Whether a company wants to go from Laggard to industry Average or from Industry Average to to Best-in-Class there are three key actions they can take to improve sales performance with Social Media. Aberdeen Group’s Research, based on asking companies what they have done, are doing, or plan to do in the future gives some excellent pointers. The steps are different, depending on whether the company is a Laggard or Industry Average. Here we look at Industry Laggards.
Incorporate the social media solution into the business plan
Aberdeen’s Research found that 62% of Laggard organizations don’t leverage social media technologies and don’t have it anywhere in their business plan. Of these, 29% said they have no plans to do so in the future. With customers becoming increasingly savvy about competitive products and services, these businesses will find it hard to keep pace. They should either:
- find ways to engage their audience through online communities, or
- give their sales teams the tools to allow for seamless internal collaboration
They may find they need to do both, so that insights gleaned from online communities don’t get lost in typical silos, and get to the sales team in a timely manner.
Dedicate the right resources and management support to social media
Once a company accepts how social media can benefit its sales organization it’s critical to get the right support from senior management. There is no getting away from this one. They need to have a champion who can explain how social media benefits not just sales actions, but the whole organization. The champion must be able to ensure dedicated resources are allocated to enterprise-wide social media solutions. Critically, employees have to see, through actions, that social media is a priority for management and as important as any other business objective. If they don’t it will hinder the adoption of social media in the organization.
Currently only 29% of Laggards, compared to 55% of Best-In-Class companies have the support of senior management of senior management for internal facing social media solutions. And only 18% of Laggards, compared to 28% of of Best-In-Class companies have dedicated resources devoted to the enterprise-wide use of social media. 58% have no plans to allocate such resources to social media.
Formalize and document sales processes
Social Media solutions will require new technology. As with any technology implementation, maximizing the benefits of any solution depends on the processes that are in place in the company beforehand.
Social media solutions are no different. They need to be integrated with existing sales processes not sit outside them. So having a formalized sales methodology in place before incorporating social media and sales productivity tools (e.g. internal wikis and collaboration forums) will increase the chances of seeing success. Just 48% of Laggards compared to 66% of Best-In-Class currently have formalized and documented sales processes. 33% of Laggards plan to implement internal social media tools. They stand to gain an advantage if they accelerate the adoption of these tools.
Many businesses are wondering if social media “is for them.” Or if it can get them leads. The answer to both questions I believe is yes, but, as this particular research shows it’s quite likely that these companies should first of all:
1. Assess where they are strategically
The Aberdeen research can be helpful because it’s based on questions asked of companies themselves. And their industry comparisons actually offer steps for moving towards the goals they aspire to, based on where they are on a range of different performance indicators). This applies whether introducing social media or any other solution.
2. Observe the Industry Average as a stepping stone to being Best-In-Class
Laggards don’t have to eat the whole elephant. They can take key steps, assess the outcomes and then move to the next step when ready.
3. Start from the inside out with social media collaboration
Companies, particularly larger ones could see more gains if they implement social media solutions internally first. While much of the attention has been on companies gaining millions in sales using certain social networking tools, it is far from the norm and in many cases they are B2C companies that sell directly to the customer, for example, Dell).
Based on Sales 2.0: Social Media for Knowledge Management and Sales Collaboration by the Aberdeen Group