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37 Character Tweet Led to Multi-Thousand Dollar Opportunity.

06 September 2011

Still think Social Selling is a lot of hype?

While large and small companies alike continue to puzzle over the impact of social media on sales, these giants in our industry are here to say it’s here to stay.  What giants?  IBM and Microsoft.  And they have the stories to back it up.

A few weeks ago I had a conversation with executives from IBM and Microsoft about their social initiatives.  Their results should help convince the most skeptical of executives about the virility of social to produce measurable revenue results.  Joining me in the conversation, which was hosted by The Customer Collective (many thanks!), were Bill Patterson (@bpatter), Product Planning and Strategy Lead for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and Doug Hannan (@ibmdough), a business unit executive at IBM.com in marketing in North America.  Here are a few edited excerpts from our conversation.

Turned 37 characters into thousands of dollars

Anneke:  Bill…could you explain how your role at Microsoft relates to social media and sales?

Bill:  We find ourselves today helping organizations take advantage of social media to create much deeper engagement in the line of sales, service and marketing initiatives.  My job is to listen to the best examples – from companies all around the world – of how they use social media to boost their bottom line, so that we can, in turn, help deliver the right tools and solutions to help them take this new channel of engagement to new heights for their organization.

Anneke:  For the sports fans and business leaders among us, tell us about your NBA social media story.

Bill:  Sure.  As sports fans know, sometimes going to a stadium can be tough when your team isn’t performing as expected.  Yet ticket sellers still have a responsibility to fill stadium seats.  What we learned and shared with the NBA – a client of ours – is that one of the best times to sell tickets is during the annual draft process, when fans have the most hope for maybe a change in direction.  By mining social networks like Twitter, one NBA team was able to tap into the pulse and tone of how excitement was building for a player they had selected, and they simply tweeted something along the lines of “Exciting…can’t wait to go to a game next year!”  That simple 37 character response drove new leads and new sales lead conversions into their sales organizations in real time.  It turned into a multi-thousand seat … multi-thousand dollar opportunity.

Anneke:  These players – I was checking Twitter last night – have millions of followers, right?

Bill:  They do.  The opportunity for distribution is quite impressive and really gives these teams and organizations an opportunity to connect in new ways to both their existing fan base and plenty of potential customers, as well.

Quadrupled order volumes in first quarter

Anneke:  Doug, you’re not increasing ticket sales, but you are generating revenue for something recognized by those of us in technology as almost as hot – cloud offerings.  Can you tell us about your program and results?

Doug:  I’m happy to.  We wanted to understand our clients’ needs in the area of cloud computing, and we turned to social media to listen.  There are a lot of conversations happening on the web, but frankly there’s also a lot of clutter.  It’s hard to pick out what really matters.

We created a systematic approach of listening to marketplace leaders, and from there created some messages our sellers can use in their social conversations to foster a dialog with our customers. These messages might include referrals to industry experts, new information on how other clients are using IBM cloud computing, or other relevant information in this fast-paced area.

One of the differences in what we did is that instead of asking each seller to try and understand the marketplace, in a free-for-all environment, we organized our listening and presented messages to the sellers, who could then edit them, send, retweet, etc.  All they had to do was tailor the message to make it appropriate for their particular context.

Anneke:  A lot of companies are trying to figure out how to take one sales rep’s success with social media and scale it across their organization.  It sounds like you’ve found a way to do that.  What were the results?

Doug:  Our results were pretty exciting.  Our pilot included just five inside sales reps using 10 social promotions.  From that we grew our direct contacts by 480%, expanded our reach ten-fold, and quadrupled order volumes within the first quarter.

“Pretty exciting” is some understatement.  Bill and Doug had much more to share.  (I was like a kid in a candy shop!)  Here are just some of the topics we touched on…

  • The value of listening and being responsive
  • Social media policy
  • Metrics
  • Scaling social strategy across an organization and around the globe
  • Compensation for social teams
  • Sales and marketing collaboration
  • And so much more

You can hear the entire conversation here – minus a few breaks where we had some recording difficulties.  My apologies!

Are you skeptical about social selling?  What are your fears?  If not, tell us what’s