Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Web 2.0 and a god's eye view

My good friend Dave Stein (pilot, musician, and Martha’s Vineyard regular) recently wrote a blog post questioning whether a sales team should be equipped with “Sales 2.0” tools. Dave rightly points out that no software, in and of itself, ever solved a business problem. These tools must be directed to a specific set of objectives against which management can measure progress.

Dave’s post elicited a rather vociferous response from Michael Webb. While Dave raises a legitimate question that warrants discussion, Michael chooses to flog his own book of business; a book built around Lean Six σ methodologies applied in a sales environment.

I live in an environment where we apply Lean Six σ methodologies to our sales processes every day. And for all the great results derived, Lean Six σ is but one of a set of tools, not the be all end all that Michael Webb’s book of business compels him to suggest (Michael conveniently overlooks operational effectiveness as a prerequisite to sales effectiveness).

Sales 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, Web 2.0, or whatever banner you choose to fly social media under, directed at a specific purpose or purposes can greatly enhance sales force effectiveness. Take a project driven, team selling environment for instance. Selling in this environment, the team typically finds itself dealing with a blizzard of long email threads, phone tag, and conference calls that prove limited in their productivity, all directed at closing the deal.

Sales 2.0 is about creating ambient awareness for the team. The conference call I mentioned before creates awareness
during the call. But after the call, the participants all go their separate ways and have a difficult time keeping everyone in the loop...until their next conference call.

Since Dave is a very good pilot I will use an analogy of flight to make my point. The F-15 Eagle is my generation’s air superiority fighter of choice used to project U.S. air power around the world. The current generation is the F-22 Raptor.

I consider the F-15 a lethal, but
anti-social weapon. A flight (more than a single aircraft in coordinated operations) of F-15’s will break formation to engage targets, manage threats, etc., all the while maintaining radio contact to coordinate their activities. This need for regular radio contact places a significant added workload on the pilot and creates limits to the effectiveness of their coordination (think intermittent conference calls during battle).

The F-22 is lethal
and social. Yes, the F-22 was in to social networking before it was cool. The F-22 features an Inter/Intra-Flight Data Link (IFDL) that “allows all F-22’s in a flight to share target and system data automatically and without radio calls”...or conference calls. This social networking capability enables each pilot to have ambient awareness of each of the other pilot’s fuel, armament, targeting, and threat assessment data. This heightens the efficiency and effectiveness with which attacks can be coordinated. And at the risk of offending some, I will point out that the Air Force refers to this capability as providing a god’s eye view of the battle, both in the air and on the ground.

So, to dismiss Sales 2.0 out of hand is to utterly misunderstand its potential when applied for specific purposes. And I suspect Dave Stein will continue to fly circles around Mr. Webb.