6 Ways to Nurture Business Relationships with Social CRM and LinkedIn

The synthesis of CRM strategies and Social Media gives birth to Social CRM (SCRM). SCRM is a rapidly growing concept and wise business strategy facilitating unique customer-company interaction using social networking technology and processes.

Widespread public exposure compels companies to maintain absolute transparency in their transactions, which is exactly what today’s customers demand and which social media networks help achieve. SCRM heightens the intimacy between a company and its customers - whether en-route, existing or a future prospect.

SCRM is undoubtedly an axial concept that futuristic organizations should comprehend and assimilate into their systems to communicate with and serve “Social Customers”. Social Customers are intelligent with unlimited demands – they are technologically savvy and well informed through social networks. They also engage more in online activities than offline, trust advice and information posted on the web, look to connect with like minded people, are eager to offer feedback and want the best customer and after-sales services. They want the organization’s undivided attention to be devoted to their needs and wants.

Web 2.0 promotes creativity and community creation while also enabling collaborations and conversations. Managing relationships with customers using social networks helps seek out fruitful sales opportunities, offer support and services in real-time more efficiently. It keeps track of the overall online digital buzz too.

MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn are some popular names which encompass this concept and have become the talk of the day. Each makes unique contributions. This article focuses on how ‘LinkedIn’ in combination with SCRM plays a distinguishing role in building long standing relationships and enhancing sales.

LinkedIn is a hot Social Networking tool and massive web-based ‘Professional Network’ with membership bursting at the seams. Ideal for search engines and a rich source of information, it blends professional networks into the social media rostrum – offering a unique cross platform fusion.

A contact's LinkedIn profile information
The fact that everyone is segregated by a series of degrees of separation is what forms the core of LinkedIn, with one particular person’s connections ramifying onto each of his connection’s connections and so on, thus validating LinkedIn's proliferating concept. Also, focusing mainly on ‘professionalism’, it is a better assurance of contacts’ authenticity, because most often than not, people include only those in their network whom they are at least acquainted with. It is a remarkable medium for individuals and companies to display their qualities and market themselves in the most efficacious manner.

Optimum use of SCRM in general and LinkedIn in particular, helps in business development and sales maximization. It is effective for broadening customer outreach and amplifying company and brand awareness. Organizations need to realize that not incorporating LinkedIn into their sales process can mean a lower win-ratio.

Social media managers should essentially realize the importance of integrating and aligning CRM systems with Social CRM. For any organization, Social CRM tools help raise efficiency levels, include quality data within systems in real time and offline, boost sales, and redefine overall customer experience. Through social media networks and technologies - sales, marketing and customer service projects can be quantified and improvised.

How to integrate with CRM?
A clever strategy would be to embed a ‘Social Information’ tab for Contacts in the CRM system. This allows sales representatives to view social profiles, keep track of updates and activity streams. A massive advantage obtained is scoring face time with customers. By monitoring online activity, it helps the sales team to know when exactly they are likely to connect with people they want. In addition, it helps in great relationship building with clients since their social psychology and graphs can be understood clearly.

A customer’s personal information, profile picture, web links, and other details are imported into the CRM solution, as a result of which, while working within the software, staying updated and connecting with customers online is just a click away.

Leveraging Social Networks and CRM:

Building rapport
Powerful and successful selling has its roots in building rapport with the decision makers thereby instilling trust and confidence in them. The prelude to executing a sale is meaningful rapport building with the customer, in order to make him believe in you and not turn away to a competitor. By engaging customers through engrossing social media channels and networks, interest is kept alive in the company and their offerings.

LinkedIn is useful in building as well as nurturing relationships because the root sources are reliable. By having existing and potential customers on company networks, their activities and interests can be monitored regularly and routes can be arranged and re-arranged to suit the customer’s psyche and needs.

When LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook profiles are captured within the company’s CRM system, customer data is updated and comprehensive. As a result, sales reps. gain in-depth knowledge about customers, enabling fruitful interactions and bettering sales. People today spend a large chunk of their time on various social networks. This is an important head start to generate more sales, because by staying active on these channels and leveraging business news, updates and messages therein, not only is the customer’s attention captured but they are also reminded of the company’s presence. It thus becomes essential to integrate and align all the relevant information from the Social networks into the CRM system.

Smart marketing campaigns
Streamlined social campaigns can be run on LinkedIn to target existing clients as well as promising prospects. It also enables Micromarketing, offering an upside to companies. Another productive feature offered by LinkedIn is SlideShare, using which, sales presentations can be uploaded. Customers’ queries can be answered online. It also empowers the sales personnel to share budding opportunities, in-progress deals, and collaborate on proposals. Time needed for reference sharing plus developing and creating presentations is reduced to a large extent. Saving a lot of physical energy and valuable time, it may even lead to closing a sale in real-time.

Online discussions and assistance
Customized privacy settings disallow people from outside networks to view profile activities. This can be solved if company information is made viewable only after them being included in the person’s network. (This is mutually beneficial). Using the search tool, company or brand related keywords can be looked up. This enables creation of Support Cases and Lead Capturing directly to the SCRM. The case origin is known, and it can be filtered in the categories of a request, query, complaint or recommendation as the case may be. Activities, discussions, groups, etc. can be monitored to examine type of queries. Tools can be provided through which sales reps. could be prompted to actively involve themselves in providing detailed assistance online and offline. This gives customers a feeling of security, which enhances company goodwill and positively impacts future sales.

For people always on the move, having 24/7 accessibility is vital. It allows real-time updating of information. Professionals can stay in constant touch with customers, colleagues, leads, be well prepared for meetings, and reduce overheads and inconveniences of entering data only after returning to base. It allows sales reps to focus more productively on selling and relationship building activities.

Referrals and recommendations
Help in winning new customers. Sharing blog content, answering questions and helping out in fields which are the organization’s specific expertise domain, new business is acquired. It becomes easier to network with peers within the same industry thus enabling repeat referrals and also knowing which business leaders have recommended the company.

Assume a new lead is being targeted by sales. By studying LinkedIn connections, the user learns that this new prospect is acquainted with an existing client of the same company - who is already an ardent backer of the company’s products. Automatically the prospect will have a better reference point for the Company and would have already taken a few steps forward in his decision making process.

Company Profile features
The new Company feature helps find newer customers and subsequently pinpoint decision-makers. Identifying an organization’s top management is simplified. The Company Page feature displays comprehensive company information online, facilitating a better understanding of its strengths, size, territories, etc. More time can be spent by sales teams to focus on deepening relationships with prospects or customers without spending unnecessary time on hours of online research and non-core activities.

Social CRM solutions enables organizations to quickly access detailed information about their leads and customers, personal and professional details, companies they are currently as well as were previously associated with and lots more. This apart, people share opinions and experiences online through social networks – theses opinions can go a really long way in spotting and engaging a worthy lead.

Sporadic feedback having multi-faceted implications is what can be controlled by Social CRM software. The same can then be resolved in order to heighten customer satisfaction. After sales services can be bettered, customer retention and loyalty can be achieved, and the overall value of customer interactions can be raised a bar above by taking responsibility for every online interaction and conversation.

SCRM with LinkedIn has well defined advantages for users – just the ability to view detailed profile information and connections for every contact linked to an account can make a world of difference in choosing the correct person to initiate a sales pitch with and whom to convince for finalizing the deal. A ‘true’ 360 degree view of an account through any CRM solution is lacking without details of all relevant key contacts and their LinkedIn profiles. In a nutshell - LinkedIn and SCRM can facilitate improved business relationships by assisting companies in generating stronger referrals plus building better rapport with prospective and existing customers.