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The Sales 2.0 Conference: The Results of Listening to (or Ignoring) Your Customers

17 March 2010

For me, attending the Sales 2.0 conferences is like going to a 500-plus-person family reunion. There are so many Phone Works customers, partners, friends and familiar faces in attendance that, in two days, it’s impossible to spend the time I’d like to catch up with everyone. The good news is the size and continued growth of the Sales 2.0 community, as witnessed by the increasing number of conference participants, bodes well for the health of companies’ finances and their customer relationships, as buyers and sellers embrace Sales 2.0 practices and technology. As we heard from presenter after presenter at the conference, successful Sales 2.0 strategy and implementation increases sales effectiveness and efficiency.

In reviewing my notes (actually my live Twitter stream; follow @annekeseley and others with #s20c if you want all the details), I found some recurring themes worth emphasizing. One of the simplest but most important ones has to do with paying attention to the people who buy your products and services.

Employ a Chief Listening Officer

Jeffrey Hayzlett, chief marketing officer and VP at Eastman Kodak (and a showman on top of that), gave the most entertaining presentation on critical business transformation I’ve experienced yet. During his talk, “Kodak’s Successful Fight for Survival in the Digital Age,” Jeff revealed, among other things, how his company embraced social media to connect more closely with customers. After naming a chief blogger — one of the first large companies to do so, according to his interview with Sales 2.0 Conference staff — he created the position of chief listening officer. This person’s job is to follow online conversations across social platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as on blogs, and direct them to the appropriate department within Kodak for follow-up. This allows the company to respond in real time to customers’ needs.

I like the concept of dedicating staff to listen to (and ensure response to) customers. With the evolution of social media tools, wouldn’t it be great if our sales managers and reps could all become listening officers?

Engage With Unexpected Contacts

Jeff  and I connected on Twitter and exchanged a few personal messages just before his presentation. This is the first Twitter interaction I’ve had with the CMO of a Fortune 500 company. The guy knows how to engage!

Have you had any interactions on Twitter with C-level buyers you’ve never met (or other social networking or social media sites)?

Consider an Updated View of ROI

Like many of us, Hayzlett is frequently challenged by his CFO about the ROI of his social media marketing programs. His retort: “Engagement is the new ROI. You want to know the other ROI? Return on Ignoring!”

If your competitors are following and responding to customers on social media, and you aren’t, can you imagine what that might cost you?

Consider an Updated View of CLV

Though I don’t think they coordinated their presentations in advance, Clara Shih’s presentation supported many of Jeff’s key points by introducing a new way of thinking about Customer Lifetime Value (CLV). In her presentation, “Social Networking & Sales,” the wicked smart and always delightful Shih, CEO of Hearsay Labs and author of The Facebook Era, touched on the concept of “Social CLV,” which Clara promised to cover in the second edition of her book. Social CLV includes word-of-mouth (WOM) referrals, customer support cost savings, and sales resulting from idea contributions. Hayzlett gave a perfect example: By listening to a customer suggestion to add an external microphone jack to its digital video camera, the company was able to create a competitive advantage in one of its products that can be measured in revenue dollars.

Are you listening to your customers and implementing their suggestions? What are the results?