Executive Briefings

Opinion: Can Technology Re-humanize Sales for Startups and Small Businesses?

In my mid 20s, I opened a pizza restaurant in my hometown. Each week, the same people would come in. We'd talk about friends, weather, politics. I got to know their likes and dislikes - who wanted extra pepperoni and who hated onions. Even though I made a pretty decent Hawaiian pie, I'm convinced I made a lot of sales just by listening and talking.

Now, I sell software, not pizza. Hootsuite - we're a social relationship platform - has 15 million users around the world, including 800 of the Fortune 1000 companies. The art of selling has undergone a technological revolution in the decades since my pizza days. It's possible to blast out a "personalized" email campaign to thousands of prospects with a few clicks. AI-powered chatbots have taken the place of small talk.

I’m not a Luddite. I know this is progress. But I also know it’s dangerous to confuse efficiency with effectiveness, especially in the world of sales. Email click-through rates, for example, can be abysmal. (Two percent is considered passable.) Chatbots are only as good as the algorithms behind them (at present, not great). In the the race to automate sales, we’ve lost a lot of the humanity and interpersonal skill that once went into the art of selling.

It’s easy to laugh at the cliche of the old-school sales guy — Rolodex crammed with notes on everything from clients’ birthdays and job promotions to their kids’ names. But there was something to the personalization and attention behind that approach — something that digital brute force, volume and automation alone can’t match.

De-hyping "social selling"

And this is exactly where social selling comes into the picture. By now, social selling — using social media to find leads, build a dialogue and make sales — is already approaching buzzword status: the latest overhyped tool in the sales arsenal. But what all this buzz misses (and hides) is the fact that social selling isn’t anything new. If fact, it represents a movement back to a simpler, more human way of closing deals.

Read Full Article

Now, I sell software, not pizza. Hootsuite - we're a social relationship platform - has 15 million users around the world, including 800 of the Fortune 1000 companies. The art of selling has undergone a technological revolution in the decades since my pizza days. It's possible to blast out a "personalized" email campaign to thousands of prospects with a few clicks. AI-powered chatbots have taken the place of small talk.

I’m not a Luddite. I know this is progress. But I also know it’s dangerous to confuse efficiency with effectiveness, especially in the world of sales. Email click-through rates, for example, can be abysmal. (Two percent is considered passable.) Chatbots are only as good as the algorithms behind them (at present, not great). In the the race to automate sales, we’ve lost a lot of the humanity and interpersonal skill that once went into the art of selling.

It’s easy to laugh at the cliche of the old-school sales guy — Rolodex crammed with notes on everything from clients’ birthdays and job promotions to their kids’ names. But there was something to the personalization and attention behind that approach — something that digital brute force, volume and automation alone can’t match.

De-hyping "social selling"

And this is exactly where social selling comes into the picture. By now, social selling — using social media to find leads, build a dialogue and make sales — is already approaching buzzword status: the latest overhyped tool in the sales arsenal. But what all this buzz misses (and hides) is the fact that social selling isn’t anything new. If fact, it represents a movement back to a simpler, more human way of closing deals.

Read Full Article