“Send him in.”  The CEO called to his secretary. 


The SVP of Sales entered the office. 


“Have a seat.  How are things going with the Acme* Account?”


“Good.  We’ve just got the software fully installed.  Services is working on the integration.  I think it’s been a bit of a struggle.”


“Hmm…the reason I’m asking is because of this…”, the CEO flipped his monitor to face the SVP.   On the screen was a scathing critique by Acme’s director of IT.  The blog post included:


  • Delays in the project due to bugs
  • Lack of professional support
  • Grandiose (and untrue) promises by sales reps


The SVP read the post and exhaled, “I didn’t know it was that bad.”


“This is going to be tough to fix. It’s in the top ten results when you search our name.”


This is a true case, but names have been changed. It may sound familiar.  The SVP is not alone.  With the internet, access to information is expanding at an exponential pace.  This means good things when we are conducting research on a prospect.  But our prospects are also conducting the same due diligence.


We recently conducted a prospect survey for one of our clients.  74% used the internet as their primary research method.  But only 35% indicated that the vendor websites were helpful.  Where were the prospects? On message boards and social groups of their peers.  They scoured complaints and looked at 3rd party star ratings.  63% felt comfortable enough to create a shortlist without ever speaking to a provider.


This means it’s critical to monitor customers, prospects, and thought leaders of your industry.  Every customer interaction has the potential to be scrutinized.  Bloggers living in Mom’s basement can tarnish a brand in a few keystrokes. A review from a disgruntled customer may kill a potential lead. Social media has given everyone a microphone.


It’s also an opportunity for the opposite:  Exceptional alignment with customers, prospects, and thought leaders.  The customer complaining on Twitter? Over-deliver on your next promise.  The thought leader with a critique on your product?  Create a personalized response from Product Development addressing concerns.  Great companies listen to their customers:  Look at Zappos, Nordstroms, and the Four Seasons. Also, customers celebrate exceptional experiences.  Look no further than WestJet.


By listening, you can improve your customer experience.  Use social listening tools such as Socialmention.com, Google Alerts, and Feedly.  Within an hour you’ll have:


Scheduled emails in your Inbox.  These will report on your company, competitors, and industry. They will help you stay current in your field.  You’ll hear news and reviews of the latest products and competitive offerings.


A Real-time e-magazine:  This feed will provide:


  • Articles from Bloggers and Thought Leaders:  Some of these will be about your company. Some will be about your competitors.  All make you more aware of your competitive environment.  Thought leaders and blogs carry significant weight.  Most sales organizations don’t pay them enough respect.
  • Keyword based News: Want to know if a specific product, customer, or company makes headlines?  Set-up real time news feeds that are pushed to your device as they are published.  You’ll be a step ahead of the competition.


Social Media Listening is one of the biggest opportunities to improve customer and sales interactions.  Don’t get caught flat-footed.


Once you’ve completed the exercise, please share any helpful content you discovered below.  I’m eager to hear your results.