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Social Networking at Work: The SalesCentric Model

A couple of weeks ago, we pondered what, exactly, social networking in the office would be good for. Well, Christine responded to our questions with great enthusiasm:

"Social networking for higher ed rocks! LinkedIn -- keeping up with your students who have graduated! You know what they are doing, where they are doing it, and what we missed in their education to correct class content and keep up with the industry. It also helps us with our completer numbers as most of my students change their e-mails and cell phone numbers as often as they change their socks or add additional piercings and/or tattoos, and we need to follow up with them six months after they graduate.

"MySpace -- post your calendar, let your students know when you are in class, when you are gone, when your office hours are. They're looking here, not on your campus Web page! Second Life -- get your administration to sponsor an island...let the fun begin!"

Christine, we can understand the usefulness of social networking among the college set, who seem to be the most into it -- although Second Life has always struck us as being a tad freaky. Sure, we get LinkedIn, and we're on it -- but, honestly, we almost never use it. So what's the use of social networking in a boring, old office full of mostly non-pierced people?

Well, we're starting to see it, actually, thanks to Eivind Sandstrand, vice president of product marketing U.S. at a New York-based company called SalesCentric. The idea behind SalesCentric is simple -- and actually pretty cool. The company's software allows users of Microsoft Dynamics CRM to chart and define relationships between individuals who work for the customers they serve.

Now, that sounds sort of confusing, but trust us, it's not. What SalesCentric's application with the tiny 5MB installation file lets users do is build org charts of their customers' operations. But more than just storing info on titles and contact coordinates, SalesCentric also lets users chart things like how warm particular people in a customer's company are to the user's company (in other words, the CFO loves us, but the CEO is lukewarm -- you get the idea), and how and why customers have relationships with each other and with the user's organization.

So, instead of just looking at a long list of names and titles, a user sees and can manipulate -- in a simple, drag-and-drop interface -- an org chart with all the basic data on who reports to whom and how to get in touch with everybody, plus info on how individuals relate to and feel about each other. It's difficult-ish to explain on paper (or in pixels) but comes through crystal-clear in a demo. For SalesCentric, the idea is to get people to actually put enterprise software to use.

"There's so much clunkiness inside any business application that people don't use it for what it needs to be used for, which is relationship management," Sandstrand said, invoking the last two words of the acronym "CRM." Using Microsoft as an example, Sandstrand said, "I can see how Bill Gates is connected to Steve Ballmer and how Steve Ballmer is connected to some other person. All that information is presented to me visually, and it's driven back into the CRM system so you have the ability to mine that data."

Take our word for it -- it's cool and useful. But is it really social networking? Meh, that's hard to say for now, but Sandstrand said that the app is definitely moving in that direction. "We don't currently have the connection to LinkedIn or Facebook, but that is the direction the product is moving in," he said.

And why would anybody need SalesCentric on top of those more traditional (if we can use that word for such a relatively new concept) social networking models? Because SalesCentric goes beyond names and e-mail addresses, Sandstrand said.

"If I need to get in touch with a person in an organization, the fact that he sees that I have more than 200 connections in that business space makes him more likely to talk to me," he said. "I have no idea how he's connected, though. I have no idea how these networks extend beyond that. Eventually, you'll be able to automatically start importing these external networks into your [CRM] applications. When you know what these connections are, that's when you have the ability to capitalize on it."

Now, that makes sense. And there are no piercings required.

Have any more stories of useful social networking apps? Get in touch at lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on June 25, 2008 at 11:54 AM