Groundswell Selling

As part of my current product development, I bought a couple of books to feast on, rather than rely on web-based morsels to further my knowledge.  One I picked up from an airport bookshelf had an intriguing title, “Groundswell, winning in a world transformed by social technologies” yet thoroughly uninspiring green cover with concentric circles emanating from the word ‘groundswell’.

The simple approach to the cover turns out to be a masterstroke.  It matches the brilliance of the summaries contained within that explain how firms adopt ‘web 2.0’ capabilities to achieve stellar performance.

It is also the first time that I can recall actually having met someone cited in such an auspicious tome.  With just half-a-dozen pages left in this Harvard Business Press publication, the example of Stormhoek came up.  This is a wine farm close to Wellington, about an hour out of Cape Town.  Amazingly, on my most recent trip there I met the two fellas that run their ‘marketing’ at a local Facebook get-together that I happened to fall into whilst also in the usually lacklustre Long Street Cafe.  They insisted I try their latest award-winning Pinotage.  From what I recall, their story and people have moved on quite a bit since the stage the book reached, but little did I know then that the original team had got to selling $10m a year through embracing the ‘groundswell’.  An incredible amount for a small start-up Saffer operation in such a fiercely competitive and seemingly saturated global market.

Anyhow, with the thrust of the book aimed at how you create genuine communities to further your ambitions, you’d think there wouldn’t be a lot in it for the standalone salesrep.  But you’d be wrong.  If you have anything at all to do with account management, then I reckon there’s a stunning insight for you.

Authors Charlene Li and Josh Bernhoff advocate thinking of five strategies (listen, talk, energise, support, embrace) and with each they put forward their ideal web 2.0 tool (such as reviews, blogs, forums, Q&As, wikis).

One of their most striking pronouncements, is that as of 2007 (p45) around half of all internet users engaged on some level with social apps.  Whether they simply browsed others’ conversations, right through to creating millions of pixels worth of content, that’s an undeniably huge number.

Of course, as an individual rep the practicalities of benefiting from this throw up barriers.  Especially if you spend half your life on the road.  Yet taking this willingness of consumers to communicate with their suppliers, it is possible to begin a small project that leverages such findings without recourse to technology.

People like to be asked their opinion.  So, (verbally) ask them direct what it is they really love about your product/service.  If they were in charge of it, what would they change/introduce/work on?  And delve deeper into this.  Amass all the responses.  Then document them and send off to all your personal clients.  Get them to vote on which are the best ideas, what are the priorities as they see them.  Come up with a ranking.

Collate this in your spare time, then present to Management.  Get them to implement something, preferably what’s top of the list.  Then pass on the good news to your very own little community.  And watch the follow-on sales soar.

If your bosses black-ball your efforts, polish that CV and seek out a new employer, pronto.  This stuff really is that fundamental.

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