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How to Sell Social Software for the Enterprise

November 2, 2009

Day one of Enterprise 2.0 Conference here in San Francisco. This morning, I attended a session about how to sell the case that businesses and enterprises need social apps to help their employees collaborate faster and more efficiently, so they can ultimately drive good business results. While it was fun to hear ideas from thought leaders like Oliver Marks (@olivermarks) and Sameer Patel (@SameerPatel), I especially enjoyed the panelists who work on the sales side of Enterprise 2.0 vendors and are in the trenches everyday. One of my colleagues, Scott Schnaars (@schnaars) shared his thoughts, in addition to Tom Kuegler, the head of revenue at PBWorks, and Chris McGrath (@ThoughtFarmer), Co-Creator of ThoughtFarmer.

Scott Schnaars of Socialtext on the initial discussion with organizations about the need to purchase social software:

  1. First, assess where Enterprise 2.0 is on the list of buying priorities. For example, deploying Windows 7 could be top of mind, so find out where you stand before you can have a conversation about the value of Enterprise 2.0 technologies.
  2. Identify where pain points exist. Regardless of the amount of users you want to give access to enterprise social software, there are two areas where social software that can help drive business value: a) to fix broken informal processes and b) formal processes that exist inside organizations. An example of an informal process would be employees drowning in e-mail for processes that have no home in another system. An example of a formal process would be if people across departments are spending too much time trying to coordinate with each other on joint projects (update meetings, company materials, etc.)
  3. When talking to a stakeholder or buyer, ask the question: “In a year, how can we measure whether or not this was a success?”
  4. Example of key metrics: TransUnion saved $2.5 million from its use of social software. Why? They collaborated in a central area online to solve some technical problems that were occurring with their internal systems. By coming up with innovative ideas collectively, they avoided buying new hardware to solve the problem.

Chris McGrath of ThoughtFarmer

  1. McGrath says, “we sell top down.” And at the top, a primary consideration is SharePoint.
  2. If you’re a Microsoft shop, you need to have a SharePoint strategy and understand how Enterprise 2.0 technology and social software fits into it. How is this going to integrate with SharePoint? When would you use SharePoint? It needs to be part of your sales presentation as an Enterprise 2.0 vendor.
  3. How can you leverage existing investments in legacy technology (again, SharePoint being a component).

Tom Kuegler of PB Works

  1. ROI is critically important
  2. Don’t shy away from saying why social software is a replacement for existing technologies.
  3. Start with bottom-up approach. Prove success at a departmental level, and then you have value that you can show people at the top.
  4. “You have to bring it back to numbers. If you can’t bring it back to numbers and do hard ROI, then stop what you’re doing because you’re wasting everyone’s time.”
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2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 2, 2009 11:41 pm

    Coming from a procurement background I can’t let this go by without a comment.

    “Example of key metrics: TransUnion saved $2.5 million from its use of social software. Why? They collaborated in a central area online to solve some technical problems that were occurring with their internal systems. By coming up with innovative ideas collectively, they avoided buying new hardware to solve the problem.”

    That is a great example of cost avoidance, but not cost savings. Both are important but to avoid getting caught in a terminology war with the procurement person at the table ensure that you don’t sell something as saving money when it’s actually avoiding spending money. Two different procurement strategies.

    I completely agree with Tom’s comments about ROI. People may not understand the technology but they understand a cost benefit analysis. You have to speak their language.

  2. January 5, 2010 2:02 pm

    Thanks agreeing, David!

    So little of what is happening in SaaS has to do with real ROI.

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