The Other Side of Social CRM – Sales Agent vs. Prospect Transparency

After I put together my last post yesterday on my take on where social CRM investments should lie, I had a great talk with Tim Hickernell, and analyst with Info-Tech research who has long been covering collaborative CRM and related topics.

We started talking about the Facebook/LinkedIn dilemma and Tim brought up a good point, which he calls the “magic/tragic” aspect of the social CRM scenario. What Tim means, is that for every 10 great levels of connection an agent might have with a prospect – it only take one disconnect to destroy the potential relationship. For example, if a prospect is a huge Ohio State fan and is communicating with a rep through Facebook, he may shy away from a deal or the vendor if the rep in question has Michigan State allegiances posted all over his profile.

This is an extreme case, and I don’t think being a fan of a sports team would nix a deal outright. but political, religious, etc. associations on a rep’s profile in a social networking site could have some negative impact on some prospects’ opinions.

All too often, the value of social CRM is seen as one directional: The seller is mining social networks for valuable information. While this is true, for the vendor to have any authenticity or legitimacy in selling through these new channels, it must be understood that this is a two-way street. Visibility is gained by both parties. Now, this is not a bad thing. But I think that guidelines for social CRM sales teams may spring up to downplay potential pitfalls. For example, more vanilla profiles across the board for reps and other customer-facing company personnel would be a good start.

Social CRM brings a lot of cool capabilities into traditional B2B CRM. But we are very much at the front end of the learning curve. A lot of issues are going to pop up, and we need to anticipate the unexpected, if we can’t be totally prepared.