Is there a place for Sales in a Social Business?

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A few weeks ago Mark Tamis took on this topic in an excellent post called “Rethinking Sales in a SCRM Strategy”.  He did a very good job of describing the role of the salesperson in a CRM 1.0 model: controller of knowledge in an uneven exchange of value (my editing of his words, he was kinder in his description), the gatekeeper of the relationship between the organization and the customer.  That model fits well in a company-centric world when the customer has not much recourse but to survive in this parasitic relationship between sales and customers.

This uneven relationship does not work in a customer-centric social business; being the gatekeeper to knowledge that is no longer controlled by the company becomes a fool’s errand.  The command-and-control approach to relationships is also counter to Salespeople being excellent at establishing and maintaining relationships.  They thrive in non-digital, face-to-face relationships. In a B2B world, this is the value they bring to the organization.

Alas, most of the early-stage sales functions they perform are being taken-over by Marketing and Service: prospecting, lead-scoring and management, information-fulfillment, and offer management are all roles that are not being handled by sales anymore — yet, they remain within their domain.

So, what is their role and place in a social business?

Social businesses don’t have a role for a traditional salesforce anymore as the end-to-end process-driven model takes over.  Today’s salesforces will be replaced by cadres of independent sales people that have only one purpose: relationship brokers.

In a new world we will no longer have a B2B or a B2C spin to what we do.  We discussed this a few weeks ago, and we reached some great conclusions, in Mitch Lieberman’s excellent piece “Is B2B the new B2C”.  The different models disappear in a social business and are replaced by customer-centric tasks performed by the most able person or entity in a virtual organization.  In this new model, a sales person is the one who brings the right customer to the right transaction, not by secretive manipulation to extract the maximum value possible — but to ensure that both sides receive and even value exchange for the transaction.

They become trusted advisors to the client and to the organization, brokering the relationship.  They change their roles from distrusted information gatekeepers to trusted brokers.

It becomes a win-win situation, one of the aims of a customer-centric model, where the customers get value from the products or services and the social business gets an even exchange of value in the form of money.  In addition, these are the transactions that over time lead to emotional loyalty, the aim of a social business.

Further, in recent discussions with a fellow business analyst, Allen Bonde of EvokeCRM, we foresee sales people don’t even remain in an organization; they become independent contractors that focus on the relationships they create within a specific industry or function.  They nurture those relationships (it is the task they excel at), while retaining the role of trusted advisor to their customers by bringing in only the best possible solution to their needs.

Moving from a parasitic relationship to a symbiotic one, where they both benefit equally.

There is a lot more to discuss, more than fits in one of these posts.   I wanted to take the first step towards discussing the new role of salesperson in a social business.

What do you think? Am I being naive and disingenuous? Will salespeople find value in brokering valuable relationships as opposed to just push a product onto everyone they can? Would business trust knowledge and products, and thus value them higher, without the secretive dealings?

How many salespeople will send me hate emails from this post?

Am I way off and don’t see it?

Esteban Kolsky is the Principal and Founder of ThinkJar, a CRM and Social Business think-tank and advisory services firm.  You can read more of his writings at his blog, crm intelligence & strategy thanks for an amazing article


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