You walk into a meeting with a new prospect and right off the bat ask, “say Sam, looks like you had a ball watching the world cup finals last night.” A smile lights up his face and he goes all agog about his favourite team. You are off to a fantastic start, but how did you know what he was up to? Surely, not by staking him out. That would be scary.
B2B engagements by their very nature tend to be more personal, entwined and long-lasting. And they take time to establish. Very often the engagement stays in first or second gear before it really gets going and hit top gear. The need of the moment is anything that helps to establish rapport with the customer faster, speed up the early stages of engagement, to accelerate us from first to third or fourth quickly. And that’s where social contact management tools like Gist and Rapportive can help.
Tools like Gist and Rapportive add a social “layer” atop your inbox, giving you unprecedented visibility into your contact’s social activity. In a basic sense that means you get a peek into what they last tweeted, their latest Facebook status, LinkedIn activity and so on. You are now privy to what occupied their minds recently, the ideas they’ve been toying around with, the people they met, where they’ve been to, what irked or delighted them…Imagine the depth such information can bring to your conversations with them. Invariably, as long as you’re judicious with that information, your relationship with them is off to a surer footing. You may be “meeting” them for the first time, but they are no stranger to you.
For example, with Rapportive in Gmail, you’ll see contact information for the person whose message you are reading or reply right within your inbox, on the right side (replacing the ad space). Rapportive scours the social landscape and provides links and details from LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and numerous other sites to give you a quick glance at just who it is you’re corresponding with. It will also tell you location information, if they are nearby and using such services, of course. What’s neat is the hover feature. Hover over any email address, even within the body of an email, and it will pull up that profile. A limitation perhaps would be the ability to show just one contact at a time. So if you are addressing several people in your communication it may not work that well for you. Enter Gist.
Gist (now owned by Research in Motion) works somewhat similarly but with several key enhancements (disclosure: I am a fan). It works with Outlook, Lotus Notes and integrates with Salesforce.com – that makes it enterprise-friendly right off the bat (though it also means you need to establish an account with Gist, or via your Google Apps account, something Rapportive assiduously avoids). After you grant Gist access to the email accounts, networks, calendars and contacts you want to manage, it continuously gathers all the traditional contact information as well as all social network contact information and content, records of all meetings and correspondence and even social graph data. Where Gist scores big time is in its ability to automatically search for, and aggregate, whatever social networks and news feeds it can find that are associated with a particular email address. This includes recent tweets, FaceBook updates, and individual news feed articles. And as it keeps in sync with your Outlook or Gmail, if it can’t find an address, automatically creates one and starts adding records to it. You also get to see multiple profiles at once.
Gist’s web interface delivers even more useful functionality, notwithstanding its cluttered look. Contacts are divided into three tabs: Dashboard, People and Companies. The Companies dashboard in particular gives you a “helicopter” view into the companies you are in most touch with. Checking it every once in a while can help mine for further business opportunities. You can view and update a profile, research people and companies to prep for a meeting, adjust a contact’s “importance”, post directly to Twitter and Facebook, optimize your dashboard, and even set up a Gist vanity profile – mine is http://gist.com/asuthosh. Gist also has iOS and Android apps that make it supremely convenient to look up the “gist” of the person you are going to meet while you are on the way.
So go on, surprise your prospects and customers with how much you know about them. Give Rapportive or Gist (or both!) a spin and find out how it can give your B2B engagements a fillip.