Warm Leads in Cold Weather
By Umberto Milletti, Cofounder and CEO of InsideView
As the economy worsens, inbound sales opportunities quickly dry up and sales teams are forced to become increasingly proactive. Just picking up the phone and calling a sales target is generally not enough, but that is particularly true during the economic times we are currently in. Your Rolodex is static; in a down economy, people move around, lay-offs happen, even entire companies disappear. In order for your sales teams to strike up promising conversations in a tough economic climate, they need to have a clear and compelling reason for initially calling. They need to know who to call (calling somebody after they just blogged about being laid off could lose a business relationship permanently.) Updated inside knowledge of what is going on with the company and the person you are selling to can make the difference between beginning a relationship or ending one.
Let's face it: While cold calling is incredibly impersonal, and rarely successful, it is a necessary part of the sales process. In a cold economy though, it becomes much more challenging, and the need for a warm lead is significantly increased. Fortunately, social sites across the Web are hot with the latest activity on a myriad of subjects and industries, and in the process, are publishing enormous amounts of rich, useful content for sales teams. In fact, much of the most insightful and timely content for sales people on the Web can only be found via social Web sites. For example, you can only learn that a mid-level sales manager with whom you used to work at a now-defunct start-up just joined a company you've been focusing on through an RSS feed from LinkedIn. That same update wouldn't be available from Reuters.
Distilling rich, up-to-date insights from the social Web is a prime example of how Sales 2.0 solutions are revolutionizing the sales process. With the Internet as the new business platform, now all stakeholders - prospects, customers, salespeople and marketers - can connect, learn, plan, analyze, engage, collaborate and conduct business in ways that were not even imaginable a few years ago. Sales 2.0 is about leveraging the wealth of information and interactive possibilities on the Web to accomplish customer engagement rather than just customer-data harvesting. Today's "smarter" and better informed prospects are requiring sales people to be better versed both in their products and their prospects, rendering Sales 2.0 a two-sided interactive process. It is no longer just who you know that will make business deals happen but "what you know about who you know" along with "when and where you should know it."
Here are some of the ways that we've found that the social Web can make the difference for sales professionals:
Know where your target is actually working (or not): Company moves, promotions, new roles and departments
Know company updates: Did the company that you got denied from last quarter just post record profits? That would be a pretty good time to give 'em a call back.
Know industry news: Is there a shake-up in one of your target industries that will lead to more opportunities for your company? What is the commentary going on surrounding the news?
Know it quickly: With all of the examples above, its best if the information can come to you. The sooner the better, so you can have time to properly prepare your sales approach while still getting in early.
By now you're probably thinking, "This is all great, but who has the time to spend scouring the social Web?" And you're right: There is just too much stuff on the Web to research randomly on your own. But Sales 2.0 is also about increased productivity and speed and the emerging Sales 2.0 tools accomplish this by intelligently utilizing the massive amount of resources on the Web. For example, at InsideView, our vision was and is to help sales teams save time by integrating our business search and intelligence application, SalesView, directly into the CRM tools they're already using: Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce and Oracle, just to name a few. That way, they can get important sales insights from across the social Web while their list of sales targets remains right in front of them.
Customer relationship management is a fundamental element of success in an economy like the current one, and the leads you have need to be good ones. While the world outside gets colder, remember that in a Sales 2.0 world, warm leads are waiting for you on the social Web.
Umberto Milletti Bio
Umberto Milletti is the cofounder and CEO of InsideView, the pioneering business seach and intelligence service. Before founding InsideView, Umberto was an executive and co-founder of DigitalThink, a leading provider of Web-based corporate training services. Beginning in 1996, Umberto held a number of key roles at DigitalThink, serving as GM, Products; VP, Technology; and VP, Marketing & Product Management. Umberto helped lead DigitalThink to a successful IPO, and ultimately to its sale to Convergys.
The Management Curve is a blog dedicated to discussion and debate about the impact sales metrics programs such as CRM, Sales Performance Management and Sales Force Automation Programs are having and will have on how the sales function is managed. Hosted by Paul McCord, the blog also features articles and commentary by other sales trainers, consultants, product developers, and the sales managers and salespeople who actually use the products.