Know your customer - the rules are changing

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Patricia is President of Patricia Egen Consulting. Her firm started in 1998 and specializes in business consulting with an emphasis on technology.  They are Act! certified consultants and IBM business partners. The company does consulting, custom programming, training, installation and support.

Last week, I had lunch with the owner of a marketing firm that specializes in social media.  We discussed the changing face of marketing.   We also discussed the changing role of sales and salespeople.

Here’s a chicken and egg question – which came first – marketing or sales?  Talk to a salesperson and they will tell you it was them knocking on doors and making sales.  Talk to the marketing department and they say "well, no, if the customer had never heard of our product, the sales person wouldn’t have gotten to first base." That’s why I call it a chicken and egg question. 

Often, I run into organizations who think sales and marketing are one and the same – to which I say absolutely NOT.  If that organization thinks this, they are probably already in trouble.  There are different rules and techniques required for each process and they are evolving.  And it’s changing for both sales AND marketing.

Social Media and Social CRM are rapidly changing how we interact with our customers.  It’s no longer a push situation – it’s a two way communication stream.  The customer wants to hear about the product or service and wants to talk pricing.  However, now they do their research online before calling. After they have gotten the product, they want the dialog to continue. They want the ability to complain, compliment, suggest or comment on an ongoing basis.

I read an article that "claimed" salespeople would become an unnecessary burden and expense.  Websites, online marketing, "here kitty kitty" advertising, Facebook, all of the above would drive customers to buy. I don’t agree.  I do agree how people sell needs to change to accommodate the new emerging social and online model.

A primary role of salespeople is to advise customers of products and solutions.  The savvy customer can now find that themselves.  The fact that the customer can find it on their own is why you need a salesperson.  The customer may be overwhelmed with too much information and needs someone to help them figure out what’s right or wrong for their requirements.  The salesperson role is changing to that of a trusted adviser who knows what’s up and can help guide you through the morass of information.

My advice for salespeople and marketing staff is become very literate with the internet tools.  Know what Twitter does.  Sign up for LinkedIn, the largest old boy network.  Join groups on LinkedIn that are pertinent to your product and services.  Become a voice, and not just a lurker. 

Here’s a tip – most CRM packages incorporate the ability to find customers’ social media information. In Act!, it’s under the Web Info Tab. It’s one of my favorite places to go to research news information, map directions, and to connect via LinkedIn. I also use the Social Updates tab to quickly look at the customers updates. That’s very powerful and current information. It’s a goldmine of data.


In summary, this is the world of the future and it behooves salespeople to embrace it and become proficient social media pundits.   Or wait by the wayside while the other guy does.