• September 1, 2005
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

Blogs Can Boost Sales

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Blogs have gone from "Huh?" to Internet fad to way of life in a short span of time. Now blogs, along with chat rooms and instant messaging, are changing the way organizations function internally, and sales teams are using them to their advantage by broadening and speeding the flow of ideas and information among agents. "Communication takes a number of forms and uses different tools," says Pete Quintas, CTO of SolidSpace (formerly SilkRoad Technologies). "Sometimes the phone is the best way to exchange ideas, sometimes it's a face-to-face meeting. Technology has given us email, IM, and now blogs as another option." He suggests there are many ways a blog can have a positive impact on sales by getting sales teams to work smarter. The most common usage is self-promotion--an external blog where company insiders talk about products and events in a humanized voice. "Developer journals with fresh and frequent updates give the participants a stronger air of integrity and credibility," Quintas says. Beyond the public-facing blog, though, lie a lot more opportunities. Blogs don't have to be one-way communication. Quintas offers an example in his own company, which has replaced its weekly progress phone call. "We used to have a status call scheduled for every Friday. That meant arranging the schedules of 18 people and compressing their ideas into a one-hour call, and there were always the limits of a serial conversation, where one person talks at a time and there's an expected order of things," Quintas says. "By using the blog for status reporting, nobody needs to wait anymore. We note events as they happen, and business developments are in an instantly published and consumed form." This improves company reaction time removes the hour of meeting time (and the difficulties of keeping an executive schedule clear), and the time saved can be used for more productive purposes. Another place where blogs fill a need is in leveraging team resources. Quintas suggests that the internal blog can be a great motivational tool. "Sales departments can blog each deal, tracking it all the way from prospect stage, or just posting every closed sale," Quintas says. "When your team is closing half a dozen major sales a day, it gives the agents insight to sales velocity and is a great morale builder." The blog provides another way for salespeople to trade war stories, sharing details of a sale such as techniques used, competitors encountered, and hurdles overcome--unlike water cooler conferences, the particulars are recorded and searchable. "This also extends to information sharing for sales still in progress," Quintas says. "A salesperson with a problem used to call or email one or two individuals who they thought had specific expertise they needed. With the blog, requests for help and support can be seen by the entire force." Chat rooms can be used in the same way. The tricky part of instituting sales blogs, according to Quintas, is changing behavior to include this new technique. "It's like going to a mixer in high school. When you get there, everybody's quiet and not talking to many people. You get a few small groups talking and dancing, and the party takes off from there." The best way to learn, he suggests, is to read. "People learn how to blog--what to say, how to say it, how often to post--by reading other blogs. Have your sales team use an RSS feed or some other online news and content gatherer to get some relevant blogs, and start reading."
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