InfoWorld has an article by Ephraim Schwartz called “Social Networking Targets the Enterprise” that says that corporations are looking to use social networking service features in their CRM (customer relationship management) software. They mention a couple of companies that will be offering this, Contact Network, Interface Software, Spoke Software, and ZeroDegrees.

For example, the ZeroDegrees dashboard would allow a person in furniture sales to be alerted when a large company leases more space or places ads for employees, thus indicating expansion and the need to furnish new office space, said Jas Dhillon, CEO of ZeroDegrees.

Other vendors ramping up their capabilities include Spoke Software. Next year the company will add a hosted service to its current on-premise solution. Spoke claims it has doubled the size of its relationship base from 5 million to 10 million people a user can access.

Law firm Honigman, Miller, Schwartz, and Cohn used Interface Software’s InterAction suite to land lucrative accounts, according to Cynthia Reaves, partner at the firm. “We use InterAction to strategize about how to approach a client and develop teams of people to approach a potential client on a particular matter,” Reaves said.

Interface is unique in that its social networking capability is a single feature in a complete CRM application for the professional services industry. It also uses outside content from companies such as Dun & Bradstreet and Hoover’s to extend and improve the quality of potential contacts.

“Companies like Siebel and are watching this space. These social networking companies will be gobbled up real quick,” Pombriant said.

Pombriant believes the two exceptions are Interface Software, which offers a full CRM product, and perhaps ZeroDegrees, if it can deliver on its promise of extending its capabilities out to sales intelligence.

Social networking as a phenomenon is helping CRM improve the speed of closing a deal, but with a different twist, according to Pombriant. “We are no longer interested in buckshotting the marketplace to do indiscriminate selling. Social networking is trying to identify the best opportunity and people to pitch those opportunities to,” Pombriant said.

It will be interesting to see how this intersection of CRM, sales support software, and social network services will play out. At least there is a decent business model here.

Life With Alacrity

© Christopher Allen