Most of the time, we don't think of sales as "social." In fact, never is probably more accurate. But, when it comes to dealing with the new customer- the social customer- the contemporary sales organization and even the individual salesperson are being forced to rethink how they actually sell.
There are a number of tools and best practices that already exist for those in the world of sales 2.0, or social sales. But, before we get into that, there is one head change that has to happen. If not, the salesperson will likely fail because he/she hasn't recognized change nor calibrated his/her thinking to that new change. Here it is:
The conversation is in control of the customer, not the company. In other words, customers have the means and the networks to go outside the company to get what they want and to think what they think... in public.
The implications for a salesperson are simple. They have to understand that generating leads, managing opportunities and closing deals need fresh approaches and skills in utilizing tools that help enrich customer insights. Because whether it's a B2B or B2C sale, the customer is expecting you, the sales maven and your company, to know them and what they want. That means that sales intelligence and engaging in the networks the customer participates in are of critical importance.
Much of the discussion on what the customer thinks of your products, services, company and even you are going on outside your sales firewall. So, finding those unstructured conversations- on Facebook or in a community forum- needs to be a part of the sales arsenal. Often, the benefit of sales intelligence goes beyond just knowing the individual. It often reveals not only who makes the purchasing decision, but who the key influencers are. This can be a huge benefit. Once you get to know these influencers and are trusted by them, the decision maker will be more likely to trust you.
One of the most important resources for approaching sales in the 21st century is the institutional knowledge that exists at your company when it comes to customer data. This intelligence can be garnered not only from other sales people, but employees in different departments. So, using the tools that enhance internal collaboration is a mandatory exercise for the newly empowered sales god/goddess.
What that means is not just chitchat over lunch with fellow employees about an account, but actually finding out, using sales effectiveness and optimization tools. What are the presentations that have worked in similar opportunities? What do other employees think of those presentations are how effective are they when used? What kinds of best practices might improve the chances of closing the sale? What do the employees know about competitors or the company/individuals that are part of the opportunity? Don't speak only to sales staff, but employees across the company knowledgeable about things that might impact the sales. It also means using tools like wikis or "outcome-based" internal social networks... like internal collaborative areas for discussions and information capture that live during the lifespan of the sales opportunity.
Ultimately, the idea is that the collective knowledge of the company staff, along with the existing historic content, including documents and presentations, are used to optimize the chances of success in closing the opportunity. The more customer insight you have, and the more practices that are ferreted out and then applied, the better the likelihood of closing the deal.