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News & Insights

News & Insights

Selling Business Contacts v. Enabling Insight into Prospective Customers

As social media continues its inevitable march toward connecting all forms of sentient life, the issue of whether there is a “bright line” between business and personal information that salespeople cannot cross is coming to the fore. In other words, just because you can now know a lot of personal information about a sales prospect via their various social media profiles, should you in fact use that info?

And if so, what will the emerging etiquette be for prospectors? Two weeks ago InsideView’s Insider Summit, a gathering of their faithful customers, generated a lot of discussion on this point and SXSW Interactive last week had multiple sessions that touched on the same topic.

What’s the consensus? Well, it seems like everyone agrees there is indeed a line between “engaged” and “creepy,” but plenty of folks have recent war stories about how they took a piece of social information (a passion for bow ties, mountain biking, or boxing) and used it to close an erstwhile “business-to-business” sale. Other speakers and participants adamantly asserted that working that info into a sales pitch was an immediate disqualifier. So, it seems as if everyone more or less agrees that the information is valuable, but it’s just a matter of how you use it and what side of the bed your prospect woke up on that morning.

But, if social information (otherwise known as biographical information) is good to know, then what is the best kind of info to know? The information service Boardroom Insiders specifically digs deep into interpersonal connections between mentors and mentees, former co-workers, people who spoke on the same industry conference panel, or sat on the same nonprofit board. That information is rarely available on LinkedIn or other profiles, but it reveals extremely strong connections between people and organizations that can be critically important, especially for sales to C-level prospects at large firms.

We may on the cusp of a new era when B2B sales take on a more casual, social dimension, but great, hard-to-find data will always hold the key to giving a salesperson a true “edge” over their competition.

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