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Twitter: Friend or Foe of Sales?

11 March 2009

Last week I attended the oversold (500 people plus) Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco and was invited to participate on the panel discussion, “Accelerating Productivity: New Sales 2.0 Tools”.  A week earlier, I was the guest speaker at the inaugural Social Media Breakfast San Francisco meeting (see online video), during which I was interviewed, Fresh Air style, by social media guru, Chris Kenton. There was a common theme between these two events: the most engaging (or should I say heated?) discussion topic was the use of twitter in the sales process.

People are passionate about twitter, whether they love it or hate it.  To the majority of sales executives I know, twitter is seen as perhaps only second to Facebook as a major distraction for the sales force and drain on its productivity.  Garth Moulton, cofounder and VP of Community at Jigsaw,  sums it up in his recent blog post, “Not Digging on Twitter” that “for a working professional Twitter is totally stupid.”

He might be right.  But I’m not willing to accept that until I give it a chance.

Like my dermatologist who tries out every new procedure on herself before subjecting her patients to it, I  have immersed myself in the twitter community and am experimenting with it. A few weeks ago, I didn’t know what a hashtag, retweet, or @reply meant, but I’m enjoying learning about a new communications medium that so may people (some sources say 2,000 new user accounts are created on average per day)  are flocking to. During the opening session of the Sales 2.0 conference, I tried my hand at “live tweeting” the content: broadcasting it out to an audience of twitter users who were following the conference online in real time. You can read some of these “tweets” in several blogs written by members of the Sales 2.0 community: Michael Damphousse’s Smashmouth Marketing, Parker Trewin’s B2B Marketing for Faster Sales, and Andrew Lennon’s The Daily Anchor, among others.

My theory is that when new technologies are adopted enthusiastically by the mainstream, they may just have a place in the buying cycle.  In B2B sales, that might not be the end of that cycle – it’s hard to imagine someone placing a million dollar deal via twitter – but never say never. Twenty-four years ago, I was told I was crazy to expect the sophisticated customers of Oracle Corporation to buy its complex products by phone. :-)

How are YOU using twitter in the sales process? Is it improving or decreasing sales productivity in your company? And most importantly, what revenue has resulted from a twitter interaction with a prospect?