A friend passed this article along to me knowing that I stay on top of these types of stories. Little did I know that they mentioned NetSuite as a pioneer of the Sales 2.0 era. Thanks Jake!
It’s a question almost as old as commerce itself: Is selling an art or a science? For years, technology companies have been trying to transform the former into the latter. And for years, the results have largely been disappointing.
Think of those days as Sales 1.0. We’re now in the era of Sales 2.0. Your bottom line may never be the same.
Remember the bad old days of sales-oriented technology? Customer relationship management systems that cost a fortune to install and crashed easily. Downloadable lists of sales leads filled with old or bogus data. E-mail marketing tools that targeted the wrong consumers. And on and on.
Fortunately, software firms that target small companies with sales tools have been getting smarter and smarter. Following pioneers such as Salesforce.com (NYSE:CRM) and NetSuite, a new generation of companies is offering easy-to-use, cheap (indeed, often free) technology that can supercharge the performance of your sales force–with minimal training and virtually none of the heavy-duty installation associated with the CRM systems of the past. With lead-generation and networking services, e-mail marketing products, relationship managing tools, and other bells and whistles, it’s now possible to turn a sales operation into a gleaming high-tech machine. Here’s a quick tutorial on some of the new tools and a nine-step guide to launching your sales force into the future.
1. Build a bigger Rolodex
Jigsaw, Ziggs, ZoomInfo, Spoke
How They Work
It’s said that a salesperson is only as good as his or her Rolodex. Fortunately, it’s now easy to have a much, much bigger Rolodex. There are a number of websites that invite businesspeople to upload and share their contacts with one another. The most popular is probably Jigsaw, which boasts 4.3 million contacts from professionals in the United States, Europe, and Asia. Subscribers can pay $25 per month to download 25 new contacts; you also can upload contacts from your own Rolodex in exchange for Jigsaw points, which can be accumulated and used for more downloads. Once you’re signed up, most contacts come with direct phone lines and e-mail addresses; if a contact turns out to have bad information, Jigsaw awards points to users who report the problem and docks the user who uploaded the info. Two other online services, Ziggs and ZoomInfo, allow users to pay to download contacts or add their own profile. ZoomInfo also provides sales data and listings of competitors within industries, a neat tool.
Other services are taking the kinds of lists traditionally offered by Hoover’s and InfoUSA (NASDAQ:IUSA) and putting them on a dose of steroids. Spoke takes big lists from providers like InfoUSA, enhances them by combining these lists with Web search data and user-validated list data, and adds it all together to create better lists. Spoke also makes it easy to slice and dice them by industry, geography, company, or revenue level. Ziggs is free; ZoomInfo is free for basic service, but advanced searches can cost as much as $12,000 a year.
Case In Point
As the director of inside sales at Bay Area e-mail security provider PostX, John Fales has long used the Web to prospect sales leads. But using Google can be time-consuming and cumbersome. And the lists provided by major providers were often filled with incomplete or outdated information. Then Fales heard about Jigsaw. The service made it a cinch to find multiple decision makers inside large companies and organizations. Fales says use of Jigsaw has sliced more than 50 percent off the PostX sales cycle. “We’ve been able to get into accounts very quickly as well as find a variety of potential players in a position to buy the product through the service,” he says. “It’s been consistently helpful. It would be very difficult to go back to the old way.”
2. Network more efficiently
LinkedIn, Ryze, BranchIt, CompanyClick
How They Work
The kids have MySpace and Facebook, and it’s hard not to be envious. In a matter of hours online, they’re building vast networks of connections–the kinds of networks that take businesspeople years of mixers and rubber-chicken dinners to create.
Unless you’re selling something like video games or skateboarding gear, you’re probably not going to have much luck marketing on MySpace. Fortunately, a number of social networking services geared toward small business have emerged. They promise to change the way we network forever. Palo Alto, California-based LinkedIn, for example, is often described as MySpace for businesspeople. You won’t find videos, MP3s, or other flashy media on the site’s bare-bones profile pages. What you will find are resumés, people’s professional affiliations, special interests–and lots of them. LinkedIn has nearly eight million registered users from more than 100 countries spanning 130 separate industries, including thousands of top executives.