SAN FRANCISCO -- Remember "coffee is for closers?" Maybe it's time to update David Mamet's classic "Glengarry Glen Ross" mantra for the Web 2.0 age: "Coffee is for chatters."
That's apparently the deal for sales managers and reps who -- like it or not -- are embracing a bevy of Web 2.0 technologies to generate leads, manage customer relationships and deliver quota-busting quarters without going through the hassle of shaking any hands or throwing down the corporate plastic for $12 cocktails.
"We're at the beginning of a movement," Geoffrey Moore, founder of the technology consulting firm The Chasm Group, told a couple hundred attendees during his keynote address kicking off the inaugural Sales 2.0 Conference here. "The consumer has a better tool set than the employee in the enterprise. But that's changing. It's a still a work in progress. It's a subtle dance we're all still trying to learn."
Expect more of these Fill-In-The-Blank 2.0-type conferences in the months and years ahead as professionals from all walks of life seek to understand the impact instant messaging, wikis, blogs, Web conferencing, social networking and on-demand business applications are having on the fundamentals of selling and interacting with an evolving customer base.
David Thompson, founder of the Sales 2.0 Conference and CEO of Genius.com, a developer of on-demand Web analytics software, said today's event was designed to give sales professionals some perspective on just how disruptive these new technologies have become and how sales professionals can incorporate them into their existing sales techniques. Properly leveraging them can increase both the speed and number of deals they close, he said.
"We're pushing the boundaries," he said. "Sales 2.0 is about how sales and marketing are merging into one indistinguishable customer interaction. It's about creating communities and using search marketing to tap into communities. We're still in the early days from a technology and process perspective. The purpose of this conference is to educate people about this trend and show them how they can engage buyers with these technologies when they're trying to buy."
One key way in which businesses can leverage these technologies is by connecting with underserved markets. All of the major enterprise software vendors -- from SAP, Oracle and Salesforce.com to Microsoft and IBM -- have realized that much of their future growth will likely come from customers in developing countries like China and India, and from small- and mid-sized businesses (SMB) that have thus far fallen through the cracks.
These customers and their orders -- ranging from roughly $10,000 to as much as $250,000 -- are too small to justify the expense of flying out the bigwigs for extensive hand-holding. But they still require a level of customer support and hands-on expertise that can't be gained merely from a corporate Web site.
It's this vast middle ground that companies from all industries are desperate to serve, and Web 2.0 can help. Salespeople increasingly are using Web conferencing as a replacement for expensive in-person meetings. Customer questions that used to take weeks to resolve can be answered immediately by simply pinging the appropriate colleague for a quick instant messaging session.
Qualifying potential customers, one of the biggest challenges to any sales representative, can be assisted by Web site monitoring software that can segment would-be customers based on which areas of the site they're visiting and what kind of information they're accessing. And, of course, search marketing perfected by the likes of Google is replacing more costly marketing methods that offer lower returns on investment, like direct mail or mass e-mail.
"It's not just small businesses," Moore said. "It's any business that's slightly disenfranchised. It could be a department within a Fortune 500 company that doesn't have access to IT resources. It could be affluent individuals or channel resellers. It's an awkward economic thing to go after."
And going after these customers requires a skill set and familiarity with Web 2.0 technologies that many middle-aged sales managers may not possess. As Generation Y enters the workforce, bringing with it knowledge of chat, texting and YouTube as communication staples, expect to see a greater focus on the metrics derived from these tools. Also expect to see new ways of using them to build the relationships their predecessors forged in person over drinks.
"There's a major shift in selling styles right now," Moore said. "It requires a light touch and the right touch. You can't push. And you can't miss. The key principles are to be responsive and be authentic."
This article was first published on InternetNews.com.