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Social Networking in Sales: Show Me the Money

27 May 2009

Last Thursday at the Sales 2.0 conference in Boston, a sales executive from Microsoft was lamenting the growing popularity of social networking in his sales force.  “My sales people are wasting valuable time on Facebook when they should be selling,” he said in frustration during the final presentation of the day (mine) on Social Networking in Sales.  This topic was part of the agenda of the first Sales 2.0 conference to take place on the east coast, which attracted over 200 sales leaders looking for innovative ways to improve sales results. The event featured presentations by sales pioneers at companies who described the ways they are transforming the way they sell using Sales 2.0 practices, or forward-thinking sales strategy, people, and processes, enabled by sales productivity and customer engagement technologies.

In the sales community, there continues to be skepticism about social media’s ability to help sales people sell. This concern is not unique to east-coast-based sales managers; similar doubts were expressed at the March Sales 2.0 conference in San Francisco, which I wrote about in an earlier post. As sales managers are struggling to make their numbers in a slowed down economy, they are super vigilant of keeping their sales reps focused on revenue-generating activities.  Other than social networking’s ability to  “like Botox, make us feel younger and fresher”, as a I read on Twitter the day of the conference, it has yet to be proven in many sales organizations as a productive channel for sales people to connect with and close customers.

To prepare for my presentation at the conference, I knew what I had to do: find real world examples of sales and marketing people not just using social tools – but also seeing measurable results, i.e., qualified sales opportunities and revenue. Naturally, I reached out to my network by posting my search for social media ROI on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn in addition to sending e-mail.  Here’s what I found:

Dan Harding, Regional Sales Manager at ConnectandSell, is on track to close 25% of his annual quota by using LinkedIn and Twitter.  Within four months of using these tools as part of his sales process, he has filled his pipeline with at least ten highly qualified opportunities representing several hundred thousand dollars in revenue.  He uses LinkedIn to stay in touch with his network of hundreds of contacts by regularly updating the status box to report on events, promotions, and customer successes. For example, Dan’s status box today reads:

Another Great Customer Kick-Off 12 reps, 12 hours, 140 connects, 24 referrals, 17 Demo/Follow-up! Meetings

E-mail is automatically sent to his connections through LinkedIn network updates, which drives people to check out his newly refreshed profile.  This includes a five-slide SlideShare presentation that succinctly describes how his offering helps clients increase their sales results.  Dan says, “LinkedIn helps me leverage referral-selling. I can easily update my network and stay in touch, which is resulting in e-mail and phone inquiries from people I used to work with or those they recommend.”

To the sales executives out there who are worried about social networking interfering with their ability to make their numbers, I say this: Sales managers who hire the right people –those who are self-motivated and driven to achieve – and set the right objectives, supported by the right compensation – can expect that these reps won’t waste time on non-revenue-generating activities. Quota-carrying reps and managers can easily experiment with social networking and figure out whether they help or hurt their individual productivity and ability to deliver revenue.

Social media also can be very effective in sales lead generation marketing(depending on whether your target audience engages in those media), as I found in another example. When Tealeaf became a client of my consulting company, Phone Works, we quickly learned of the company’s impressive results using Twitter to attract executive-level attendees to their Customer Experience Management seminars.    Tealeaf’s director of online marketing, Dave Ewart, has generated 10% of event registrants using Twitter and over 50% of them are in the company’s target audience – almost twice the percentage than registrants coming from traditional media marketing campaigns. Over $200,000 in potential sales has already been generated via social media marketing campaigns, which launched only a few months ago. Dave designed the event registration campaign to be viral by including an “invite an executive colleague” link in the confirmation e-mail as well as a “tell followers you’ll be attending” link for Twitter users.  Here’s what this looks like:

annekeseleyI just registered for Tealeaf’s executive Customer Experience Summit in D.C. on May 19, Join me. http://cli.gs/vy24LT (via @tealeaf) #wa

It is too soon to tell how many of these opportunities will close, given the length of Tealeaf’s sales cycle and the short amount of time that the company has been piloting these new programs.  Dave maintains, “Twitter helps us find prospective customers that we’re not reaching through other media, especially because new prospects are referring other prospects. ”

These are just two examples of how forward-thinking sales and marketing managers are generating quantifiable business results leveraging existing relationships as well as reaching new prospects using social networking.

What are your experiences with social networking in sales and marketing? Can you attribute measurable results such as sales or qualified leads to new media?