The Invisible Social Enterprise

Is your company delivering a Social CRM experience to your customers…. and you don’t even know it?

It’s a CIO’s nightmare: critical corporate data flitting through the Internet without governance or even visibility to senior executives.

And yet that’s what is happening every day in the Fortune 500 – and probably your own company – with the rise in easy-to-buy and easy-to-use web-based applications like and social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn.

Your employees, especially your Gen Y staff, are blurring the line between Web 2.0 tools that they use for personal use versus corporate applications that they use for work. All it takes is a web browser and a credit card – and sometimes not even that – to circumvent your IT purchasing process and start using services like Jigsaw for contact management, for document storage, Zoho for collaboration, or Basecamp for project management.

The result: innovation, employee engagement, and socially-engaged customers.

Not what you were expecting, right?

Here are 5 tips for uncovering and leveraging the trend of employee-driven tools and how to connect them to your enterprise IT strategy.

1. Discover, don’t squelch

The natural reaction to disorder is to create order.

This has led many companies to completely shut down access to social networks from within the corporate firewall, sometimes for good reasons (e.g., compliance to financial services regulations) and sometimes for reasons that appear reactionary at best (e.g., social networks hurt productivity).

Or for IT to passively allow the use of a SaaS (software-as-a-service) application at a workgroup level, assuming – of course – that it’s all paid for by the business and not IT.

Savvy executives are taking the time to get a temperature-check on the real “adoption” of employee-provisioned, web-based applications across their enterprise. One method is to simply to look at what’s passing through the firewall to get an inventory of the browser-based destinations of your staff while working on company time. Let’s call that the “Big Brother” approach and, to be clear, it’s an effective method for getting a real picture of what’s happening, assuming that all the data is flowing through your corporate computers and networks.

But a complementary method is an anonymous survey, to ask your employees what web-based tools they are using to “augment” the corporate applications, whether approved or not. Let’s call this the “Voice of the Employee” approach. The result: engaged employees who feel like their voice is being heard and a self-reported inventory of tools being used across your enterprise.

Again, your employees are already using Web 2.0 tools in support of their day-to-day work  – the questions is whether you know it or not.

2. Create an “edge” to your IT strategy

Your employees who take the time and energy to find their own web-based tools to get their job done are also the most entrepreneurial – take advantage of that.

Some of the best ideas for innovation in your business will come from these employees, who can bubble-up ideas for new areas of product development, customer experience, and sales channels – a concept called “crowdsourcing”.

Don Tapscott says it best in his recent book MacroWikinomics (2010):

In our previous book, Wikinomics, we called this new force ‘mass collaboration’ and argued that it was reaching a tipping point where social networking was becoming a new mode of social production that would forever change the way products and services are designed, manufactured, and marketed on a global basis.”

For an IT leader, there are two challenges to crowd-sourcing: 1) how to provide tools for these employees to effectively crowd-source ideas for your business and 2) how to encourage the entrepreneurial actions of employees to find the best new tools and experiment with them.

That experimentation is key to corporate and IT strategy – fundamentally, it’s the most critical new thinking that the Web 2.0 movement can bring to the enterprise – what I call the “Google Beta” effect.

Google has a history of innovation in its product development cycles, often releasing early versions of their products and tagging them as “beta” to distinguish between “production” products that would be perceived to be complete. Google learns quickly about what works and what doesn’t with their beta products and has a rapid development cycle to incorporate new features and re-release for further testing by the public.

For the enterprise, this is the equivalent of building an “Edge” to your IT strategy – a specific part of your infrastructure that you carve-out to allow experimentation, away from your “Core” systems and processes. Where an investment in the Core is generally about driving efficiency gains (e.g lower costs), investment in the Edge is about experimentation and finding new competitive differentiation.

That Edge can be developed in two ways:  1) top-down e.g., corporate initiatives to introduce new capabilities and 2) bottoms-up e.g., from employee innovation like the use of Web 2.0 tools.

3. Introduce some “laissez-faire” to your IT strategy

In politics, laissez faire refers to a strategy of “leaving it alone” from government intervention.

Politics aside, introducing some expected freedom into your application strategy, where staff can use external web-based tools if it helps their productivity, can ground your IT strategy in the reality of the work-place and allow your teams to focus on the best initiatives that require deep IT infrastructure and support.

This is the enterprise, though, which means public companies that have to protect their intellectual property, brand, and competitive advantages in the marketplace. If employees are engaging with partners and prospects in social networks without any governance, the results can be equally disastrous.

The key here is the right level of governance, where employees understand what is acceptable if they choose their own web-based tools and what is required to protect the company.

If your company doesn’t have a social media or hosted application governance policy, build one that creates the right balance for your company. If you have a governance policy already in-place, revisit it to provide flexibility and choice by your employees to use social networks and self-funded tools to do their job.

4. Build on the foundation for a Social CRM strategy

Social CRM (along with Sales 2.0) is one of the big buzzwords in the world of sales productivity right now.

To borrow Paul Greenberg’s short definition, Social CRM is:

…. the company’s programmatic response to the customer’s control of the conversation.”

And many companies are struggling to determine the best starting point for a Social CRM strategy: do we take a “horizontal” approach that builds communities, internally and externally, across the enterprise…. or a “vertical” approach to identify the best channels where social engagement with our customers has the best return?

The dirty little secret is that you already have a Social CRM process in place, with your employees engaging with partners, prospects, and customers using web-based tools and social networks on a daily basis.

So build on it!

Take the best practices where employees are already engaging with customers and develop your Social CRM strategy from those existing channels. Encourage those teams to experiment and learn what’s working (and what isn’t). Use those lessons to identify the enterprise-wide strategy that works for your company and a roadmap for introducing similar social capabilities in similar customer-facing channels of your business.

5. Collaborate, Collaborate, Collaborate

Finally, I can’t emphasize enough that the key to all of the above four best practices is the effective use of collaboration across your enterprise.

Collaboration is both a destination and the journey for your business – it is the means by which an IT organization can more effectively align with its internal customers (e.g., find out what Web 2.0 tools are working and incorporate those into the IT strategy) and is a core technology to weave into the fabric of your enterprise application footprint.

The technology underlining of collaboration can start anywhere in your enterprise, from document management (SharePoint), informal knowledge management (Yammer, Chatter), or even communities inside or outside of your company (Jive, SocialText).

The key is to acknowledge that your employees most likely have found their own Web 2.0 tools to collaboration with each other, your partners, customers, and even prospects.

About the Author:

Mr. Branham is a collaborative selling strategist, advisor, and entrepreneur. He has held executive positions at (NYSE: CRM), Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL), and nGenera (co-founded by Don Tapscott, author of the best-selling book Wikinomics). He has launched three companies including Opcentric, a consulting firm that was one of the first partners in 2000. Mr. Branham is a Managing Director of Acumen Solutions, a global technology consulting firm, and CEO of the TRE3 Group, a Sales 2.0 advisory firm.  For more information, email Mr. Branham at or follow @erycbranham and @tre3group on Twitter.


The Lost Art of Lost Metrics: Turning Past Losses into Future Wins

Unless you expect a 100% win rate, a lost deal is not a bad thing. In fact, if you are capturing the right information about your lost deals, then you can turn past losses into future wins! You can identify exactly where to focus your sales training, competitive strategies and positioning. Many sales organizations track the reasons why their deals were lost, but this only paints part of the picture. Let us examine one highly valuable lost metric that is often overlooked…

Lost the Deal

Based on the manager’s response in the comic strip above, it may seem that while the sales rep lost his deal, the manager lost his mind! The manager, however, is asking exactly the right question: “Where did you leave it last?” In other words, “Where was your deal before you lost it?” It is important to capture in which stage of the sales cycle a deal was lost. I call this the “Lost Stage”, the stage where deals disappear.

The Lost Stage, coupled with the Lost Reason, together provide a more complete understanding of your sales challenges. Consider the following two scenarios:

Scenario 1:
70% of deals lost in a given year were lost due to price. The company doesn’t know where in the sales cycle they were lost, only that they were lost because of price. To address the problem, the VP of Sales invests in negotiation training for the sales team and increases the threshold for allowable discounts from 10% to 20%.

Scenario 2:
70% of deals lost in a given year were lost due to price, 90% of which were lost during discovery. Now the VP of Sales understands that reps are disclosing cost even before the pain is quantified and the solution is understood by the prospect. He therefore directs his training efforts to the front half of the sales cycle.

In the first scenario above, the VP of Sales would have invested significant resources on negotiation training, but to no avail. Decreasing allowable discount thresholds was likely to also decreased the value of deals won. This would have yielded the opposite result from what was intended because of the false assumption that the problem was in the latter parts of the sales cycle. Worst of all, they would never have known it!

Knowing why deals were lost without understanding when they were lost can sometimes be misleading. Capturing both the Lost Reason and the Lost Stage provides a more complete and accurate picture. This leads to wiser, more informed decisions, which ultimately leads to improved sales effectiveness.

Capturing the Lost Stage metric can help turn past losses into future wins!

How to Inspire End User Adoption

If your organization struggles with end user adoption for new processes and technologies then this post will help. The practical insights provided below have been proven to work whether deploying a new CRM system or a new process within existing technology.

The seeds of end user adoption are planted long before implementation. The secret is to create a sense of ownership and positive anticipation leading up to deployment.

Consider the foundational meaning of the word “adoption”. When a parent “adopts” a child, they take one that belonged to another and makes them their own. By this definition, true adoption goes beyond meeting the minimum requirements to a sense of personal responsibility and expected value.

To create a sense of ownership, create a committee (whether formal or informal) that is to actively participate in shaping the process or technology being deployed. This team should have at least one representative from each role being effected. Guide them to provide input at pre-established milestones.

Be sure to listen carefully and value their input. Give them a sense of ownership. Only the true owner of a project can offer a sense of ownership to selected others. If you do this well, they will advocate the new process to their peers well before implementation. You will have actually effected the culture, which will not be easily changed.

Now, what if we still have an issue with adoption; what if 100% of your sales team members are not passionate evangelists of your process (imagine that!)?

This is where the stick comes in. The stick is to be used only when the carrot doesn’t work. Willful adoption is always more effective than forced adoption.

The following guidelines will help you to continuously increase adoption:

1. Establish metrics to measure adoption AND the expected results of adoption.
2. Use the metrics you established.
3. Acknowledge those who are adopting well and highlight their positive results to their peers.
4. Point out those who are not adopting well.
5. Managers, hold your team members accountable. Manage beyond metrics. Interact with each member.
6. Executives, hold your managers accountable to holding their team members accountable.

How do you drive adoption? You don’t. You inspire adoption!

“Weighted BANT”: A Simple Lead Qualification Methodology

If you have any experience in Lead Generation, then you are familiar with “BANT”. Budget, Authority, Need and Time frame are commonly used criteria for qualifying leads. If all four criteria are confirmed, then the lead is considered “qualified” and it enters the sales pipeline.

The Common Challenge:
Here’s the challenge that many companies will admit: “If I hold to all four criteria, then I will not qualify enough leads. But if I remove any one criterion, then I will qualify too many leads. Either way, I can’t win!” Yes, you can win. There is another way…

The Simple Solution:

The following lead qualification methodology is easy to deploy and can be quickly configured in most SFA or CRM systems.  I call it the “Weighted BANT” methodology:

Apply a weighting to each of the BANT criteria (0, 1, 2, 3 or 4) and define each weighting. Below is a sample set of definitions for Authority:

0 = Has no authority and has no access to the decision maker(s).
1 = Has no authority, but has direct access to the decision maker(s).
2 = Has influence and has access to the decision maker(s).
3 = Is one of several decision makers.
4 = Has complete authority as the sole decision maker.

Define a similar scale for Budget, Authority, Need and Time frame.

Now qualify your leads based on the sum of all four scores. For example:

0-4 = Unqualified (don’t waste your time).
5-8 = Slightly Qualified (nurture it).
9-12 = Qualified (follow-up).
13-16 = Highly Qualified (follow-up immediately).

The “Weighted BANT” methodology provides enough flexibility to customize for your sales organization and enough simplicity to deploy and train quickly and easily.

If you choose to adopt this methodology, please share your results with me.


Character Over Talent: “What talent can build over a lifetime, bad character can destroy in a moment” – Roger Gushway

Three years ago I heard Roger Gushway speak these words: “What talent can build over a lifetime, bad character can destroy in a moment.”  Immediately I thought of various people who had reached great heights of success after a lifetime of hard work, only to see it all tragically destroyed because of one pivotal moment’s decision.  I had to ask myself, “Am I prone to the same tragedy?  When I achieve my desired success, will I have the character to sustain it?

As we aspire to achieve our goals in business and beyond, let us maximize every opportunity to build character.  Character is not acquired through learning or reading.  There is no “Character 101” course or “Character for Dummies” book.  Character is established through a series of daily decisions where the rubber meets the road.

When we choose not to compromise our morals, even if it results in loss, character is built.  When we insist on the betterment of someone else in stead of ourselves, character is built.  When our patience is tested in the fires of daily life, character is built.  When all odds are against us but we do not quit, character is built.  And as our character is built, so is our legacy.

Character does not have a time and a place.  It is always relevant, always appropriate.

In the business world, when I evaluate a vendor, a partner, an employee or a customer, I always look for character first.  I’ll take character over talent any day.

Influencing the Influence of Others

Influential sales reps can have a great impact on sales teams, whether good or bad. The wise manager will know how to identify and leverage that influence to his or her advantage.

Turn the Negative into Positive Influence:

When an outspoken sales rep is spreading complaints, the effects can be devastating on the sales culture and over-all morale.  Managers who try to suppress this rep may get the opposite effect from what they had intended.  Have you ever tried to suppress a ball in a swimming pool?  The further down in the water you try to keep it, the greater the resistance you get in return and the bigger a splash it makes.

Instead of trying to stop the complaining rep, engage them, listen to them (whether they are right or wrong) and try to win them over.  Ask their input in advance when certain changes are on the horizon.  Instill in them a sense that you trust them and view them as a leader.  This will give you the right to expect them to use their influence prudently.  You now have a relationship where you can leverage their influence instead of fighting against it.  You will have transformed negative influence into positive.

Maximize the Positive Influence that Already Exists:

If a rep has a positive influence on your team (for example they advocate positive change and prove it quickly in practice) then don’t just leave them alone, maximize their influence on purpose.  Involve them early to help shape important changes (such as new technology and processes that will affect daily life).  This influence can be a powerful force in uniting the team towards a common goal.

As a manager, it is in your best interest to identify and guide existing influence.  Note that not all outspoken people are influential.  Focus on those with real influence.

Effectively channeling existing influence is one of the unquantifiable yet powerful ways to increase sales performance.  This ability often separates the good sales leaders from the great. Your indirect influence through others is greater than your direct influence through yourself alone.

Does Automation Automatically Mean Efficiency? (Sam vs. Jen)

When you hear “automation” as a sales person do you think of efficiency or of losing control over your sales process?

I love automation if it means I can keep my boss happy and do less.  I hate automation when it tries to do the thinking for me.  Given that sales is primarily an art, I welcome anything that will free up my time to sell; that is to deal with people.  I must admit that when management speaks of “automation” I wince, because it usually means they are introducing a new tool that actually requires me to do more.  They want me to spend more time learning a new system – which means less time selling – and expect that as a result my sales will increase because something is being “automated” for me.  When I hear “automation”, I think of losing control over my sales process.  I’m a professional.  Tell me what to do and let me handle the how.

I actually have to agree with Jen on this one.  Save me time, but don’t try to think for me!  Now, given that sales is primarily a science, there are components that are repeatable and therefore can be automated.  I’d love a system to automatically log my calls for me, so I don’t have to.  But I don’t want it to draw presumptive conclusions from those calls.  For example, fewer calls in a day may not be a bad thing if they are longer calls with meaningful conversations.  I welcome automation, but sometimes I think the wrong things are trying to be automated.  When I hear “automation” I hope for efficiency, and sometimes I get it…sometimes.

Readers, what do you think?  Does automation automatically mean efficiency?  Post your comments.