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Throughout the recent history of enterprise social networks, two modes of operation have been advocated and observed. The first, freeform collaboration, holds that employees are more productive when they can freely share ideas and content. While this has been an interesting theory, it is hard to prove. Measuring increased productivity associated with sharing is, at best, indirect.
On the other hand, more purposeful sharing of business objects such as sales opportunities, is seen as a more measurable way to enhance existing processes, making typical business activities more efficient. The more direct connection to work product such as sales should be an attractive use since they are connected directly to business outcomes.
One would assume, therefore, that a group of Salesforce.com power users would make the most use Saleforce.com’s Chatter to drive sales, manage projects, and track the progress of sales. Surprisingly, that was not the case.
In a recent survey of the Salesforce Power Users Group, Neuralytix found that exchanging ideas, sharing files, and keeping up to date on corporate information were the most common uses of Salesforce.com Chatter. Those surveyed were asked to name the top three uses of Chatter. “Tracking sales progress” and “driving sales to close through interactions with colleagues” rated at the bottom, with only the choice “finding directory information on colleagues” having fewer responses. Driving sales to close garnered roughly 21% of responses while exchanging ideas with colleagues was over 81%.
This is surprising. One would expect that the users of Salesforce.com applications, especially Sales Cloud, would see the value in using Chatter to drive sales activity. Instead, the more freeform use of an enterprise social network appears to be the primary purpose that these power users use Chatter.
There are several explanations for this. For example, the sample was heavy in information technology professionals, nearly 40% of the sample. However, similar patterns were observed amongst sales professionals and those with other job functions.
It may also be that Salesfoce.com power users are using Chatter to move and track sales in the pipeline but indirectly. For example, it is possible that when respondents say they are sharing ideas and files, they are actually sharing sales collateral or ways to close deals. This is a likely scenario since these types of free form interactions are necessary to successfully closing sales.
Another, and in our opinion more plausible, explanation is that Chatter is not yet integrated into sales processes in many organizations. Even though Chatter is in heavy use in this sample (with daily engagement rates over 50%) organizations aren’t yet using it to its full potential as a sales enablement tool.
Salesforce.com’s Chatter should be used to drive and track sales and projects. These uses have more immediate effects on a business than sharing knowledge and files which is, arguably, more convenient than necessary. Instead, a less intentional use of Chatter persists even among power users. This, in turn, indicates that organizations are not getting full value from their investments in Chatter and Salesforce.com products.
Companies that deploy Chatter should be looking for ways to plug Chatter into their primary sales process to drive more sales. This may take the form of education or more formal business process engineering. One thing is clear – the current state lessens the impact of Chatter even when engagement is very high.
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