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The Collaborative Sales Model and Social CRM

The use of new technology makes collaboration much easier for Social CRM. Today, teams can work across time zones and share whiteboards that are in the cloud. Video conferencing can bring everyone face to face across a virtual table.

But issues still arise about the best way for sales teams to collaborate across the enterprise. The pace is usually frantic as groups struggle to meet deadlines and complete projects. It can be hard for teams to assimilate the new technology available to them. It can also be hard to reach across to other business functions.

Regardless of the business function involved, most enterprises deal with the issues brought on by a silo mentality — a term that refers to the mindset that each business function operates independently of the others. They don’t share information or work and play well with other departments.

The social sales ecosystem

Previously, sales departments often ran their own fiefdoms. They dictated the type of data they needed and controlled the information necessary to make sales. Now, groups can’t work in isolation. To have a well-functioning social CRM system, several groups need to be intimately involved in the sales process.

Aside from the sales function itself, each group in the ecosystem has a major contribution to make to the new social sales environment. Without collaboration, each group couldn’t function. The social sales ecosystem is as follows:

  • Marketing: They run the social media promotions and campaigns that create leads for the sales team. The PR department is often included here.

  • Customer support: Customer service needs to monitor what’s being said on social networks and other channels.

  • Information technology: Sales teams need the CRM data and technology so they can work unassisted in the field.

  • Customers: In this new sales ecosystem, customers play a different role than they did in the past. In a nutshell, their role (previously) was to buy the product — period. But now, customers contribute feedback about everything. They critique the products, praise or vent about the support they receive, and recommend products to their friends. The customer, in some cases, can also guide product development.

  • Partners: They provide potential customers, investors, or new ways to reach your audience.

  • Vendors and suppliers: They provide the materials in a timely fashion so that products can be made and shipped.

Collaboration becomes the key that will help the entire organization realize its business goals and make social CRM a reality.

In the Harvard Business Review, an article called "Which Kind Of Collaboration Is Right for You? " by Gary Pisano and Roberto Verganti, discusses four different models that could work to help the enterprise collaborate and innovate more effectively. No one model is better than another. It depends on how it fits with your needs. The four types are listed in the following table:

Mode of Collaboration Problem to Solve Employee or External Source Solution
Elite Circle The company defines the problem. company. Employees are hand-selected. The company chooses the winning solution.
Innovation Mall The company defines the problem. Anyone can offer a solution. The company chooses the winning solution.
Innovation Community Anyone can pose a problem. Anyone can offer a solution. Anyone can pick the winning solution.
Consortium The group offers a problem to solve. The group offers the solution. The group chooses the winning solution.

You can use these models in a variety of ways and apply them to internal or external groups.

One example of the Innovation Mall is IdeaScale, which provides a place where companies can sign up to receive suggestions from their customers. Other customers can vote for their favorite ideas. If customers don’t vote for the idea, it doesn’t rise to the top. The winning suggestions are selected by the company.

Using new technology to crowdsource (get input from people online) allows you to do two things:

  • Offer the problem to the largest number of potential problem solvers.

  • Pay for only the solution instead of employing a full-time group who may not solve the problem.

Embrace the cloud

Who ever thought that big business could be driven by something as ethereal as a cloud? But that’s what happened. Cloud-based computing refers to the use of software that you access and use online (metaphorically in the cloud). Previously, companies housed all enterprise software on its internal computers or at big data centers full of equipment.

Big companies had the advantage because they could afford more and faster equipment. Small businesses suffered in comparison. They weren’t considered for major assignments because they just didn’t have the computing power to execute on large projects. Enter the cloud! The playing field starts to level.

With the advent of new cloud-based applications, any company can have access to the data that its employees need to get the job done. Cloud computing levels the playing field because small businesses don’t need special equipment. It makes it easy for everyone to access the same data and collaborate with their team members. Now with cloud computing, everyone can have the latest, best data.

Some benefits of cloud-based applications are as follows:

  • Security: The vendor, not the user, is responsible for ensuring that all its customers are safe from data breeches and theft.

  • Backups: The vendor backs up the data and makes it available to the users 24/7.

  • Current or real-time data: Because the data is synced, it’s current. No salesperson should get old pricing or out-of-date documents.

  • Scalability: The vendor can supply more power or less as necessary so that companies don’t have to worry about purchasing more computing power or scaling up on their own.

  • Communication: Many of these applications allow employees to communicate in real time with other employees on deals and projects.

One of the most well-known cloud-based applications that serves salespeople is Salesforce.com. The company works toward making its system one of the best social CRM systems available.

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