Wednesday, December 18, 2013

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 time evaluating 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√ľner 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 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 . Ron manages The Idea Management Group on LinkedIn (JoinHere).

Gain Exclusive Insight into Today's New and Transformed Customer Landscape

The 2014 Total Customer Experience Leaders Summit is your trusted partner during these transformative times. Join us as the industry's most respected and forward-thinking customer experience experts reveal how you can increase your Return on Relationships by factoring empathy into the stakeholder equation. Visionary and thought-provoking sessions will give you exclusive insight into today's new, and transformed customer landscape, while addressing your challenges and providing viable solutions.
April 9-11, 2014
Trump International Beach Resort
Miami, Florida

The Total Customer Experience Leaders Summit covers the key themes for all stakeholders, including: Empathetic Marketing, Culture, Digital Commerce, Leadership, Innovation, Consumer Trends, Personal Intelligence and more.  Here's a glimpse into what you can expect:

Lou Carbone, Founder & CEO, Experience Engineering and Author, Clued in: How to Keep Customers Coming Back Again and Again
Building an Experience Management Core Competency
In today's competitive world, while organizations scurry to embrace customer experience as the solution to gaining a competitive edge, there isn't a deep understanding but rather a whole lot of discussion, flurry of activity and deployment of resources. Are they really transforming and optimizing the value they create for customers, employees and stake holders? There are 5 Absolutes that distinguish process improvement from experience management. Embracing experience management is a cultural adoption. Many organizations are improving process but not creating experience management systems or fully leveraging the opportunity.
Keith Ferrazzi, CEO Ferrazzi Greenlight and Author, Never Eat Alone
Changing Behavior Towards the Customer Experience
Why do teams fall short of objectives even though everyone agrees they make sense? Why don't people live up to their New Year's resolutions, and why can't teenagers change bad habits they acknowledge? During this session discover the biggest barriers to humans changing behavior and learn an efficient set of interventions which can help all of us in our own lives and in helping others create change within their own companies, and their stores to improve the overall customer experience.
Stephen Gates, VP, Global Brand Design, Starwood Hotels & Resorts
The Crazy Ones: How to be a Leader that Inspires Creativity and Innovation
Every company wants more creativity and innovation from their teams but very few really understand what type of culture and leadership it takes to really make it happen. Stephen will give you tangible takeaways that will help you create innovation and creativity that will yield real results with the same team you are working with today.
  • Explore the 7 characteristics of great leaders and how they will impact your team and their work
  • Insights learned from leading the Starwood Global Brand Design teams and working with senior design teams at Apple, Adobe and Google.
  • The role of research and consumer insights in innovation and creativity....and many more industry leading keynotes!

Download the brochure for the full agenda:

Join us at the leading industry meeting place that brings together legendary, visionary gurus that help you design and execute your new customer experience strategy.

Mention code TCEL14BL & Save 15% off the standard rate. Register today:

We hope to see you in April in Miami!


Monday, December 9, 2013

Total Customer Experience: Factoring Empathy into the Stakeholder Equation

Explore the new realities of building brands and customer relationships in today's socially driven and data abundant world at the Total Customer Experience Leaders Summit, where senior decision makers will gather on April 9-11, 2014 in Miami, Florida.

This year we focus on the emotional drivers that are critical in creating an effective customer story.   Hear from high-level visionary keynotes and in-depth case studies that examine linking insights & data, data measuring & mapping, design thinking, and synthesizing intelligence from B2B and B2C companies across verticals, disciplines and cultures.

Linking- Explore how to connect attitudinal metrics to behavioral data across the enterprise.
Data Mapping- Discover new approaches to measuring and aligning your data.
Design Thinking- Go beyond transaction and strategize a new way forward.
Synthesize- Integrate insights and intelligence to get at the heart of the emotional experience.

All new keynote presentations from leading visionary keynotes:

Lou Carbone
Founder & CEO Experience Engineering and Author,
Clued in: How to Keep Customers Coming Back Again and Again
Keith Ferrazzi
Ferrazzi Greenlight and Author, Never Eat Alone
Stephen Gates
VP, Global Brand Design
Starwood Hotels & Resorts
Mark Ingwer
Insight Consulting Group and Author, Empathetic Marketing: How to Satisfy the 6 Core Emotional Needs of your Customers
Richard Margetic
Director, Global Social Media

Those attending are senior decision makers facing tough choices and looking for candid peer-to-peer exchange amongst counterparts who are experiencing the same challenges.

Download the brochure for the full agenda and speaker list:

Don't miss out, register today and lock in the lowest rates for Total Customer Experience Leaders 2014. Mention code TCEL14LI & Save 15% off the standard rate. Register today:

Total Customer Experience Leaders Summit 2014
April 9-11, 2014
Trump International Beach Resort
Miami, Florida

The TCEL Team
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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Survey Reveals Global Views on Customer Experience Goals and Challenges

The concept of customer experience has been around for a very long time, but in the last couple of years it has become a hot topic due to the explosion of digital and social media. It’s all about the shifting balance of power between the customer and the marketer; and with digital media the power belongs to the customer.
Customer experience is truly the key to a customer’s heart – that is why it’s a hot topic today. Brands and marketers cannot dictate how customers think about brands, so the only way a marketer can attempt to balance out this power shift is to influence the customer experience. 

Creative Virtual, a provider of customer experience self-service solutions for global enterprises, recently released the findings of its first survey on global customer support challenges. The survey posed questions about customer support goals, current practices, future intentions and technology usage in the customer service market. The report, “2013 Global Customer Support Outlook Survey,” reflects global views on how companies are tackling the customer support experience. This includes present challenges, budget allocations, contact volumes, and usage of technology to augment their customer support efforts between 2012 and 2013.

“It’s important to gain perspective on how companies are assessing the customer experience by taking a look at where they are dedicating time and resources,” said Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO of Creative Virtual, in a statement. “The data starts an intriguing dialogue amongst organizations if they can identify gaps and opportunities in their customer playbook and act accordingly.”

With contact volumes increasing across channels, companies put customer experience at the top of their list rating several key goals as extremely important. The top five goals for EMEA are:

1. Improve customer experience (68%)
2. Resolve customer inquiries faster (55%)
3. Increase usage of self-service tools (40%)
4. Increase customer engagement (40%)
5. Reduce call and chat volumes to live agents (38%)

In addition, results in North America were similar:

1. Improve customer experience (79%)
2. Resolve customer inquiries faster (60%)
3. Obtain better data for measuring customer satisfaction (55%)
4. Increase usage of self-service tools (49%)
5. Increase customer engagement (40%)

“These sentiments provide insight as to how businesses are executing against their key goals as it relates to specific challenges within the customer support channel,” said Ezekiel. “The survey explores how companies are responding by revealing how increased contact volumes fuel the need for a multichannel strategy, budget allocations, and newer technologies such as virtual assistants to manage the customer experience.”

For the complete results, click here:

About the Author: Amanda Ciccatelli, Social Media Strategist of the Marketing Division at IIR USA, has a background in digital and print journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, marketing, and technology. Amanda is the Editor at Large for several of IIR’s blogs including Next Big DesignCustomers 1st, and ProjectWorld and World Congress for Business Analysts, and a regular contributor to Front End of Innovation and The Market Research Event,. She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web Editor where she covered breaking news and feature stories in the technology industry. She can be reached at Follow her at @AmandaCicc
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