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Social Media and Inside Sales: Time Waster or Money Maker?

18 May 2010

Rini Das, CEO of PAKRAGames, is one example of a Sales 2.0 executive who, by all indications, is on the path to revenue-generation by incorporating LinkedIn, Google Alerts and Twitter into her online prospecting strategy. She and her CMO, Michelle Stewart, search for, research and send personal messages to their target audience (often based on the information their prospects provide themselves on their profiles and in their tweets): sales VPs and inside sales executives in selected industries who are either one-degree-removed connections or are those with whom they share a group. By incorporating these outreaches into their weekly prospecting process and religiously tracking metrics, they know how many prospects contacted via these sources will end up in their pipeline. Of the invitations they extend, 72% accept, 36% are are qualified and 21% make it to their pipeline.

But many inside sales leaders – and their managers – are still questioning the value of social media in the sales process.  This was one of the key topics discussed at last week’s Inside Sales Summit, now in its second year and produced by the young but growing AA-ISP (American Association of Inside Sales Professionals). The conference, held in Minneapolis, drew more than 200 executives and managers who manage phone and Web selling and lead qualification teams from companies including 3M, ADP, Apple, Carnival, FedEx, GE Medical, GeneSys, IBM and a host of smaller companies. The panel discussion I led, “Social Media in Inside Sales: Time Waster or Money Maker?” was one of several sessions aimed at inside sales professionals looking for new ways to engage increasingly hard-to-reach and harder-to-please buyers. The panel included senior-level sales executives Brett Wallace from ZoomInfo, Greg Volm from InsideView and Kevin Flynn from salesforce.com, who described how they’ve integrated social media into their sales, marketing and internal team collaboration.

I kicked off the panel by describing “The Inside Sales Social Media Panacea”: What sales managers need to know in order to answer the “time waster or money maker?” question:

-For each of your customers and prospects, you know which social tools they use and prefer (if any), so your team can easily reach them in new ways and stand out from everyone else.

-You have a proven process for using social media in the sales cycle and can track social media outreaches (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc.), along with calls and e-mails and the associated contacts metrics: connections, qualified leads, forecasted leads and sales.

-You can measure the impact of pre-contact research using social media and networks such as blogs, LinkedIn, Google Alerts and Twitter, and decide if the extra time spent in planning mode, which reduces activity, yields better results.

-You know which leads and which sales came from which social media and networking activities and at what point in the sales cycle, draw conclusions accordingly and spread the best policies and practices across your sales organization.

What other questions are you asking about social media? How are you measuring the success of your social media and social networking programs? What results are you seeing?