It’s no secret. Social media has changed the way folks are doing business. But there’s a lot going on in the world of social media so one may ask, “How do you rise above all the noise?” Filtering information, connecting the right people at the right time, bringing companies together and making sure employees are on the same page is very necessary. In this interview, Umberto Milletti of InsideView joins Brent Leary for an in-depth discussion on the topic.
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Small Business Trends: Before we start talking a little bit about social enterprise and social business and social selling, can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Umberto Milletti: For the last six years at InsideView I have been focusing on the problem of how you make the customer-facing employee in a company, like sales people and account managers, be more productive by delivering relevant intelligence to them that they can use to be more relevant with their customers and prospects.
Small Business Trends: What does it mean to be a social enterprise?
Umberto Milletti: I believe that social changed business in many areas. One of the areas it changes is how businesses deal with customers and prospects.
In short, social provides an unparalleled view of the people that you want to do business with, or you are doing business with. Their interests, their desires, what is going through their mind, what is happening in their company. All of that information is now available in the cloud through social media, the traditional media; through publications; through webcasts; and it is really a great opportunity for companies to provide this information to employees to make them more effective.
In the old days, when I was a little bit younger, selling and dealing with customers meant going to their offices, looking at the pictures on their desk, understanding about their family, their interests, their favorite sports, their desires and building a relevant relationship.
Today, the businesses cannot afford to do that anymore. It is too expensive and time consuming. Social media replaces a lot of that and I can learn a lot about a person just by doing some effective research. This is what we focus on in building technology to make that really efficient, scaleable, and effective so that our customers can be more productive in dealing with their customers and prospects.
Small Business Trends: What are some of the major ways social changes the job of selling and how does that change in the age of the social enterprise?
Umberto Milletti: It has changed in that the Web has brought on an onslaught of emails and phone calls, which means that buyers are less and less responsive. I know I do not pick up my phone anymore; I do not have time to answer my voice mails; I cannot possibly answer all of the emails that I get for people who are trying to do business with me. That creates a challenge for people who are customer-facing. How do they rise above the noise and provide a relevant message?
In my mind, social is an opportunity to learn about the person you are dealing with. Understanding the person, not just an email address, not just a contact or a person. What are you going to say in your conversation with them that will make this relevant? What will start a relevant conversation or a relevant business relationship?
You also remember the days of “spraying and praying” that your cold calls will be answered and your emails are returned. Those days are mostly behind us. We are trying to help customers who are going through that condition and we now have over 1.000 companies and over 200,000 people who, every day, are using our technology to be more relevant.
Small Business Trends: How about the role of inter-departmental communication between sales and other areas? How is social changing that?
Umberto Milletti: By making their organization more intelligent and more relevant. All of us have had customer experiences where it is clear that the company we are dealing with is disconnected entirely. They do not know what the right hand is doing. That is what social can do. It can bring companies together and it can make sure employees are on the same page.
The challenge is that social can create a lot of information that you will need. Again, in my mind, technology may filter that information and connect the right people at the right time to make them productive.
Social has to be watched to make sure that it does not overwhelm employees with noise. I believe that technology has to take a key role, and not just to connect people, but also to filter information. So that we all get what is relevant to us and not what is irrelevant to us.
Small Business Trends: How does the role of work flow automation fit into sales today?
Umberto Milletti: I think that work flow automation in sales is usually along the lines of CRM applications or sales force automation applications. But applications are now almost ubiquitous and they are really fairly commoditized, everybody has one.
Like any other workflow automation system, they were built for a different time. A time when the whole industry was a manufacturing industry. We had set processes that you needed to automate.
In today’s world, most of us do not have step processes. We have to be able to respond individually to each customer need. The world is changing so quickly that we cannot all follow automatic process.
I think that workflow automation is to be enhanced with social paradigms that can adjust where all employees can use their intelligence and their knowledge to provide a superior customer experience. I do not think that workflow automation, by itself, is going to be a competitive advantage going forward. It is going to be about who has the most important employee; who has the most collaborative employee; who can deliver the best message through the customer experience.
Small Business Trends: Where can people learn more about InsideView and about social selling?
Umberto Milletti: InsideView. We’re also sponsoring a university called Social Selling University. Just Google Social Selling University. It is a free educational worksite that people can use.
This interview is part of our One on One series of conversations with some of the most thought-provoking entrepreneurs, authors and experts in business today. This interview has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, click the right arrow on the gray player below. You can also see more interviews in our interview series.
This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.