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Technology is the great sales equalizer Add to ...

If you grew up with Disney you know it's a small world, made even smaller by technology, the Internet, and social media. The impact on different sectors and companies has varied, in both good and bad ways.

In sales, social media has proven to be the great equalizer. Large companies traditionally had a great advantage in the client-acquisition process, from marketing – including lead generation – to engaging potential buyers. They could not only leverage their budgets, they also had multi-regional resources to establish their brands and to raise awareness, giving them the ability to more readily convert prospects to clients.

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But social, both the tools and trends, have levelled the playing field, allowing small businesses to compete and even out-do larger players when it comes to winning the hearts, minds and budgets of buyers.

It used to be that mounting a sustained and successful campaign to market, sell to, and maintain customers required more money, resources and time than many small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) could afford. While the Internet and advances in logistics allowed SMBs to expand their reach, much of that demand found them – it wasn’t the result of specific steps they took to create and attract the business.

Social media changed the game, including how businesses view their client-acquisition processes and execution. Companies, no matter how small, can develop and implement an effective campaign by leveraging social media, targeting very specific buyers of their product, with a budget not much greater than that required for traditional vehicles.

No longer limited by barriers between sales and marketing, which existed more because of the tools available than due to a specific need, companies can now take a truly holistic view. Evidence can be seen in the rise of chief revenue officers or directors of revenue, who now have the responsibility and the ability to drive business throughout the client life cycle. They can use social to better nurture and score leads before moving opportunities down the assembly line to sales.

Social then can provide better air cover for the sales “ground troops,” while at the same time allowing them to establish their brand alongside that of the company. Finally, social can play a key role in enhancing the retention and penetration stage. All of this can be done just as effectively and, one could argue, with more creativity than it can be by larger companies with proportionally greater marketing and sales resources deployed in more traditional (or Web 1.0) ways.

People are increasingly interacting with social media and consuming information on mobile devices. Tools designed for those users provide better targeting, often with lower costs. General applications such as Hootsuite and Tweedadder allow you to identify potential buyers, to find out what your customers are saying, and to prospect specific individuals or groups.

Another trend social allows sellers to leverage is geo-sensing. Local sellers can compete based on their proximity to buyers without necessarily sacrificing the broader “global” market. “Increasingly, geo-sensing search and geo-location are becoming critical in search and other kinds of online (primarily mobile) online interactionsl,” says Dr. James Norrie, associate professor at Ryerson University in Toronto. “In our practice, we have corrupted the original term ‘glocal’ to indicate global, local search. That is, accessible and visible globally, but the emphasis on locally originated and serviced searches and hits.”

As people continue to converge their consumption of traditional media, social media and search into one seamless environment, using tools such as Flipboard, smaller local sellers can heighten their visibility to local buyers with geo, without sacrificing global prospects who seek them out based on subject tags used to pinpoint their messages.

It won’t be long before business-to-business sellers have tools that give them the ability to interact with prospects in the same way individual consumer-oriented sellers use apps such as Foursquare. How long before big and and small businesses take advantage of Facebook’s recently announced “graph search” to go beyond connecting and mapping relationships to connecting and mapping people to products.

With social tools, the world is flat again, and SMB sellers are on equal footing with bigger and broader competitors.

Tibor Shanto is a principal at  Renbor Sales Solutions Inc.  He can be reached at tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca. His column appears once a month on the  Report on Small Business website.

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