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The Future of Sales and Social Media

While in the process of writing a magazine column on the future of sales and social media I interviewed three people and posed several questions in order to get their views. I thought for this week's blog I would also introduce you to my current thinking and I would really enjoy hearing your thoughts on the direction of sales and the use of social media.

In the traditional sense of a new product introduction, social media is moving through various stages. It is my opinion we have obviously crossed the chasm from Stage 1 into full-blown Stage 2 product acceptance and, in most cases, salespeople and sales leadership have accepted and become comfortable in using forms of social media for their personal lives as well as in a limited business environments.

It is also my belief that if you aren't actively using a variety of social media applications in your sales process/organization it is critical you begin to learn to use them and become comfortable with the current social media tools. Lauren Carlson describes the top five uses of social media in sales very clearly in her recent blog here.

Individuals use social media -- Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, texting, et cetera -- for their personal use, and corporations use it in marketing and even building their internal social networks. The thinking is that current clients and prospects will begin to accept social media more easily in their sales relationships.

The question becomes, where do we go from here now that social media as we know it has been generally accepted by individuals and corporations? The answer is Stage 3.

Jay McBain, from Channel Eyes, a social media/network company focused on the IT channel, commented that based on his research on the topic, "social [media] would overtake Web sites as the No. 1 source of information and online engagement in 2012." Jay believes there will be a split -- a movement to enhance personal social media and the trend to create a "business social media" set of software solutions.

This is exactly what I believe to be the direction we will move. As CRM applications improve and as more cloud-based applications are developed, there will be a greater integration and utilization of business social media. Salespeople will uncover more prospects, prospects will accept this kind of communication and both parties will interact comfortably. As Peter Watts from Solutionize, a software business collaboration services company, predicts, so-called sales collaboration networks (SCN) will eventually be deployed. These are highly integrated applications that will easily allow the salesperson to offer the right solutions with an interactive approach, generating huge value to the buyer, rather than simply data sheets or a nice Web site.  

Leadership must focus on this changing sales process. The business outcome must be beneficial to the buyer, seller and vendor. It is my belief that this more highly communicative process will make decision-making easier and faster by removing any heavy lifting. SCN will allow salespeople to reach more prospects and work at a pace commensurate with today's current demands and profit measures.

What changes do you believe will occur with more business social media solutions? The world continues to change -- are you? Is your sales process? Let know your thoughts below.

Posted by Ken Thoreson on February 27, 2012