Social Media & The Sales Team

Over the course of the last few weeks, I’ve been privileged to discuss Social Media Marketing issues with some of the country’s largest retailers.

I was impressed and surprised by the level of congruity between Marketing and Customer Service.  Many of these brands have finally embraced the fact that chatter about their brands online is as worthy of attention and response as an article in the mainstream media.

Sidebar: For more on this topic, including how Social Media is impacting the Contact Centers of large brands, I sincerely recommend you check out Jeremiah Owyang’s Social CRM Pioneers Google Group, and of course Jeremiah’s own recent post.

As inspiring as it was to see these retailers’ new enthusiasm — for a trend that used to cause them to despair about a “loss of control” — I also noted a not-so-happy disconnect between Marketing and Sales/Merchandizing.

IStock_000014013295XSmallFor as much as Marketing and Customer Service have aligned, the Sales teams at these retailers still seemed to very much consider Social Media to be “just another channel” and, worse, a “magical” channel.

Time and again, I heard retailers’ community managers complain of numerous requests from Sales to “tweet about the latest promotions,” as if tweeting about a newly-discounted product would lead to a wild revenue boost.

Luckily, most of these community managers were finding a proper balance. They might push back on Sales; they might create a separate Twitter handle or Facebook page exclusively for branded deals and coupons; etc.  In all cases it was too soon to gauge the effectiveness of these approaches: they were stopgap measures intended to “get Sales off our backs” while they went about monitoring/responding/engaging for the sake of community building.

I predict a time in the near future, though, where a rogue Sales team decides that the Marketing/Social team is moving too slowly, and goes their own way. Back in 2007, I wrote:

It’s not hard to imagine the ounce of naivete required for a marketing manager to consider a paid blogger relations campaign.  They might not even think to check-in with the corporate PR department – they may give such a campaign no more weight than if they were crafting a new piece of direct mail.

To the unsophisticated marketer, this “blogging stuff” may simply represent a new channel to exploit.

Today I’d only amend it to say, “this ‘Twitter stuff,’” and I’d be more likely to pin the potential troublemaker as a salesman vs. a marketing manager.  Today’s marketers have learned from the mistakes of their peers.  Because many salespeople are laser focused on revenue-generation, they may have missed those Best Practices and may be doomed to repeat some of those past mistakes.

Make no mistake: while railroads have been built and clapboard towns are being erected, the Social Media landscape is still very much the Wild West.

Posted on: October 19, 2010 at 1:03 pm By Todd Defren
14 Responses to “Social Media & The Sales Team”


  • Cyrus says:

    Wild West? I’d go one step further and say gold rush… There are so many people out there, who don’t even know how to spell twitter and yet think they needed an account for their company. I can imagine that there is a lot of hot air in the bubble that might burst at some given time for many coporations, who do not really know how to implement social media. As far as my knowledge goes, I think that many just set up a social profile, not really knowing what it is good for, and how to implement a social campaign in their daily business.

  • asif says:

    Social media is playing a vital role in making the company’s Customer Support department more active. Now it is very easy to get customer’s original feedback directly for Decision Makers. They can interact directly with customers using social media tools.I think in near future neglecting social media’s importance will be a stupidity.

  • Caitlin Frantzen says:

    People today are using social media as an outlet to complain – and commend – a product, company, and brand they feel strongly about. I think it is wonderful that companies are starting to pay attention to these comments. People pay attention to social media, it is essential that a company do everything in its power to make the customer happy, which includes listening and responding to these comments online. For a company to grow, this is the next step in the process.

  • Louisa says:

    Each department has their own slightly different objectives so there will probably always be a feeling of wanting to get someone off your back. The problem lies in everyone wanting to use the same channel to get their message out! Not sure I’d want to be mediating that discussion!

  • This problem sounds so familiar. Most companies in Italy for example consider social media channels exactly like another sales revenues means, mindless spamming of offers and promotions hoping people will choose to opt-in to stuff they usually fight to opt-out from.
    While some definitely get it right and consider SM as a long term investment, the majority of brands still are on the “educational” phase, but I am confident they’ll get there.

  • The balance between community and commerce is indeed a delicate one, but just trying to “get Sales off our backs” is the wrong attitude. I don’t see any shame in the fact that a company has to sell a product to stay in business and I don’t think customers/community members expect anything less – it’s all in how you do it. As I’ve heard Chris Brogan put it in such blunt terms you can’t forget them, you have to get to know someone before you try to put your tongue down their throat. Rather than putting sales teams off, social media and community managers should instead be working to educate them on the differences in communicating to customers in social media. There’s no way we can stop the Wild West capability of anyone to create a new Twitter account, but we can work (constantly) to round up and wrangle those dogies – not just to corral them, but to brand them social media enthusiasts and to send them back out in their Sales world with respect for the landscape.

  • Andrea Franz says:

    I also agree with the idea that social media is still unchartered territory and very much the “Wild West.” Already there has been so much progress made. There are now numerous avenues in which one can be involved when it comes to social media. People can use the sites for their own personal desire while companies can use them to market its brand. While the idea of tweeting and using Facebook to advertise different aspects of a company is still green, the concept is quickly becoming the norm. A company is seen as antiquated if it does not at least have a Facebook. It will be exciting to see what the next few years produces in the world of social media.

  • Krystle says:

    I agree very much that social media is still very much the “wild west.” I am taking a class on it now, because it is certainly important and very new to us. We know that it has opened up new ways of communicating and, in tern, has opened up new doors for sales people. However, it is really still such a new avenue of communication that I feel like everyone is still learning when it comes to social media. It is difficult to anticipate the specific ways in which it will become useful to sales people. All we know right now is that it has the potential to be very influential. I think that it is important to pay more attention to exploring new ways in which social media can be used to generate sales.

  • Tracy Dupree says:

    I work for a company that makes contact center solutions for customer service. Now more then ever social media and customer service need to be tied together to capture the full and real time conversatoin. As for the comment, “Because many salespeople are laser focused on revenue-generation…,” well, yeah, hellloooo, sales people ARE tied to revenue…that’s why they’re not called the customer service nor marketing department.

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