The super cool news is that these new social selling and corporate view features are getting paired with the best-in-class lead routing features that are the drivers of productivity for inside sales.  This makes for an unbeatable combination.  

This post may be bit self-serving, so I apologize in advance.  However, to make my desired point I need my own company, VanillaSoft, as an example.  We have all followed posts from talking heads like me that discuss the question, “Is cold calling dead?”  I say, along with our thousands of customers who cold-call, that it is alive and well.  Others say its time has come and gone.  I am sure, like most things, the truth is in the middle.  No one can argue with the idea that making a smart call is far superior than making a blind uniformed call.  However, as I have argued for some time, more is better than less.  If you “social call” (research the prospect prior to the call) and make eight connects per hour and sell one that is great.  If you cold-call without any prospect research, dial twenty and sell two that is better still.  Each business and sales organization has to find the right balance.

So what does all of this have to do with lead management software or telemarketing software focused on list based calling?  Today, software companies that used to have laser focus on deploying the best-in-class productivity tools to enable inside sales groups to make more and better contacts are rolling out new social media tools and widgets to enhance a sales person’s ability to gain insight into the prospect prior to the call.  The important thing to note is that they are doing it and staying true to their core values.  Instead of a bolt-on, you are seeing well thought out applications that allow an inside sales group to have the best of both worlds; high productivity and social insight into prospects.

Ok, I excused myself for being a bit self-serving, so here we go- I will use VanillaSoft as our example.  Our most recent release focused on features that allow a sales person to gain insight into who they are calling, the company they are calling, all of the contacts of that company that are in their database and who within their company has reached out to these contacts.  Let’s back up a bit to better understand why this is important.  For years, VanillaSoft has been known for its award winning (unnecessary plug) lead routing platform.  Our business has been giving salespeople a productivity edge by deploying next-best-call logic, auto dialing, on-board e-mail and so forth.  Most of our core features are about getting to the right call and getting it done fast.  Why make a change now?  Why release new features that seem to go against the grain of our core values of better and faster?

The answer is both simple and complex.  First, the simple part; the technology has simply caught up allowing platforms like VanillaSoft to make multiple server calls to LinkedIn, and numerous other providers without slowing down the selling process.  Additionally, we can display this mission critical data within our own user interface making it a seamless and a natural part of the screen vs. an awkward bolt on or a page to navigate to.

The more complex answer goes to the way inside sales groups are selling and the manner in which companies like VanillaSoft can integrate new social tools and still remain true to the core values of driving production.  When Sales2.0, social calling and the belief that cold calling was dead and buried first arose, many companies jumped on the band wagon and changed the practice that had been driving their sales success.  They did this in search of greener pastures.  Many found that social selling did not necessarily apply to their sales process. Many found that it is perfect for some campaigns; less for others and sometimes something in the middle is just right.  It took several successes and failures within the social selling world before software providers could harness this new knowledge base and release meaningful and honest options for inside sales organizations that could be turned on and off per campaign and per salesperson to ensure that only features that drive productivity are on the desktop and those that do not promote a faster sales cycle, better contact rate or better selling opportunity have been removed.

Let’s look at a couple of these features.  The first is LinkedIn widgets.  By now, we all know the value of LinkedIn and the fact that the info is provided by the actual person vs. a 3rd party or wiki platform.  Sales people that are doing a more social call or research prior to the call will often times open up LinkedIn, search the prospect, pull up their profile and garner some basic info prior to the call.   Lead Management platforms and telemarketing software are now providing the ability to garner this information without ever leaving the productivity of the application.  In platforms like VanillaSoft, you can simply click on our LinkedIn widget right next to the prospect’s name and it will populate a sketch of their profile, education, employment, past employment, website and blog.  It will even include their picture.  You can drill deeper and open a profile page should you desire.

The smart effective way to merge social data with a sales platform may seem small but it can produce very large results.  Plenty of research data shows that keeping a sales person focused, in a single platform and staying true to best practices wins the day.  Bouncing from one platform to the next opens up opportunities to hunt and peck and get distracted from the task at hand.  Additionally, management has the ability to turn these widgets on and off per salesperson and per campaign ensuring that the right feature set is deployed to garner the best results.

Other new and cool features include the ability to see all of the contacts associated with a particular company, the complete history, and the LinkedIn profiles of each contact and so on.  This in and of itself is only somewhat new but what is different is that all of the power of lead management platforms can be applied at the company level meaning far better lift because the company can be targeted and prospected in a controlled and logical manner ensuring that each company contact reaches the right sales person, a complete view of all contacts and history is available on each contact record and much more.  In a complex selling environment, having a Corporate View (inside look at all contacts) is vital.  Having the ability to quickly review all contacts, associated LinkedIn profiles and find the right one to call – sweet!

If you are still finding your way between old school cold-calling, social calling, and the new world of Sales2.0 you are not alone.  We are still very early in the curve and we are all learning together. What you should know is that you do not have to sacrifice when it comes to picking a lead management or telemarketing platform.  Today, platforms are feature packed and you can have all of the productivity that comes with best-in-class lead routing and auto dialing married to new social tools that allow you to think before you dial.