A small side conversation I had with some of the participants in the Social SCM Summit in DC this week revolved around successful social CRM strategies. I know, isn’t that the whole reason we braved the snow in the first place? But this was more of a discussion around what intangibles are involved in successful initiatives, not what tools and features people use.

The talk was very similar to a lot of the issues around traditional CRM – and the reasons for failures, low adoptions, etc. When technology is the driver and not cultural change – or simply a business goal – CRM can be more of a hindrance than a help. (I actually had a quick conversation on Twitter today with a SugarCRM user seemingly frustrated with the system. Upon uncovering the issue, it wasn’t the Sugar technology, but rather the way it was setup in line with the company’s policies that was causing the frustration.)

CRM systems are designed – in theory – to make your worst sales person as good as, or least have the same tools as, your best rep. This is a tough promise to fulfill. Why? Because what makes your best sales rep so great usually has VERY LTITLE to do with typing data into a system or pulling a report. Yes, CRM systems can increase productivity, visibility and give sales people awesome tools to make their life easier. Will a CRM system instantly help you close deals? Not really. If someone tells you that, they are lying. Plain and simple. it may help you close MORE deals, and get to more prospects, and see where you’re falling down, but a software system is not a sales person.

Great sales people have people skills that can not be replicated in a software application. The application only helps these people spend more time leveraging these skills, not performing administrative busywork.

Social CRM is not all that different. If you are a great marketer, with a great message, a remarkable voice in your industry, with a solid sales team to match – social CRM can be a great tool. However, if you’re a boring, “me too” type company with nothing special to offer the social universe, that will immediately be apparent.

The soft skills that sales and marketing people leverage across these new channels are what is making some companies excel at social media. The lack of these skills, coupled with the lack of understanding of social media etiquette (dare we use the term “netiquette” in 2010?) can be deadly.

We saw a lot of what is needed to “get social” as CRM entered the call center. While the tools made it easier for call center agents to reach more customers – satisfaction numbers did not necessarily go up. This is because if your agents with no social soft skills touch more customers – you are simply providing the same mediocre service levels – just to more people.

As the social CRM experiment continues – make sure the right people are becoming the social face of your organization. Technical know-how and understanding of the vastness of the web are great, but a little people-person skill goes a long way in the social media world.