Selling Social Collaboration to the Front Line

Andrew Kratz

Some of the more challenging conversations you will have regarding your new social collaboration platform are with your front line business teams. These are the job functions that are at the heart of your organization. They have no time to waste and many will be skeptical of “hot trends” that might be long on promises and short on delivering. It is worth the time to spend with them as they have the most to gain from social tools.


An overview of the new social Intranet is not going to cut it with this crowd. For these high powered teams you need to get into the details of what THEY do day to day. Listen closely as they describe how they work. For each activity, listen for the people that they work with and the content (documents, discussions, etc.) that they exchanged. Additionally, understand the context, or how the people and content interact. Is it via email or a document storage system? Once you understand their model you can apply a social layer and articulate an improved business proposition.


Here is an example:

Meeting with a sales team

A sales manager describes her business model working with the home office. The sales reps interact daily with internal groups such as marketing, product, finance, legal and support. The sales team requires a variety of information including the latest marketing materials, client proposal feedback, and product answers to name a few. Materials and discussions are scattered in their email inboxes, hard drive, folders and on a couple of different file sharing systems each home office group utilizes. Organizing, following-ups, and keeping track of this takes time away from engaging clients.


The Social Business Value

A collaboration solution can help in a number of ways. First, with one system that is part of every employee’s work flow at the company (a Social Intranet), all of the groups mentioned above can stay abreast of new updates to materials and discussions.


Specifically to the marketing material, a group can be formed to allow a self-service model for the sales team. Marketing can store the latest collateral in the group for the sales team to pick up as needed. No more wondering if you have the latest document. Additionally, reps can post questions to get clarifications on speaking points and additional materials that they require. Based on views, likes, & ratings, marketing will get quantifiable feedback to help them target their efforts where they are most impactful. Because this is all conducted in a collaboration group between sales and marketing, all staff, from both groups, will benefit from these interactions. No more one off emails answering the same questions over and over.


For proposal reviews, a collaboration group or project centered on this client deal can be created to include all of the stakeholders. Red-lined contracts from legal, comments from the product group, and approval from management can all occur in the group creating a one stop shopping context. A number of issues go away such as searching your inbox for a discussion or document. Not being sure if you have the latest version. Not needing to be concerned if all of the right people were included in an email as all of the right people are part of the group.


At the company level, a collaboration group revolving around that client would allow everyone that interfaces with the client , from sales to support, to be on the same page. Clients will no longer talk about your company in terms of “their right hand doesn’t know what their left hand is doing”.


At this point, the business value should begin to become apparent enough for this sales team to be willing to pilot the concept. Help get the momentum going by offering to assist them using some of the techniques below: 


  • Pilot a Group – offer to set-up a group and spend 30 minutes orientating the team on how to effectively use the tool. 
  • Identify a Champion – Who in that group is the natural facilitator? Who “gets it” and can carry the torch?
  • Mentor Group – Is there another group that they would respect that is a few steps ahead and can be a lighthouse for them.
  • Learn/Compete Together - Take two groups that would respect one another and create some partnering/competition so they can learn and grow together.


Teams at your company will want to adopt these tools as they see these benefits, however, anything that is new, no matter how intuitive, does take some effort on their part to get acquainted with the thinking and features. With your diligence, this team will soon be a model that you can point to for other teams to follow.