Ideas for Leaders #112

The Impact of Technology and Social Media on Sales Relationships

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Key Concept

Technology, and especially social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn, has fuelled an ‘always on’ culture. The pervasiveness of social media is fundamentally altering the methods through which buyers and sellers interact — salespeople feel obliged to respond immediately to communications from anywhere in the world, at whatever time. Potentially there is a revolutionary change in the way contemporary selling is conducted, driven in large measure by social media technology.

Idea Summary

Six overarching themes reveal the revolutionary change in the way contemporary selling is conducted:

  1. Connectivity: Sales people are using social media more and more to demonstrate connectivity to both their host organization and clients.
  2. Relationship: Fundamental rethinking is needed around what a ‘good’ relationship is likely to entail within a social media technology paradigm in sales; bearing in mind the degree to which social networking is utilized in business situations, the amount of face-to-face contact in sales networks, and the degree to which a buyer utilizes social media technology in their relationship with sellers.
  3. Selling Tools: defined largely as the array of technology-based techniques used by sellers in creating, building, and maintaining relationships. Implications of this trend for selling practice are clear: now, more than ever before, sellers have to work very hard to sell on value.
  4. Generational: there are generational differences in the use of social media technology. The challenge for sales-based organizations is to better identify and strategically manage the technological match-up between specific salesperson and specific buyer.
  5. Global: the increasingly global nature of sales creates significant opportunities for increased revenues and also presents proportionately larger problems. Organizations entering new markets and attempting to compete effectively must be flexible.
  6. Sales/Marketing Interface: marketing, rather than sales, has tended to be a focus of social media deployment strategies within most organizations. Organizations refusing to engage with social media and the informational opportunities the technology offers are strategically product focused instead of customer or market focused.

Business Application

  1. Strategic View: you need a strategic view of the implications of social media implementation. Social media technology can indeed enhance sales productivity, but you must have a strategy to deal with any deleterious consequences of the technology. It is not enough to merely possess the technology and be aware of its existence. Effectiveness and efficiency will flow from those taking a thoughtful, strategic view of the implications of social media implementation.
  2. Quality Content: Improve the quality and timeliness of information flows to clients globally. Previously, research has predominantly suggested that salespeople for whom buyers have a liking have been more likely to be successful. However, this is unlikely to account for much variance in salesperson success within a virtual environment in which buyers have the advantage of ubiquitous information. Sales organizations may have to develop virtual sales teams that fuel clients’ demands for information, possibly across time zones when working globally.
  3. Insight & Intimacy: Know your clients’ business intimately and seek to add real, discernible value, sellers have to work very hard to sell on value. Most certainly it cannot be the kind of value that in reality is also delivered by every other organization in a particular market — that is, having no strategic differentiation. The commoditization of information ensures that a buyer is likely to identify true value-added very quickly.
  4. Identify: and strategically manage the technological match for each salesperson and buyer.  Potentially the age of a buyer will dictate which social media should be used. This will manifest in the degree to which new data is actively gathered about products and services in the industry, but also in the nature of the relationship required in order to be perceived as being an effective supplier.
  5. Flexibility: Organisations must be flexible. Although there may be no need to adapt existing administrative processes and management procedures, an examination and discussion of such is imperative to identify possible areas of competitive weakness. Organizations that refuse to do this end up placing too much reliance on those individuals primarily tasked with achieving the additional revenue streams — salespeople.
  6. Competitive Weakness: Seek to identify, examine, and discuss solutions for areas of competitive weakness.  Examine your competitive situation and decide whether their level of engagement with social media places them at an advantage or disadvantage to market competition. Where advantage is available, organizations must decide on the appropriate responsible split between sales and marketing for the collection and dissemination of this information

The increasing popularity of social media may lead to salespeople being further embedded in the strategic plans of their own organisations and becoming more valuable and strategic source of customer and market-based information.

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Authors

Institutions

Source

Idea conceived

  • 2012

Idea posted

  • March 2013

DOI number

10.13007/112

Subject

Real Time Analytics