Last night was the February meeting of TEXCHANGE - Austin Chapter. This round-table discussion group for technology entrepreneurs always provides great topics, expert panelists and lively conversations.
The panel consisted of:
Dave Panos, CEO - Pluck
Justin Halloran, VP Sales - HomeAway
Michael Osborne, VP Sales - Bazaarvoice
Randy Meriwether, President - Meriwether Consulting Group
The moderator was Chris Ostertag, CEO - Hyper9
The conversation covered a wide variety of sales and marketing topics with a keen focus on the ways that the internet changes everything. Companies need to pay close attention to what their customers are saying and doing. It is to a companies advantage to get their customers talking about their products or services on the web. This client driven dialog is at the core of creating true "word-of-mouth" . While many companies fear the free flow of client comments, the studies show that over 80% of what is said on-line about businesses (by their clients) is positive.
Blogs have also become a powerful tool for businesses to start the online discussion. The suggestion is not to write sales oriented posts, but instead real credible pieces (often by customers, vendors, etc...) that will serve as an endorsement about your product or service. When your customers act as your sales team, you win. Setting up ways for you customers to network with each other, on-line or in person, will also help drive your sales.
The panel also touched on other social online networking and media applications. Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, JigSaw, and countless others had best be in your vocabulary. These tools are becoming more mainstream and the new power word is "transparency". Your company cannot hide it's flaws in today's on-line, interconnected world....so don't even try. Be present on the internet and build a community of those who know you.
Much of the discussion had a marketing slant, but that is because the separate worlds of sales and marketing are no longer separate. Sales 3.0 is no different than Sales 1.0, it is still about closing the deal. However how you use the tools that are available today will make the difference in how well you sell. It will allow you to get closer to more people. There is a lot more noise in the marketplace today and before you can get "return on investment" you must get "return on attention". Prospects often will hide behind assistants, voicemail and email. They will only grant you an audience when they feel they know you.
Good sales people are still needed, as are outstanding PR, detailed case studies, and a great website with a strong analytics package. Relying on selling the way you did ten years ago will not lead you to the desired results. Things are changing, you must adapt.
Have A Great Day