Extending the Definition of Social CRM

Best-selling author and social CRM expert Paul Greenberg defines social CRM as a philosophy and a business strategy supported by a technology platform, business rules, workflow, processes, and social characteristics designed to engage a customer in a collaborative conversation to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted and transparent business environment. While this definition may seem complex, I often find that people assume social CRM is simpler than it is, that they see it as embedding a few external listening tools in an otherwise traditional CRM.

In fact, when you look at the vendors that analysts cover in the social collaboration space, that really is all they are doing—listening. Obviously, this is a valuable component, but is it enough? As the first generation of social enterprise, do you want to limit your social CRM definition to just the outside world?

It's important to think about the things that impact the conversations happening in the world around us. Naturally, the mind goes to advertisements, news, and publications, but in the B2B space, I can't remember the last time I made a sale based on a fantastic marketing ad. In the B2B space, much of the brand is built by the interactions between enterprise sellers and customers. Let's examine how your enterprise sales reps prepare for a brand-defining conversation.

Typically, they start with their corporate pitch, and if the seller is truly extraordinary, he or she incorporates some customer knowledge into the initial conversation. From there, sales cycles move on, products are pitched, experts are brought in, and opinions on your organization are formed. Essentially, your rep is defining your brand. And you are relying on your front line sales guy to paint the external picture of your organization in every customer interaction.

Social CRM is a great way to track the effectiveness of how your B2B sellers perform when it comes to brand and message compliance. This is an important step for enterprises entering the social space. Today's leaders understand that social CRM is more than monitoring and reacting, and they want to be proactive in improving the conversations between sellers and buyers. This is where we need to extend the definition of social CRM.

Social CRM must not only monitor, but also help our sellers through internal social collaboration to deliver the best message in every customer-facing conversation. Social is not just an external phenomenon. It exists everywhere within our organizations. If collaboration is happening all across the organization, we must ensure that the right people are collaborating and moving in the right direction. This is referred to as "guided collaboration," the ability to pull together the best team, information, and next steps, based on the selling situation.

In order for the definition of social CRM to truly accomplish what the market is asking, we need to tweak Greenberg's definition. Here's my suggested revise:

Social CRM is defined as a philosophy and a business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules, workflow, processes, and social characteristics, designed to prepare sellers for the best conversation and engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted and transparent business environment.

The change to the definition is slight. However, if the conversations your sellers are having don't include the best message, it doesn't matter how collaborative they are.

Think about the last few years in the consumer space. Nothing is done without the combination of internal and external social collaboration. As people make larger purchases, they start with their internal network, friends, and family. Then they browse the Web for reviews, marketing, and product specs. Even in a B2B environment, it is certain that buyers will be looking internally and externally to ensure the best business decision. As this definition expands, don't forget, it is not just about collaboration, but "guided, best practice collaboration."

I would like to ask all of you to think about the impact your sellers' message has on your organization. What is the impact of not putting forth the best message in every conversation? Try to determine how you can improve the conversations that your sellers are having, and what type of team is necessary to back that up. The old definition of social CRM is a great concept, and there are plenty of great tools out there. As you are using social CRM to measure the effectiveness of your message, remember to have a plan in place to improve based on your findings. Stop reacting to social media, and start leveraging the best team for every conversation, in turn improving the discussions that cover your organization's brand and services. This will bring you into the new age of social CRM, which is where you need to be to stay competitive.

Dan Schleifer is senior director of marketing at SAVO Group, responsible for corporate and product marketing. He has worked for more than 14 years in marketing, product management, and sales enablement roles with B2B software start-ups.

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