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Personas with Passion

April 20, 2012 2 comments

A persona is an internal model of the key attributes, motivations, and goals of your target customers (prospect, audience…). A persona is a statement from you to your customers and prospective customers that illustrates to them, that you understand their jobs-to-be-done, their needs, as well as, what keeps them up at night (the emotional component). It should be used to describe your customers to your internal teams, from Engineering to Finance – and all in between – making sure everyone understands it.

A business exists to provide value to, for and with customer’s. They do not exist to promote products; sorry. In a business to business (BtoB) setting, the ‘to, for and with’ is not likely restricted to one person or role on either side of the equation. From the customer side, the buying process includes a set of people who, at the end of the day, are trying to understand, “what’s in it for me”.  Therefore, there is likely more than one persona who needs to be heard, considered and the more complex the product, the more personas in the mix.

Who considers What, and When?

I spent the past few days thinking more about the execution parts of marketing more than I have in quite some time. I kept coming back to personas – and how much sense they make. I could not get the figures below out of my mind. One chart shows which roles (persona) influence which part of the buying cycle, the second chart maps roles (persona) against information source. According to Forrester (source of chart data) “No one influencer has more than 30% of the total power through the purchase process.” and 7.6 is the “Average number of different sources used throughout the purchase funnel.” I do have some issues with broad brush statistics, especially in this case, as the part of the buying cycle does have an impact – as the charts clearly. My interest is in ‘connecting the dots‘ because in isolation, the data is not all the interesting – but together they say something.

The intersection of the two tells a marketer not only where to day something at a certain stage, but who they are talking to, right? If these questions were in the same survey then I would certainly cross tab the results of the two questions. For example it is nice to know that 70% of organizations answered that a manager, not in IT is involved during the awareness phase. It is also nice to know website and In-person are the most influential channels during the awareness phase (Hmm, Hubspot might tell you different). Putting the two together, if logic holds, my website better speak to the persona of a non-IT manger type, no?

Now, I might be trying too hard to connect things that could get you all in trouble if the focus is too strong. I am not suggesting that you ignore the individual contributor, nor the social channels (both lower for the respective questions, during the awareness phase) – but it does give you pause and possibly get you to think about specific messaging. I am not saying to message for the sake of message. I am saying that understanding the perspective of your buyer, speaking to him or her as a human, in language they they understand (aka, not three letter acronyms which makes sense to you).

What about the selection phase? This phase is interesting, as the data suggests that it is the most senior IT person who has the greatest influence and their greatest influence….internal, not external. The buying decision is heavily influenced by “colleagues within the organization”. Now, it is probably not a big leap to suggest that the colleagues are going to share what they have learned during earlier phases. Further, the CIO is not likely the one reading your website, his or her team are the ones reading the website.

Do the charts above speak to you? If so, what do they say? BTW, where does the ‘Passion’ fit in? If you really believe that you can solve specific problems for specific people, then your passion will come through – that simple.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

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Categories: CRM, IBM, Sales Tags: , , ,

Is Social CRM a house of cards?

April 7, 2010 9 comments

I am not simply going for shock value, I am asking a tough question where one of the possible answers is ‘yes’, and that scares me a bit. If we choose to ignore 20 years of knowledge, experience and best implementation practices, then we are setting ourselves to repeat the same mistakes that gave CRM a bad name. This pushes the answer towards ‘yes’, how can we push it towards ‘no’? Is this post an about face for me personally? No, I do not think so, call it a prequel – something I knew, felt and should have said a long time ago.

There are some great ideas, even some really awesome technology components that can make up the pieces of a solid Social CRM strategy. However, at the core, there needs to be a well architected, flexible CRM application that will serve as the foundation for the Social CRM strategy. There are certain things ‘the basic blocking and tackling’ if you will of CRM which cannot be ignored.

You cannot jump to Social CRM if you do not understand CRM

Without a proper foundation, adding more layers and more cards simply adds to the instability. Recent posts (and some not so recent) are well suited to help me describe my concerns. (They are listed at the bottom, to avoid hyperlink hypnosis). If we first look at Paul’s definition of CRM and then Social CRM it should be clear that Social CRM is an extension – by process, culture and/or technology– of CRM. The change was and is required due to the changing needs of the customer.

Since the customer changed, the companies also need to change. But, If you change the focus (who and how), it is very easy to forget the battle scars of CRM 1.0 implementations. As Esteban points out in his recent post, the ownership of the concepts of CRM have moved from one part of the organization to another. Because of this change, the institutional knowledge regarding what it means to build a holistic customer strategy may not be all there. Some is lost, or worse, some is being ignored.

Social CRM is not simply a set of CRM bolt-on modules

Getting past definitions and focusing on what it is, Michael Fauscette says it quite well: “CRM is a customer strategy and many companies have chosen to use SW [software] and technology as a part of that strategy. SCRM [Social CRM] just extends that customer strategy in a few ways.”

Again, I am not talking about definitions, I am talking about practice. Is technology a part of the extension? Yes, it probably is, but it will not work if you do not make people and process changes first (think attitude!). If you use technology as a part of your CRM strategy, then you will likely need technology to extend it to a Social CRM strategy. If you do not have a well organized technology strategy for CRM (meaning it is not simply email and spreadsheets) then adding new technology for Social CRM will NOT be effective.

The Process of Social CRM is dynamic

It is dynamic because where and how the conversations happen will change. Brian and others speak a bit about ‘changes in centricity’ – I am summarizing, but the sentiment should not be lost. Customer centric versus management centric; Conversation centric versus Process Centric – Centricity, Focus whatever the best name for it is, needs to evolve and meet your business need – what do your customers want. Regardless of what you call it, both sets of data are still important. Can anyone tell me that what I purchased, when I purchased it and my buying patterns have stopped being important? I know Brian was not going there, I am illustrating a point. Please read his post, it is important.

Jacob posted the Social CRM process, is it right I am not sure, actually it is probably wrong – hold on, I am not coming down on anyone! I applaud Jacob because anyone should be able to take his diagram and use it as a baseline model (not a best practice) and move the arrows, fill-in the boxes and make it work for your business. People, Process and all that… Jacob is spot on for highlighting process – look at what you have, and where ‘Social’ should fit into the company. Do not force Social in, just because it is cool.

Ok, maybe a little bit of shock value

If at least made you stop and think, I feel a bit better. I really like Social CRM. I enjoy thinking about, writing about, talking about and even well debating a bit. Here is my mea culpa, I have a CRM application, I use it everyday. To me, thinking of Social CRM as an evolutionary step, not revolutionary as assumed. My apologies. If this seems like a change of course, well the Blog does not have a title for a reason…

This list is not just a WordPress – blogs you might also like to read! These specific people, posts and comments on the posts influenced my own thoughts – what are yours?

Paul Greenberg’s – Traditional CRM v Social CRM: Is There a Difference
Esteban Kolsky’s – Why We Cannot Get CRM (and SCRM) Quite Right
Brian Vellmure’s – Traditional CRM vs Social CRM: Expanded
Michael Fauscette – What makes “CRM” Social
Bob Thompson – Can you do “Social CRM” w/out Social Media/Networks
Jacob Morgan – The Social CRM Process

6 Degrees of Social Interactions

March 26, 2010 5 comments

I penned a post yesterday, on the CRMOutsiders, blog titled Are all Interactions Social Interaction? The post was a little more sarcastic than my usual rants and I think it caught a few folks who do not know me a bit off guard. I start the post with the following:

“SugarCRM is holding its annual customer, developer and partner conference, April 12-14, in San Francisco. The venue is the cool Palace Hotel. It is going to be a great event, with some really great presenters, panelists, as well as an awesome evening event at the California Academy of Sciences.”

I went on further to suggest that I did a little bit of a ‘bait and switch’. I even posed a question to myself: “is what I did appropriate?” My idea was to draw people in with a topic intended to create some conversation, but was it really a marketing message in disguise? – not a very Social thing to do. The post was prompted by a question posed by Bob Thompson, the CEO of CustomerThink. The question is: “Can you do Social CRM without Social Media/Networks?” In order to answer that question, first the question of what determines if an interaction is a Social interaction needs to be answered.

Is every Interaction a Social Interaction?

The conclusion I reached, possibly prematurely, is “No” not every interaction is a Social Interaction.  The post did have some back and forth with people willing to share their thoughts. I may need to retract my conclusion, or at least alter it. It it not really binary, it is a continuum, and there are degrees of social. Phil Soffer, Vice President of Product Marketing at Lithium Technologies wrote a great post which I think gets to the heart of the matter. Phil suggests the following:

“a more rigorous definition of the forms that Social CRM interaction takes. I’m not talking about channels here: Facebook versus Twitter, or whatever. I’m talking more about norms and expectations that govern the interaction.”

Phil went on the discuss the Typology of Social CRM Sociability. I agree with the concept, and even some of the specifics. I would like add a bit to this and state the following, the intent of an interaction speaks much more to the Sociability than the channel used. I can broadcast a commercial on YouTube, do nothing but send spam links on Twitter just as easily as I can pick up the phone or send an email to a group of people – which is Social which is not?

The 6 Degrees of Social Interactions

Here are examples of the 6 Degrees of Social Interactions from the Customer perspective. Since this is a continuum, as you progress from 1-6, the characteristics suggest that the customer is becoming a Social Customer.

  1. I said what I am said, really not hoping for a response, just action – monologue
  2. I am talking, hoping for acknowledgment, not necessarily a response, but might be nice – venting
  3. We are talking, but the conversation is a bit one sided – skewed
  4. I am actively asking for information, will not be happy until I get it – social pressure
  5. We are engaged in a conversation and others may join in to push things forward – objective
  6. A community of conversations Many to Many – icing on the cake

Here are examples of the 6 Degrees of Social Interaction from the Business’s Perspective. Since this is a continuum, as you progress from 1-6, the characteristics suggest that the Business is becoming a Social Business.

  1. Here is my press release, look at me – broadcast
  2. Register and Download my whitepaper – broadcast with bait
  3. We are listening, but I am really waiting to talk – pretending
  4. We are blogging and hoping the message makes it out untarnished – comment, nicely please
  5. The Facebook Fanpage is set up, I hope everyone is nice – <fingers crossed>
  6. A community of conversations Many to Many – objective

Is 6 Degrees enough? Probably not, the title sounded cool though. This is analog, not digital. How does this play into Social CRM and answering Bob’s question? Share your thoughts, mine are still gelling and I will share my thoughts in my next post. The short answer is yes, Social CRM can be done without Social Media/Networks, because Social CRM is as much about culture and other soft – but important – change management ideas.

People. Process. Results

March 17, 2010 2 comments

I had the pleasure of speaking with Chip Meyers, Sales Operations Manager at Insource Performance Solutions. Insource, in addition to being both a SugarCRM customer and an InsideView customer, they have a really cool tag line! My own mantra has been “People, Processs and Technology – In that order” for many years. But, looking at the Insource tag line, I had to take pause, and think – ‘hmm, that one is a bit more powerful’. Insource is about helping companies ‘get it done’; “refine, manage and execute labor-intensive processes within our customers’ manufacturing and distribution facilities.” But to take it even further;  “Insource is accountable for increasing throughput, improving quality, and reducing cost.”

My conversation with Chip was not as much about what Insource does, but the early stages of customer engagement, the sales process. However, I became a little nervous when I began doing a little bit of research, as the bar seems quite high, based on what Insource itself, does for its clients. I am not sure I am ready to change my own personal tag line just yet, but if I do, I know where to look! What I began to realize is that Insource is implementing parts of Social CRM as well as parts of Enterprise 2.0.

Expectations

In speaking with Chip, I started off simple and light and asked; with respect to the implementation of the system (SugarCRM and Salesview), what are the expectations?:

“Our corporate culture is all about performance; that is what we sell.  So with anything we do; be it a new customer engagement or implementation of a new resource, there is an expectation of success.”

That pretty much says it. In order to dig in a bit, I further asked how success should be (and is) measured throughout the organization. Chip’s answer here surprised me a little, but then discussing it further it was more clear. To save you the same confusion, I will give a little bit of background. Insource does not consider itself a “transactional sales company” rather, Insource is more focused on “long term engagements with customers, and to become part of their organizations”. So, back to the measurement of success:

“Although we are a metrics driven company I’m going to focus on the subjective way we are judging CRM success.    I am not that interested in activity metrics of a typical SFA (although Sugar can do that) I am interested in results.”

During the course of the conversation, Chip relayed to me that the cycles are typically three to six months, sometimes longer. This falls squarely in the Business to Business realm. During the sales cycle, there is an accumulation of a tremendous of amount of customer information. This information needs to be captured, shared and the users need to adopt the application if they are going to find value. The sales cycle is not simply long without cause, the products and services provided need to match the needs of the clients. Customers will speak with many different parts of the Insource organization, including Sales, Engineering and Operations:

“The data capture starts with Sales, and transfers through to Engineering and ultimately to the Operations team who manage the ongoing relationships.  Sugar has enabled that flow of information to be much more efficient and that ultimately improves our ability to serve our customers.   As everyone has seen this happening, adoption has improved.  I call that success. “

How smart are the customers – Very!

I wanted to bring my conversation back around a bit, to some topics we will be talking about with Chip at the event in Boston. This is also very high up when the topic of Social CRM or Inbound Marketing are discussed. I asked Chip his perspective on whether “prospects are more educated than they used to be, just a few years ago?” Chip has a great answer, worth reading in full. The interesting part is the transition over time:

“Without a doubt!  We are one of the original innovators in our field.  So, years ago, our challenge was just explaining to people what the business model was and why it made sense.  Now there are a number of companies trying to do what we do, and therefore more general awareness in the marketplace.  We are now at point where we are seeking to cut through the clutter and get our message heard above the din. In our business, like many, it is all about serving the customer and making ourselves invaluable to them. An effective CRM strategy and aggregating market intelligence so our business development team can be better informed than our competition is critical.”

I cannot add much to that, so I will leave well enough alone. I am quite impressed with how Insource is approaching the process. As Chip relayed to me a couple times, it is about culture. With a strong focus on customer success, any technology decisions simply need to fit in, enable and scale what people are already doing. I am hoping that you will join us at the event next week, where Chip will be demonstrating the applications in action!

This post was the 3rd in the series, the first an interview with Dharmesh Shah, Co-Author of Inbound Marketing and Founder of Hubspot, The second an interview with Umberto Milletti, CEO and co-founder of InsideView, (about Intelligent Aggregation) – all leading up to what is shaping up to be an awesome event in Boston on March 23: Bridging the gap between Social Media hype and business value, sponsered by BrainSell.

This post was supposed to be done Monday, however, I was a bit waterlogged! For those not located on the east coast of the US, Boston picked up between 5 and 7 inches of rain, and if that was not enough, I traveled to  New Jersey to enjoy the rain….again. I did make home, where it is nice and dry – Mitch

Rapid Social Sales Response by Intelligent Aggregation

March 7, 2010 4 comments

This is a follow-up post from last weeks interview with Dharmesh Shah, Co-Author of Inbound Marketing and Founder of Hubspot, The series itself leads up to an even in Boston on March 23: Bridging the gap between Social Media hype and business value, sponsered by BrainSell. In addition to Dharmesh, we have an equally compelling presentation by Umberto Milletti, CEO and co-founder of InsideView, who I caught up with via email last week.

Before I get to the interview;  I wanted to mention the great report put out by The Altimeter Group, this past week. The content of the report includes 18 well described Use Cases for Social CRM. If you are in this space (CRM, Social CRM) this is an important read. In full disclosure, part of the title of this post is Use Case S2 – Rapid Social Sales Response. Listed as a “Vendor to Watch” (one of only 4) InsideView is very well positioned in this space. The timing is great for me, as I needed a title, and I was in process of interviewing the CEO!

Monitoring key channels and integrating this into your processes

I started out with a simple question (along with my usual long winded set-up): On the one side of the coin there is the need to “be found” and “get noticed”. On the other, there is the need to search, find, alert and insert that into a process. Do you see these as discrete processes? How can teams work together to make sure there are no silos and we are all seeking to achieve the same end goal – happy, new and engaged customers?

Engaging customers in a productive conversation and driving them [to an] outcome requires multiple touch points. For those in sales and marketing, the key is being relevant in all points of this conversation.  Relevance requires knowledge” I agree wholeheartedly – a very important statement we all need to keep in mind. Umberto went on further to highlight a point made by Dharmesh as well: “Since prospect and customers are more educated than ever about your products, services, strengths and weaknesses, they will only value the conversation if you can bring something useful and relevant to the table.” As Altimeter points out their report, “participating in in the right conversation at the right time a sale can be intercepted from a competitor’s hand”. I would like to think that ‘right place, right time can also prevent it from even going there, but that is just me. Silos will get in the way as well, the message needs to be consistent.

I wanted to dig a little deeper, so I followed up with a question or two to get some details. Even with the sophisticated filtering, aggregation and analysis, do some organizations feel that there is just too much data? In speaking with your customers, what kind of cultural changes needed to be made within the organization in order to effectively take advantage of the “Social” era we have entered into?

With respect to the first part, Umberto had this to say “Information overload is a real issue. It is crucial to filter information to its most relevant bits and ensure usability by delivering it in existing workflows, easily accessible in the business productivity applications we spend most of our time in.” To this end, very often SalesView (the InsideView product) integrates the aggregated information into an existing CRM or SFA application. If knowledge workers, specifically sales types try to go after the information directly, there may not be enough hours in the day! ” Attempting to access social information from the increasing number of sources – and trying to determine what’s relevant to further business goals – is too time consuming and adversely impacts productivity.”

The name of the game is “Intelligent Aggregation”

Umberto stated the following, and I see no reason to alter his words: “What we need is “intelligent aggregation” of both very dynamic social data as well as the more static but still important basic business data (revenues, industry, phone, email addresses…) . “Aggregation” addresses the “too many sources” issue by delivering a single go-to place…”Intelligence” ensures accuracy and relevance at the individual user level through innovative use of technology and filters.”

I have been doing a bit of thinking on the cultural changes required to make this all work. I posted about it last week. In response to my question about culture, Umberto’s comments were very much inline with my own thinking (phew). “The main cultural change required of sales and marketing organization is a shift from the traditional selling processes (cold calling, feature-selling, low-yield marketing campaigns) to a selling process based on relevance and value-add. The education on [ or provided by] social media is happening every day for all of us in our consumer lives, and since sales organization tend towards younger demographics they are very open to using social tools.”

While the conversation is done for the sake of this interview, the journey has just begun. As Umberto states, “Fortunately, the social web provides ample information on people and companies.” There is the understatement of the day!  The real challenge for the practitioners is “to make this information available to all customer-facing employees in a productive fashion.” that is the intelligence part!

I want to thank Umberto for taking the time. Please join us if you are in the Boston area, the discussion is going to be very informative and quite fun! In case anyone is wondering, yes we are going to see all of this in action.

Bridging the gap between social media hype and business value

March 2, 2010 6 comments

This is a cross post – with the primary post being my first on the CRM Outsiders blog. Since the location is different, I am altering the introduction a bit (you know content is king and context is queen and all that).

I do lots of different things for SugarCRM, among them is the beat up the regular author of the CRM Outsiders blog, asking him to write about this or that…So, Martin said in his best mannered Philadelphia tone – “Mitch, if you think it should be said, then start typing” (For those of you who know Martin, that might not be exactly what he said, but we are trying to keep this PG-13).

It is interesting that my first post (on CRM Outsiders) is about an upcoming event in Boston. The interesting part is who the keynote speaker is at the event is, and if I read and understood his book, my job is to make this post as interesting as possible, without being too pushy. I am confident that I can do that, and even went so far as to interview him for this post. Throughout the next couple months, I will be joining Martin more frequently to help set the stage for some of the events SugarCRM will be attending or hosting. Call it the pre-game show if you will. I have been know to bring March madness into the commentary for the US folks and maybe we can even weave a little World Cup into the discussion as we get closer to June.

I am not sure if I will cross post all of these, but I felt an interview with Dharmesh is a worthy post, given just how much he has to offer!

The first stop on the journey is Boston, MA on March 23rd. The event theme is bridging the gap between Social Media hype and business value. I am excited about all of the upcoming events, but this one in particular is a great way to kick things off. Keynoting the event is Dharmesh Shah, Co-Author of Inbound Marketing and Founder of Hubspot.  Full details of the Agenda and other presenters can be found here:

As a lead-in to the event, I conducted a few short, informal, interviews with the presenters, which I will intertwine with my own thoughts through a few blog entries. First on the list is Dharmesh Shah, who I was able to catch-up with prior to his trip to the SXSW conference in Austin. I suppose that I am a bit jealous, SXSW would be a great time! But, I digress, back to the topic at hand:

It is about business value, it always has been and it always will be!

Since the objective is always to derive business value from all investments (make no mistake, people and time are investments too) we make as a company, it is important to understand where investments can and should be made. Some of my peers in the AC might suggest it is really about helping customers get jobs done, and preparing to be an outside-in organization. Yes, that too, but I will address that in another post ( or reference yours).

Being on the ‘bleeding’ edge is not always the best place to be, nor is being a laggard. With this in mind, I asked Dharmesh where on the traditional Geoffrey Moore (Crossing the Chasm) adoption curve businesses are with respect to acting (culture) and being (tools and process) Social. Here is what Dharmesh had to say:

“I don’t think we’ve quite hit the early majority quite yet as it comes to social media marketing.  Though there are millions of users joining services like Facebook and Twitter, much of this activity is still individuals making connections — often with no commercial agenda or motive. Many businesses are discovering the potential of the new media and the more ambitious ones are already finding ways to connect to their prospects and customers through these channels. Forward-thinking businesses will capitalize on the shift and encourage their employees to interact online. “

Next I wanted to explore a bit more on the specifics around sales, sales process and engagement. Here is my (long winded) question:

Inbound Marketing (getting found) and leveraging Social Networks (alerts, notifications and process) seem to be two sides of a very important coin. In the context of business to business, the process from getting found, to Prospect, to Lead, to Opportunity, to Customer is not always simple. Since trust is such a big factor, how do you envision a hand-off from Marketing (team) to Sales (team)? In BtoB Lead nurturing might need to be a little more personal 1 to 1 than other consumer types of business, no?

“Absolutely.  In a B2B selling environment, the need to allow the prospect to move through the sales funnel at a pace that makes sense still exists (with or without Inbound Marketing).  My position here is:  Online channels can be used very well to “educate” the prospect in a non-threatening way.  This helps build trust and allows the person to engage the business in ways that are comfortable.  For example, in the “old” B2B selling context, the sales professional would often hold much of the power and release information slowly and deliberately to help “push along” the process.  It was very one-sided.  Now, people expect to find much more information about a business and its offering on the web — without the need to have to go through a gatekeeper.  Whitepapers, customer testimonials and case studies are all content that helps the prospect make a more informed decision.”

There are lots of great ‘nuggets’ in his answer, but there is one that needs highlighting. Online channels absolutely need to be used to educate in a non-threatening way. In other words, we are working to create buyers not sell to people. This approach is what allows you to build and create trust. Gatekeepers, command and control are things that get in the way of building trust. Help people to find what they need, do not simply tell them what they need. This is what the Social part of CRM is about – treating people with respect, as you would a friend.

I would like to thank Dharmesh for his time. If you are in or around Boston, I hope you can join us. We will also be having very similar conversations at SugarCon in April – more on that soon!

The Social Business Engine (part 3 of n) – Sales

February 2, 2010 Leave a comment

“If you see a fork in the road, take it” Yogi Berra made this statement many years ago. What is  great about this quote is that he was simply giving directions to his house. His house (at the time) was located on a loop at the end of the road leading to it. It did not really matter which way you turned, you ended up at the right place. Many people have joked about the quote, as it can be interpreted many different ways. Here is the relevance in the statement:

Yogi had a destination in mind!

I know that I am preaching to the choir, but when you are faced with a decision – the fork in the road – be sure that you understand the ultimate destination (not just the tactical one). Evolving your current business into a Social business will involve many decisions. Good friend and colleague Esteban Kolsky posted what I jokingly said to him could have been my third post in this series. Please take a look, his words are worth reading. I do not think that I will take as firm of a stance as he did, but as you design your own Social Business and the Engine that drives it, the function of sales needs serious evaluation.

The Destination remains the same – creating buyers and adding value

Notice, I did not say “sales force” or “sales person” I am speaking to the function, not the person. If the destination is to create buyers, and add value does it matter who ‘sold the deal’. It is mostly about ‘Trust’. There is the trust in the person who advises the buyer and there is the trust by association when that buyer is introduced to the company with whom they would like to do business with, the exchange of value.

I wrote previously, something Esteban referenced as well:

“As a buyer, people are more likely to trust someone who they feel is an ‘expert’ – oh and someone they know. In the eyes of the buyer, the seller must display professionalism, an understanding of the need, empathy.”

So, who is this person and do they need to be directly associated with the company? That I believe to be at the heart of the issue. Trust now appears to be about two things – trusting an intermediary, who is compensated as well as establishing trust with the company who the buyer would like to transact with. Since the compensation is based solely on the transaction, is a 3rd party really a value add?

Esteban also states the following:

“In this new model, a sales person is the one who brings the right customer to the right transaction, not by secretive manipulation to extract the maximum value possible — but to ensure that both sides receive and even value exchange for the transaction.

They become trusted advisors to the client and to the organization, brokering the relationship.  They change their roles from distrusted information gatekeepers to trusted brokers.”

I do not have strong arguments to counter what Esteban is writing. However, I do not believe that in order to transition from the “information gatekeepers” to active participants in the Social Business the sales function is required to live outside of the company four walls. That said, it might be better for them to be there – the decision is yours, make sure you have the data to help make that decision.

It is possible that sales people could simply change their behavior. The qualifications to meet the needs of the role are the same, if they exist outside, right? This will be an industry, cultural and business size decision. What Esteban describes sounds a lot like partners in the ecosystem. If we solve the convergence of  Enterprise 2.0 and Social CRM (and/or Social Business) this is less of a problem as well. They can be either place – it does not matter.

The exact path is not as important as the destination, I cannot prescribe. I believe that Esteban and I are in agreement that what the buyer really wants is to get past the barriers and walls and directly to the people and information with whom they can understand the true value proposition of whatever it is they are trying to buy.

Bringing this home a bit, regarding the Social Business Engine. As your business becomes more social, it is now more than a simple alignment of sales and marketing. It is an alignment of People and Processes who support these functions, whether they are inside your four walls or not.

To end with another great Yogi Berra quote: “If you don’t know where you are going, you might end up someplace else.