Social Collaboration for the Sales Teams

By David F. Carr

Sales collaboration done right promises one of the greatest payoffs (if not the greatest) for sales teams. Sales is often associated with cutthroat competition, but in many industries sales teams are truly teams. Their teamwork is even more powerful if it extends outside the sales organization to include peers in marketing, product development, and other business functions.

Coordinating sales teams

Here are some things to emphasize about the productive use of social collaboration for sales teams:

  • Position social collaboration as a business tool. Help your team understand that instead of using the tool for purely social purposes, they should be networking to exchange contacts and strategies for winning deals.

  • Encourage sharing. Promote routine sharing of information about sales wins, opportunities, and objections to be overcome that go beyond the CRM record.

  • Reward teamwork. Establish a collaborative culture, with incentives that recognize the work of the team, not just the person who closes the deal. Sales leaders can set an example by using the social activity stream to monitor the whole series of events that lead to success and recognizing contributions people make along the way.

  • Extend your reach. Social collaboration reaches beyond the sales team into other divisions of the company. Success often comes to salespeople who know when to ask for help from people in other parts of the company who can answer a potential customer’s question about future product plans or bend the rules about granting discounts. For maximum success, you want the use of the social collaboration network to extend throughout the company.

The following figure shows how sales team members can work together in Chatter to assemble the necessary information to win a deal.

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Choosing the right tool

Chatter makes it easy to start conversations about objects in the CRM system, such as customers and opportunities, and Chatter is commonly the social collaboration tool for sales even in organizations where other departments use a competing product. Microsoft bought Yammer, another cloud-based social collaboration tool, partly to integrate it with Microsoft Dynamics CRM as a competitor to Chatter.

Still, many organizations report making their sales organizations more efficient using another product, such as the Jive platform, that’s not joined at the hip with a CRM system. Meanwhile, some Salesforce.com customers who have taken advantage of the ease with which they can enable Chatter have seen few benefits from it, namely because they never got beyond turning on the software. In organizations where the business value of social collaboration hasn’t been established, Chatter adoption even within the sales team may be poor because representatives do not see how it can help them get their jobs done.

Also, although Jive doesn’t come from the same sales force automation roots as Salesforce.com, part of its corporate identity is as one of the leading social CRM companies because its software can be used to manage public customer communities as well as internal employee communities. That gives Jive a strong sales orientation, which particularly appeals to firms that use its content management tools to manage sales documents and market intelligence as well as social discussions about the sales process. The following figure shows a Jive workspace for a sales team, with content including a discussion thread, a congratulatory blog post about the best performers, and an assortment of proposal documents and templates.

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The only thing about the tools is that there is not necessarily one right answer for every organization. How you use the software you choose is at least as important as which software you choose.