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The Future Of Selling, It’s Social—Or Is It?

by David Brock on December 26th, 2010

I’ve written about this in the past, I’m a strong advocate of social networking and the tools.  But declaring the future of selling to be social can be likened to declaring decades ago, “The Future Of Selling—It’s Automotive,”  or “The Future Of Selling – It’s The Telephone,”  or “The Future Of Selling – It’s Email.”  And in 5-10 years, we’ll be declaring a new future of selling.

We confuse the tools with the process of selling, our strategies, our goals for creating a great customer experience.

The tools help us improve our efficiency—they enable us to do things we used to do in much less time.  The phone improved our efficiency tremendously.  Before the phone, we had to either travel to the customer, meet with her, then return to our office.  Or we would send them a letter, writing the letter, sending it by mail, waiting for the response.  The phone reduced the cycle from days to minutes, tremendously improving our efficiency.

The tools help improve our effectiveness.  They enable us to do things we may not have been able to do before.  For example, in many of the high technology companies I have worked with, a product demonstration is critical.  In the past, it might have been difficult or impossible to do the demonstration.  The logistics of getting the product to the customer (imagine a large piece of semiconductor process equipment) or getting the customer to the product.  Now, through conferencing and video technologies, we can conduct the demonstrations virtually.  Or think of small companies that couldn’t afford to establish global sales offices to sell their products and services. 

Tools enable us to do things we never could have done before.  They enable us to rethink our businesses, strategies, and processes.  They enable us to engage our customers in new ways.

There is no doubt, tools are important.  The new Sales 2.0, Social Networking/Media, Enterprise 2.0 and others open a new world of possibilities—if we aren’t looking at these and incorporating them into how we do business, then we will miss opportunities.  We will fail to be as competitive as we could be.

Having said that, it’s not the tools that count.  It’s the underlying thinking, it’s the abilities of the people incorporating the tools into their processes and strategies, it’s how they use the tools to improve the quality of what they do, how they engage, how they interact.  It’s how they hold the customer, how they value them, what they think about the customer experience.

These tools are like giant magnifying glasses for our customers.  They can enrich or deepen the experience and our relationships.  Or they can let us abuse those relationships—things like spam, twam, leveraging the tools to provide poor customer support, terrible customer experiences.

The power isn’t in the tools, but in the way they are used.  The Future Of Selling is not about the tools.  It’s about how we think about the customers, how we want to engage them, the value we want to create, the kind of experience we want to create.  The tools just help us execute those things.

ANNOUNCEMENT:  I’ve alluded to this in the past, but on January 14, Future Selling Institute is being launched.  It’s focused on sales leaders and aspiring leaders—sales managers, executives, general managers responsible for the sales function.  It’s packed full of resources to help sales leaders excel!  Any sales leader interested in their personal, professional and career development will want to join this community.  Join us on January 14 for the kickoff conference.

Book CoverFor a free peek at Sales Manager Survival Guide, click the picture or link.  You’ll get the Table of Contents, Foreword, and 2 free Chapters.  Free Sample

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  1. It would be impossible, Dave, for me to agree with you more about this!

  2. Insightful post Dave. As usual.

    I suspect that sales has become somewhat less social as people fill their lives with other things. Although people still buy from people, we seem to be doing it at an increased pace that minimizes personal interactions.

    Where social media is helpful is in allowing those of us who effectively use it to be more readily found by prospects when they go looking.

    Cold calling has become less effective and “reverse prospecting,” the ability to be easily found by our prospects, seems to be a growing trend.

    • Thanks for the nice comment Brian! Business (even life) is becoming less social, time pressure, the rate of change, etc. change the way each of us work. Some of the new social media and networking tools enable us to deal with the realities of business life, and to develop different kinds–and very rich relationships. Leveraging these tools will become the new normal for most business professionals (just like the phone used to be). People and organizations that refuse to embrace these will be left behind.

      As usual, your comments add greatly to the discussion. Thanks for continuing to comment Brian!

  3. As more and more companies jump on the “solution selling” bandwagon ( mostly unsuccessfully), it becomes increasingly clear that there is much to be learned from Philip Kotler and Neil Rackham, and their independent observations that selling is about making customers successful. However the missing piece of the puzzle is the ability to deliver demonstrable, measureable value, AND to be rewarded for the value deivered. Try for really useful tools and insights.

    • Peter, thanks for joining the discussion with some great insight. Your comment makes me, in some sense, feel like it’s deja-vu all over again. Solution selling and value delivery is nothing new. Neil, Philip, Mack Hanan, even Peter Drucker have been talking about this for decades, yet our ability to sell solutions, understand what customers value, and deliver differentiated value has not progressed as much as one would have expected.

      The whole concept of value delivery is something I’ve written quite a bit about, you may want to search this blog on Value Proposition, I’d love your comments on those as well.

      Thanks for joining the discussion Peter. Regards, Dave

  4. Dave,

    Wonderful analysis.

    We somehow imagine that because we can tweet more “peeps” with one swift push of a button, that we are magically increasing the size of our funnel, increasing our influence, or creating a more empathetic audience with buyers.

    It’s the ultimate self-dilution. If you’re a jackass in “real life” social media tools get to share that with even more people.

    Dan Waldschmidt

    • Great comment Dan! Social media enables us to be “jackasses” at the speed of light to a global audience 😉 A frightening propsect.

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