• January 29, 2010
  • By Simon Bradstock, VP & managing director, Dow Jones Enterprise Media Group

The Next Generation of B2B Social Networking

Over the past year, social networking applications have proliferated across many departments in the corporation.  Sales departments especially are groups where "who you know" can mean the difference between success and failure. Let's take that thought to the next logical level - it's not just who you know, but who you and your colleagues know that will enable your pipeline to grow.  It's the first piece of what we now call "social selling"- being aware of every person to whom we're connected and having the information that tells us when they may be ready to buy (a trigger).   This article covers how to find that elusive connection through social networking.

Designed to help salespeople quickly identify the best path to connect with prospects, social networking tools leverage the contacts of employees across the company, revealing connections to important decision makers.  Unlike consumer alternatives, B2B social networking combines the base power of "who you know" with the breadth of business contacts listed in public databases and contacts in an organization's in-house email and CRM systems - who "your colleagues know".

Imagine locating someone inside your sales organization with a connection to a key contact at a large target account.  Leveraging that relationship could result in a fast introduction, catapulting a salesperson towards the latter stages of the sales cycle.  New solutions make this vision a reality.

B2B social networking for salespeople combines existing network contacts with the breadth of publicly available insight on millions of executives, creating a super-network. Designed to help salespeople rapidly make contact with decision makers, B2B social networking is helping sales teams expedite contact and eliminate hours of research.  Used as discovery tools to reveal the best path to key people at prospect companies, these new solutions combine the best of social networking with public domain information to provide a clear and reliable contact path. 

Unlike traditional social networks, B2B social networks show every contact that leads to a prospect, whether those people are in a salesperson's network or not.  Much like online mapping services reveal the best path to a destination, B2B social networking for salespeople shows precisely who the best connections are to a prospect, using corporate-wide social contacts and publicly available insight.

Not only does public information provide biographies on key individuals, it also reveals or verifies who worked with them in the past, what schools they attended, what boards they sat on, and so on.  By drawing from a database of millions of publicly-known contacts and applying the information to the sales team's contacts, the result is a super-network for salespeople.

When seeking a B2B social networking solution to assist the sales team in making connections to prospects, consider the following important requirements:

  • Goes beyond existing contacts: Make sure the solution leverages a databaseof executives and can draw connections based on where an executive worked, what boards he or she served on, which schools he or she attended and their community affiliations. This information should be combined with known network contacts to reveal the best path to prospects.
  • Does not require opt-in involvement with social networks: Many key executives do not participate in existing social networks. The ideal solution should still be able to add these individuals using Web crawling and aggregation from public data sources, resulting in a very powerful network.
  • Email integration: Seek a solution that can import contacts from email such as Microsoft Outlook to represent contacts who may not be participating with existing social networks.
  • Works with existing social networking tools: Seek a solution that will leverage the "who you know" contacts within existing social networks and add linked contacts from public data sources to form a solid bridge between known and unknown individuals.
  • Examines current and past relationships: The ideal solution should be able to determine current and past work history and other relevant past affiliations to draw important connections.
  • Represents millions of businesses: Look for a solution with a comprehensive database to ensure the largest possible network.
  • CRM integration: Seek a solution that integrates with existing CRM software to increase the ease of use and adoption of the solution and provide single point of access.
  • Highly accurate information: The ideal solution should accurately verify the integrity of individuals and their relationships to ensure the best path to prospects and eliminate wasted effort.
  • Includes peer relationships: Make sure the solution can uncover relationships within your organization and how they connect to the prospect, ensuring that connections among willing participants are shown.
  • Reveals the complete path: Look for a solution that will show the entire path to the prospect, including names and biographies, to help salespeople make the best decisions regarding contact methods.
  • Examines multiple levels of relationships: Make sure the solution goes beyond existing social network connections and include a prospect's work history, education history and executive board memberships when providing a path to a prospect.

About the Author

Simon Bradstock (simon.bradstock@dowjones.com) is the vice president and managing director, Dow Jones Enterprise Media Group.  For more information, go to http://www.solutions.dowjones.com/sales.

Please note that the Viewpoints listed in CRM magazine and appearing on destinationCRM.com represent the perspective of the authors, and not necessarily those of the magazine or its editors. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top.
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