Social Business is as Old as Business

How Social Media is bringing us back to the future

In a recent series of Social CRM seminars, I asked several audiences to complete this sentence:

The closing of a sales deal depends on….

Not once did they fail to answer on the first attempt and in unison: Relationships. We all have this deep intuition that the sales process has always been social.

But the prevalent Sales Model and Customer Relationship (CRM) processes used by companies today is not consistent with that intuition. We try to automate and reverse the natural sales process into an marketing-driven analytical/statistical exercise.

Sell, Keep Customers Happy

Let’s go back in time, before mass marketing, when we lived in smaller communities. If I want to sell something, my first task is to develop a product or service that solves someone else’s problem.

Then I search my network of relationships for people who (a) have the problem I address and (b) are ready to use my product. Once the sales transaction occurs, I stay engaged with the customer and make sure they are happy. Happy customers will not only come back for more, but would also connect me to new customers in their network of connections to grow my business.

The Emergence of Marketing

Then mass communication media (print medium first, then broadcasting, then e-mail) became available and changed the world. These media made it possible to communicate with a very large number of people at very low cost.

But classical media had characteristics that were different from direct interaction: it was unidirectional (did not support engagement) and was controlled by the corporation.

The game changed and a new sales model that is marketing-driven emerged.

We turned the natural sales process upside down. Marketing leverages media to broadcast to the largest possible number of people. Because the majority of people either do not need the product or are not ready to consume it, only the very few who were poked exactly at the right time respond.

Those who respond become “leads” and are handed over to Sales. Once the transaction occurs, the company has little incentive to stay engaged. That explains the disregard most classical companies have towards Customer Service. We then just repeat the process (poke a thousand, watch for the two or three who happen to be ready, complete transaction, disengage).

That analytical/statistical model works well and a model that works well wins. That is how we moved away from the natural social sales model towards a marketing-driven model. But a model lasts only until the parameters that made it a winner change again.

Enter Social Media

While Social Media is not equal, it has two interesting characteristics that are similar to direct interaction: (a) it is bi-directional, allows personal engagement, (b) it enables peer-to-peer communication outside of the control of the corporation. It also promises to scale better than direct interactions.

The possibility that is now open is that companies can return to the natural sales process: create good products, sell it. Maintain the engagement with customers and make sure they are satisfied. Happy customers come back for more and, because they can communicate peer-to-peer, bring new customers within their network of social connections.

If the social model with social media can be more efficient than the classical model, the pendulum will move again.

Back To The Future

Marshall McLuhan explained us that “The Medium is the Message”. The medium we use not only affects our communication, but has the potential to change the way we think and behave and shift underlying business models.

Are we switching Sales model overnight? Unlikely. Are we shifting to a Sales Model that is less analytical/probabilistic and more social? I am very confident we are. Are you?

The world has changed (again). It is time to adapt.

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