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Social Selling Is So “Last Year’s News!”

by David Brock on April 6th, 2015

Last week, I happened to be attending SAPInsider’s CRM2015 Conference.  Every once in a while, it’s great to attend these types of conferences, both for what you learn and the people you meet.  One of the things I also love is there is usually a lot of great market research and data.

At this conference, there has been some great research on how customers buy.  It’s not surprising, actually it’s very powerful in reminding us of fundamentals that persist.  The research shows……

Drum roll please…..

Customers leverage many different channels, sometimes simultaneously, through their buying process.  They will use whatever channel is most convenient, most useful, most relevant at the moment.

So they may start by responding to an Ad they saw on TV or streaming through their device, continue later through web research, then through email, perhaps a telephone call, back the the web, maybe a conference or event, perhaps visiting a store (for consumers), then to a discussion group, or then phoning an acquaintance to ask their opinion, then perhaps contacting sales, then back to the web, then…..

SAP calls this Omnichannel.

This isn’t really new, though what is new–but not unexpected is the expanding variety of channels the customer may leverage.

Thousands of years ago, when Adam made his first purchase, there were only a couple of channels, Word of Mouth (Eve saying, “We should get that apple,”) and a visible point of sale display (the apple tree.)  In the thousands of years since, the channels for engaging customers have expanded, adding cave drawings, hieroglyphics, smoke signals, drum beats, print, mail, telegraph, telephone, radio, television, planes towing signs at the beach, electronic, social mobile, wearable, implantable, iOT, …….  And in the decades and centuries to come, the channels will expand.

Some channels will diminish in importance, then later return, some will be displace by others, which in turn will be displaced.

But the point is, customers will use whichever channel is most convenient, most relevant at the moment, then use another one at a different moment.

This is the way things have always been, this is the way they will continue.

So the social selling pundits, saying “It’s all about social engagement,” really are limiting how we engage our customers.  Social is an important channel, but it’s only one channel.

If we want to maximize our ability to reach and engage customers, we have to be prepared to engage them in their channels of choice.  We have to leverage the intelligence, data, and analytics we get in those moments of engagement to reach them with relevant materials, content, and offers in the next channel, whatever that is, whenever and wherever they choose to engage us.

Understanding their journey and engagement across all the channels, enables us to engage them, consistently, building the relationship and helping them move through their buying process.

We may try to steer them to specific channels, to increase our effectiveness/efficiency, but we still have to recognize, they are in the driver’s seat, while we may want to steer them, they will do what they want to do, so we have to be there and prepared to engage.

Don’t get me wrong, social engagement is important, but to engage our customers, to align with how they buy, we have to hang out where they are.  It turns out they hang out in a bunch of different places.

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  1. Brian MacIver permalink

    “They [Buyers] will use whatever channel is most convenient, most useful, most relevant at the moment.”

    The more we learn, the more we sell!
    Three great adjectives, ‘convenient’, ‘useful’, ‘relevant’.

    But, the greatest of these is “Convenient”.

    For two reasons:
    1. “Convenient” as a descriptive adjective means:
    “suited to your comfort or purpose or needs”
    and in selling that’s what the customer demands!

    2. Convenience is ALSO an active Verb which means:
    “fit or adapted; suitable; or appropriate”
    and here is the CRUX of Selling.

    Social Selling was meant to make BUYING easier,
    not just Selling faster!

    The harder it is to Buy from you, the LESS you will sell.
    The easier you are to Buy from, the MORE you will sell.

    That’s a Rule in selling, but it’s a LAW in Social Selling.

    They call them “Convenience” Stores for two reasons!
    Make sure you have one right next to everywhere your Customer buys!

    Great and very insightful Post, Dave, thanks!

    • Brian: Thanks, as usual for the great comment. I think the term social selling is really off track. Too many people think that you can manage the entire sales process through social channels, I don’t buy it. Besides if you do, it’s really an ecommerce channel. I think the concept of social engagement as a part of an overall engagement strategy has meaning.

  2. Brian MacIver permalink

    Dave’s article was so good that:
    I have read it THREE times, and slept on it!

    My thoughts were:
    WHEN did we stop or de-focus doing Omni-Channel?
    WHY did we stop, or defocus on some channels?

    And, WHO is responsible?

    Dave and I, knew Omni-Channel as Multi-Channel,
    IBM did not invent it, but they became REALLY good at it!
    Big Blue, INTEGRATED its Channels using their strengths IT/Software skills, and they hammered their Competition, while delighting their Customers!

    Today, we answer the questions asked earlier, in many Corporates, this way:
    We reduced Omni-Channel AFTER we installed Social Selling.
    We reduced Omni-Channel BECAUSE Social Selling appeared more efficient, more effective and a lot CHEAPER.

    MARKETING own “Channel”, ALL the Channels
    [Including Face to Face]

    So, if we are going to FIX this problem, MARKETING have to step up, accept Responsibility and take action.
    And, OWN their results!

    Marketing have to measure, and be measured on,
    their Results.
    Early buying stage Awareness
    Buyer’s Mid-stage Consideration
    Buyer’s Late-stage Decisions

    Across ALL Product/Markets and All Channels!

    This is a Marketing Productivity Issue, which over the next decade will test our Marketing Partner’s Breadth of Channel, their Depth of Competence, and their abilities to Coordinate and Cooperate, with IT, Sales and CUSTOMERS

  3. Brian MacIver permalink

    Just can’t leave this one alone!
    Only because it’s ‘where it’s at’ in the boardroom right NOW!

    A good sidelight on this is at:

    Understanding the NEW roles of CMO and CSO is causing boards real grief! They know they get it wrong, the Revenue continues to drop!
    So have a look at job descriptions, and get Sales and Marketing doing DIFFERENT jobs while working together.

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