“The Perfect Tool to Boost Sales”

When that is the subject line of your email…especially on a Monday…you had better be able to deliver. Needless to say, I had to open it up to see just what I was missing.

It turns out it was an offer to try Chatter…the (fairly) new service from Salesforce.com that as their site states creates a “free, private and secure social network just for your business”. Within seconds my curiosity was piqued – how could an internal social network boost sales?

What I found from reading their sales literature is that Chatter uses a Facebook-style experience to create interaction and collaboration between coworkers within the same organization – you can set up hierarchies and departments and share status updates, notes and even tweets among your group. It creates channels for private messaging between members and creates a portal for private file sharing. In essence, it is a combination of the water cooler and the boardroom in a cloud-based setting.

Having just presented “Turning Social into Sales” at a conference last week I kept thinking about how internal communication could help boost revenue. After all, the gist of what I was saying to the audience was that we need to listen more and talk less…we need to engage the customer effectively and we need to present our products appropriately. Chatter doesn’t seem as if it does any of these, or at least do them directly. Granted, I am judging this off sales literature…perhaps someone on the inside will tell me different.

Where I do see value in chatter is that it keeps everyone informed, without the daily barrage of email. If the boss is willing to share the vision/news/forecast and if the field staff are able (or willing) to share what they are hearing in the world, perhaps the folks in between can create cool tools to help each succeed. The best sales presentations are built with information and I can see this being a great way to keep everything in line.

Is reducing my email enough to validate a social network? Would I really join if not coerced by someone? Or is this a Google Wave-like experiment where the cool productivity tools are lost because I really don’t want to communicate with my coworkers that way. Is this just one more service trying to take on Facebook (which at least here in my company is where we have already created groups that do the same thing as Chatter)?

Salesforce.com will tell you a key selling feature is security. With any cloud-based service, you have to be mindful where your data sits, who is able to dig in and for what reason it can be used. Since my firm isn’t sharing a great deal of proprietary stuff Facebook is still the answer…our users post their discussions in our closed group without too much concern. Perhaps in larger organizations with more secretive operations a product like Chatter offers additional benefit. Again, every situation calls for a different tool.

I am going to keep researching, but I think I am still looking for “The Perfect Tool to Boost Sales”. If you have it, feel free to share it with us all.

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