them to make course corrections on an ongoing basis in an ever changing buying environment.  

And, of course, the very best use of social networks for a sales professional is to use them to listen to their customers.

Harvard Bus Rev. 2011 Jul-Aug;89(7-8):149-53, 167., A smarter way to network. Cross R, Thomas R.
Harvard Bus Rev. 2006 Jul-Aug;84(7-8):102-12, 188., Better sales networks. Ust??ner T, Godes D.
Ron Shulkin blogs researches and writes about enterprise technology focused on social media, innovation, voice of the customer, marketing automation and enterprise feedback management.  You can learn more about Ron at his biography web site:www.shulkin.net. You can follow him Twitter. You can follow his blogs at this Facebook group.  You can connect with Ron on LinkedIn.  
Ron Shulkin is Vice President of the Americas for CogniStreamer??, an innovation ecosystem. CogniStreamer serves as a Knowledge Management System, Idea Management System and Social Network for Innovation. You can learn more about CogniStreamer here http://bit.ly/ac3x60 . Ron manages The Idea Management Group on LinkedIn (JoinHere).

Customers in an economic downturn

I found a very interesting post at CustomersThink by Mark Hunter. He discusses the situation when customers call and complain about your price increase, and threaten to switch to your #1 competitor. He points out that this only ends up happening about 10% of the time, however, if you’re prepared during the initial conversation with the customer, you’ll be set. It’s important that sales representatives do their homework, and can talk through the process with the customer. Yes, the cost of switching is incredibly high, but be able to inform the customer as to how long it’d take for them to get the anticipated savings back, and how long it would be before a return on investment is to be seen. Be prepared to give the right answers to your customers, and it’ll result in customer retention.

Please Inform Your Face

This is posted on behalf of JoAnna Brandi. It is co-posted on the Customers 1st Blog and JoAnna Brandi blogs. I’ve just left the Estee Lauder counter in Lord & Taylor’s. I’m shaking my head. Lauder is having one of their special offers ‘ buy $39.50 worth of product and get a free gift. My Mom uses their products and like most people loves the free gift. This time (very clever) you get to customize the gift. You get to pick from two color palettes (warm or cool) and a choice of daytime or nighttime creams. We walked over to the relatively small counter where there three (count them ‘ three) sales people. Not one of them noticed us nosing around. I had to ask ‘Are you having a special offer today’? ‘Yes.’ ‘Uh ‘ can you tell us a little about it’? She gave us a brief description, nothing exciting at all in her voice, and void of some important details. My Mom, recovering from a broken hip, and leaning on a cane said great ‘ I need some powder. The young later brought out the powder and stated that the powder cost $29.50. ‘Okay,’ A moment of silence and then I got it ‘ it was probably not enough to qualify for the gift. So I needed to move the conversation along to the next level I guessed. ‘And what do we need to spend to get a gift’? $39.50 More silence and one of those glances that suggested that perhaps we were interrupting something very important that she needed to do. It was momentary, but my body picked it up. Now my Mom picked up the ball. She looked at me and said, ‘Need anything’? ‘I really could use a lipstick.’ ‘Okay.’ And then, nothing. ‘Where ARE your lipsticks’? I asked, really wanting to bolt out of the store screaming. ‘Over there.’ And so I climbed over a cart that was blocking the way, and then moved it out of the way so my Mom might make her way around the road block too. I quickly picked a lipstick. Now it’s time for Mom to pick the components of her gift ‘ the young lady asked my not-hearing-too-well Mom. ‘Do you want warm or cool colors’? Not knowing what she was getting into, or what the young lady meant she picked one. When I brought to her attention after seeing the colors that she wasn’t going to like the beige lipstick we asked the young lady to switch it. What resulted was a deep sigh and look of distain. Had I been there alone, it would have been the moment of truth, where I either told the truth about what I was seeing or left the store, but I stayed for the rest of the transaction. To my utter amazement, after we paid, the woman looks up and says in a somewhat convincing voice, ‘Thank you so very much. I really appreciate your business, thanks for coming in today.’ The amazing part ‘ she said it all while maintaining a scowl on her face. It made me feel quite ill, it was that strange. Next time you express appreciation ‘ please remember to inform your face. If you want to learn more about inspiring the kind of culture that would NEVER (I repeat NEVER) produce this kind of behavior join the experts at this year’s North American Conference on Customer Management where we’ll be teaching you how to make the customer really FEEL like #1. If you’d like to see more of Joanna Brandi’s blogs, visit JoAnna Brandi’s Blogs. You can also find out more by visiting her Customer Care Coach website. Joanna Brandi will be a keynote speaker at this year’s North American Conference on Customer Management, and has already been profiled on our Customer 1st blog. Stay tuned for her posts on the Customers 1st blog!