Rise of the Social Media Entrepreneur

How social media can drive sales across an organization.

Question: Is it true that everyone is in sales?

Answer: Yes, and if they know what’s good for them, they better be!

Incentivizing Sales Across Your Entire Organization

Relying exclusively on traditional sales processes driven by “salespeople” is inhibiting your company’s growth potential. Your technicians, the subject matter experts in their respective disciplines, are an untapped source of sales revenue with a much better close rate than your typical 1099. Why? Because customers trust the doer more than the seller.

More and more companies have started empowering technicians to sell by harnessing the power of social media. Incentivizing sales across your organization will encourage team members to productize and share their knowledge online and off in hopes of generating commissions. Social media sites, trade shows, trips to the bar, etc. all become an opportunity for technicians to sell their capabilities.

Within three to six months, people you previously slotted as technicians will have grown equity in themselves by advertising their expertise through sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. The result? Increased sales for you and an extra paycheck for them.

Over time, the published and productized knowledge your technicians share online will perpetually generate sales from customers sourcing subject matter experts — not salesmen. As a strategic marketing solutions executive, I’ve seen firsthand how opening up a “social sales enterprise” can significantly increase business opportunities.

Social DNA

Initial returns from socially integrated sales organizations are showing promise; however, the tools of the trade have yet to catch up with companies seeking to make social networking part of their corporate DNA. The old workhorses, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, have especially fallen behind the development curve.

Enterprise-level CRM systems from SugarCRM to Salesforce.com recently began to awkwardly integrate social into customer lists and at the contact detail level. However, CRM software disregards the fact that many prospective customers do not engage brands through the traditional sales funnel. Customers are more likely to initiate an equitable exchange with a person, on there terms, versus responding to artificial engagements driven by a faceless corporate entity.

Companies Don’t Do Business with Companies

Social media is literally redefining how we sell. To prognosticate, the role of the salesman will evolve such that the people responsible for closing sales MUST truly becoming active, contributing social professionals in their respective trade or area of expertise — in other words, they must become social media entrepreneurs. A salesperson’s vested stake in social groups, industry associations, forums, blogs and other media will directly impact their ability to find and convert leads in the social network ecosystem.

Companies must wrestle with the fact that no one wants to speak with a salesperson when they can network and connect with a professional. As social media adoption grows among buyers, sellers will be forced to adapt company culture to promote buyer/technician relationships.

People Must Be the Value Proposition

Social media works best in business when there is an equitable exchange.  We “like” and “follow” content because we see value, interest or amusement in what was delivered. Businesses of all sizes must ensure EVERY team member understands your company’s value proposition, elevator pitch and the marketable value of their respective role when connecting with clients – both online and off.

Sales professionals who do not “pay the price” to learn their trade, sharpen their saw and dive into their most relevant social and online networks will be challenged to be considered an expert. We very simply cannot afford to live outside of social networks and expect to sell as efficiently as we used to.

Technology to the Rescue

Emerging software like Nimble is giving SMBs scalable, low-cost options to connect every employee and potential customer into the sales communication process. How? By using the one strategy that absolutely cements social’s inevitable penetration into even the most stubborn enterprises; unifying social media and traditional email into one inbox.

Communications efficiency will ultimately demand that all inbound direct communications be consolidated into one interface. Everyone from the sales team to technicians will have an opportunity to directly respond to social media-generated inquiries. Your entire organization becomes your customer service department, customer retention department and sales department, all without adding overhead.

It Works. We Proved It.

My organization has an initiative called “Operation 3X” where each employee is given a PERSONAL (yet company-owned) social CRM account. All employees are encouraged to actively participate in online communities that involve their respective disciplines. Content strategists and other specialists live, learn and network on the company dime in exchange for one expectation: They learn the company playbook and share their brand-aligned knowledge with peers and clients. They are all social media entrepreneurs.

We schedule monthly meetings to give team members the opportunity to share experiences, knowledge and leads gained through social communities. The 3X stands for a goal where each employee triples their network of peer and client contacts each year. The ultimate strategic goal of these efforts is for each employee to generate three times their income in sales each year.

Our results have been amazing. Every team member has a percentage stake in generated business and receives a guaranteed raise when they hit their 3X mark. In less than one year, this program has grown to account for more than 10% of our annual new account sales and double digit increases in bookings from existing customers.

Overall, social media has a place in an enterprise and certainly in a sales organization. The technology to fully integrate social media into companies of all sizes is here and the rules are changing such that everyone can and should be a driver of business. It can be, and should be, in our personal and corporate DNA to all become social media entrepreneurs.


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