When we launched SalesCrunch last year as a “Social Sales Platform” we did so on a mission to disrupt old school sales and introduce a new way to sell that applied science and collaboration to the art of selling. But around the same time, companies in different spaces started using “Social Selling” to describe themselves with very different meanings. So this is a brief look at what we have seen as the four emerging flavors of social selling and a few leading players in each category.
I. Social CRM
Salesforce.com’s homepage describes Customer Relationship Management (CRM) as “the combination of business processes, people, and technology to achieve this single goal: getting and keeping customers”. CRM systems like Salesforce are meant to capture lots of detail about a customer so the company can anticipate its needs. For example, imagine showing up at a hotel that knows what paper you read, which room you like and what you want for breakfast because it was all captured in their CRM the last time you visited. But the weak link of CRM platforms is that they depend entirely on highly paid sales professionals to manually enter enormous amounts of mundane info from their interactions with customer every day. In other words, CRM is only as good as the information salespeople put in it! And it is widely known that most salespeople enter the bare minimum they can get away with. And rightfully so: the more time they spend doing data entry the less time they spend with customers closing deals. In fact, there is an inverse relationship between the success of a salesperson and the amount of information they enter into their company CRM. The highest-producing reps often do the least amount of activity logging in CRM and get away with it because management won’t mess with success. That makes what successful reps do hard to repeat and makes it difficult for the company to manage the relationship with customers without that person and what’s in their head.
Social CRM is changing that by putting the increasingly vast amount of information about customers available online and in social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter at your fingertips so you can get a single, up to date view of your customers’ without manual data entry or switching between applications. Obviously, the more current information you have about your customer the easier it is to make a personal connection, build a relationship and tailor your solutions to meet their individual needs.
Gist finds the latest news, social media status updates and other info about your contacts and automatically puts it into one view for you. You can even rank your contacts inside of Gist so you get info about your most important customers at the top of the page when you login. It can integrate with your inbox, mobile device, web browser, or CRM. Gist was bought by Blackberry a year or so ago, but you don’t need a Blackberry to use it. Gist is completely free, at least for now. The Salesforce integration is a bit kludgy, as it basically navigates you to that contact’s webpage in Gist framed inside of Salesforce where you can scroll around. But it does eliminate the need to navigate away from Salesforce, log into Gist and search for that contact’s updates.
InsideView aggregates “sales intelligence” about your customers from news sources, social media networks, legal filings, etc to provide information about companies and contacts directly within your CRM. The last time I spoke to them, pricing was $99/user/month. There is a limited free version.
LinkedIn for Salesforce allows you to see LinkedIn profiles and company information without ever leaving Salesforce. You can see what you have in common with leads and contacts, similar profiles and even get real-time trigger updates on your accounts and contacts to know the right time to call. Pricing is $29 to $39/user/mo.
IntroRocket is a service integrated with Salesforce, LinkedIn, and Facebook to provide co-workers with a company-level view of each other’s contacts and connections to business prospects tp facilitate personal introductions. We use IntroRocket at SalesCrunch and it’s awesome. The best part is that it takes 3 minutes to get started. It costs $99/user/year from CRM users and it’s free if you access it from your browser.
SalesCrunch Connect is our very own online social sales presentation platform that helps you… well, connect and present to customers faster and measure results in real-time. You get your own personal meeting room in a browser, with no software download. LinkedIn profiles, Twitter updates and local weather and time for everyone in your meetings help you make a personal connection and know how to tailor your pitch. Premium versions of Connect integrates with Salesforce to automatically add presentation attendees as contacts and meetings and emailed presentations as activity to Salesforce so you never have to do data entry again. There is a free version of Connect and premium accounts range from $39 to $99 per user per month.
II. Collaboration Around Customers
Outside of social media marketing, “Social” has mostly translated to, and is increasingly synonymous with, collaboration in the enterprise. As social becomes mainstream, the platforms that power it are increasingly making social collaborating with colleagues and customers mainstream as well. This is great news for sales professionals for several reasons:
- Salespeople can more easily find and solicit help from others within their own company that can help get deals done.
- Customer suggestions, complaints and other feedback from the sales front lines are now accessible where everyone within the company from product to marketing to senior management can see it and pitch in. Gone are the days where customers give feedback to salespeople, who have no vehicle or audience in the company to make use of it.
- Many enterprise social platforms feed critical customer conversations, feedback and other information related to customers and revenue opportunities directly into CRM systems so manual data entry, the weak link of CRM, is increasingly becoming unnecessary and obsolete (Thank God!).
Jive Software is the pioneer of “Social Business Software”. Jive’s platform is known as Facebook for the enterprise, complete with activity streams, status updates, micro-blogging, file sharing, messaging, profiles and other tools to facilitate collaboration and relationship building with customers and colleagues. Jive caters to large enterprises and has over 650+ “blue-chip” customers like HP and SAP with millions of employee users, according to its CEO Tony Zingale in his IPO road show video. Jive doesn’t publish pricing, but it’s rumored to be in the low single digits per user per month. (Discloser: Jive is a customer and partner of SalesCrunch)
Yammer is also a social enterprise network, most commonly referred to as Twitter for the enterprise. Like Jive, Yammer has activity streams, status updates, micro-blogging, messaging, groups and other tools to collaborate with colleagues and customers. Yammer caters to small and mid-sized companies, claiming over 100,000 business users worldwide. Yammer has a free basic account, and premium accounts start at $5 per user per month.
Salesforce Chatter Salesforce has its own enterprise social network in Chatter, with similar functionality to Jive and Yammer and deep integration into Salesforce. There is a free, basic version of Chatter, but if you want to tie conversations into Salesforce, Chatter Plus starts at $15/user/month.
SalesCrunch Connect makes online meetings with customers simple, social and collaborative. In addition to bringing your LinkedIn and Twitter social profiles into meetings, Connect also records every meeting and makes it instantly available to anyone else in the company to review and collaborate on later. Meeting attendees and recordings are also added to Salesforce automatically for easy access and reference by anyone within the company later.
III. Party Poppers
There is a new generation of consumer product companies combing the party-planning model pioneered by Avon, Tupperware and Mary Kay with online social networks to turn what use to be referred to “direct selling” into “social selling”.
Chloe & Isabel is a fashion jewelry company reinventing the direct sales model online. Chloe & Isabel helps 18 to 28-year-old women leverage the social networks they’ve built organically online to start their own jewelry business. The company designs, produces and markets a range of jewelry pieces priced between $18 and $200. Interested sellers, called “Merchandisers”, can sign up to create their own online boutique where they can curate and sell Chloe + Isabel jewelry on a 30% commission. Merchandisers also have access to the company’s online library of training videos to learn how to bring their online network into in-person parties or “trunk shows”. (Disclosure: Chloe & Isabel is a customer of SalesCrunch and the two companies share at lease one investor).
Stella & Dot is a direct-sales jewelry business that empowers women (called stylists) all over the country to sell bracelets, necklaces, rings and other accessories to friends and acquaintances. Each stylist has a personalized e-commerce site with a custom URL so jewelry can be promoted with the help of Facebook and Twitter. Stella & Dot has revenue of $104M in 2010. (Disclosure: Stella & Dot and SalesCrunch share at least one investor)
IV. Social Shopping
Another fairly new phenomenon, social shopping is basically online shopping where shoppers’ friends become involved in the shopping experience. Social shopping attempts to emulate and accelerate the power of offline word-of-mouth online inside social networks like Facebook. Here area few cool examples:
Groupon is the obvious and most epic example of social selling. Groupon made it easy and economically rewarding to share the shopping experience with your friends. The more friends you get to pile into a daily deal the cheaper the item becomes. (Disclosure: SalesCrunch and Groupon share at least one investor in common)
Pinterest is a social catalog service. It is a self-described virtual pinboard, where you “share and organize the things you love”. Most of those things tend to be design, fashion and other luxury consumer products, which are shared by your friends and easily clicked on and purchased by you. As this TechCrunch article shows, Pinterest is growing insanely fast. Rumor has it that Pinterest is one of the leading sources of traffic to hand-made goods marketplace Etsy.
StyleOwner where Chloe & Isabel manufacture their own jewelry and empower their “Merchandisers” to sell them online and in person, StyleOwner helps “STYLEpreneurs” to create an online store and personalize it for their social network by curating from a catalog of existing fashion brands they already buy from. Members, called STYLEpreneurs, provide friends with customized recommendations and make 10% commission on every sale. (Disclosure: SalesCrunch and StyleOwner share at least one investor)
So where SalesCrunch defines “Social Selling” as a new way for salespeople to sell that applies science and collaboration to the art of selling, there are at least three other flavors of social selling emerging. It will be interesting to see how these categories evolve and expand.