Social Media, Marketing 2.0, Sales 2.0, Web 2.0…the names tend to run together, but whatever name you recognize, it is garnering a lot of interest from companies, especially those that are struggling in today’s economy. Seemingly exploding overnight, the Social Media movement actually began the moment the dot com bubble burst. Let’s take a quick look at how we got here.
History records the timeline of the dot com from 1995 until 2000. During this period, I worked for CA (Computer Associates) and later Oracle selling ERP, CRM and e-Procurment. VC firms were throwing money into any company that had a web presence and an idea as if it were the fuel of success. Forget the business plan! What burst the bubble was the fact companies did not have anything of substance that could sustain the current momentum. After the bubble burst, people scoffed at the idea the internet could ever be a viable channel of commerce. Nevertheless, those determined, picked up the pieces, learned from past mistakes (let us hope) and carried on. Ok, flash forward to the present.
From the school of hard knocks rose an educated mass, this seemingly is pushing Social Media forward. Hooray!!
Let’s not celebrate quite yet. I see a disturbing trend among companies frantic to increase sales, turn to a yet unproven method of marketing and selling. Moreover, some are practically abandoning traditional methods in favor of this new trend. I say unproven only because there isn’t enough quantifiable data to back any claim. Yes, I fully understand companies have bought and sold goods using these methods. There are also companies and individuals that have connected for employment purposes through this new media, yet there is a striking parallel between these and the activities that drove the dot com hysteria. Don’t get me wrong, I applaud this type of thinking, but only IF you can show a sustainable model. The problem is, I’m just not sure I see one yet.
What IS going to change will be how information will travel. We are already seeing the effects on YouTube(c) and Twitter(c). It is becoming an interactive world. This quick access to information will empower customers, OUR customers allowing them to be better educated. The method of primary information dispersal during the dot com era was word-of-mouth. Not a very fast means, but word did get around. So how will the new way of information dissemination affect you as a salesperson, sales manager or VP of Sales? It will change how you approach a customer, which means you MUST change your strategy. No longer will you be able to push a product UNLESS you are able to motivate your client. The result of this new media channel is a potential customer will have a plethora of competing products and simply choose to pass yours over unless you create value or have something remarkable to offer or show that makes the customer take serious notice. The ability to motivate customers through social media is here today. How you use it to leverage your products is a moving target.
What is NOT going to change is the salesmanship necessary to close the deal. People are still going to buy from people, not companies. The coming change is going to have the greatest effect on transactional selling rather than strategic selling. You will still need people to follow-up on leads, visit clients and move the sales process along. It will not replace the intelligence needed to sell or buy, though I would wager some people would like nothing more. All of these will still need the sales touch as Social Media will not be able to do this for you.
Social media is great and I hope it’s here to stay, but it has not yet proven itself the panacea everybody hopes it to be. This is the infancy stage, and additional stages of metamorphosis will happen before the dust settles.
I hope you will find this of value. Comments welcome!