My blog post Define a taxonomy of customer-pain-points and map your products & solutions against them got a response that asked for a taxonomy that works as a standard across all industries containing all possible pain-points that customers could have.
Here is my answer:
Each business or organization has to get to know their respective customers or audiences very deeply in order to list all possible issues that trouble them or could trouble them. This list has to be written from the point of view (!) of the customers or audiences and with their choice of words (!).
Then this list can be structured as a taxonomy and the vocabulary can be used to articulate all unique value propositions (USP) that the business or organization has to bring to the table.
Once the taxonomy exists, all unique value propositions, marketing content, sales content, human resources information about subject matter experts’ contact details / learning and development content / training content, and other content can be mapped against the taxonomy. This will reveal gaps and outdated versions.
The suggested approach to articulate a THE one taxonomy as the overall standard across all industries on the planet sounds very ambitious. I’m with Jorn Barger and Daniell Koller who write on quora that
“You can’t build a universal ontology using natural language. Its words are too vague.” [...] “You can’t build an universal ontology, but I would like to add that – for most of the use cases I have seen until now – THE one correct & complete ontology is not needed. [...] To my understanding it is much more important to be able to work on your own ontology subset and to link it with somehow more general documented wisdom. [...] My experience from this kind of standardization projects is that you might be able to manage the technical side of it, but the organizational and managerial aspect get very complicated once you target a singel taxonomy [...]“
As stated above, I think each business or organization has to go through the process of crafting this taxonomy for themselves and keeping it fresh (in times of mergers and acquisitions etc). The very process of crafting it in the voice of the customer or audience, will help the content and the conversations, the employees have, to resonate better with the customers/audiences. The customers need to be surprised by the extend to which the sellers speak their language and know about their pain before they actually expressed it.
When I worked at Nortel, we had the role of an information architect for Nortel. This role was in charge of keeping the taxonomy (of all products, services, and solutions) fresh and ideally making each taxon on the higher level sound like a need in the voice of the customer.
I agree that there is value in seeking standards and one common ontology, especially when we really reach the times of the semantic web / web 3.0. Then applications need to know which taxon is a treatment/intervention/mitigation for which other taxon etc…
The company BizSphere AG (which introduced the role of the information architect at Nortel and provided a semantic solution including software to edit the taxonomy) also developed the approach shown in this screen shot.
Full disclosure: I work with BizSphere AG. Here is a list of all other vendors I know of.
“Sales Enablement: Where does it live?
Several clients have asked us for best practices in sales enablement – specifically who owns it?
I’d support our marketing colleagues who are trying to align selling messages with product positioning and messaging documents. Others on the training side would say that their training materials are the baseline for sales enablement. Finally, the “sales enablement automation” crowd would claim ownership of the process and fulfillment of sales enablement materials on their web-based or internally-hosted portals.
So I ask YOU – learned Sales Enablement Content Group members: Where does Sales Enablement live?”
Coming from the point of view of someone providing web-based or internally-hosted portals for Sales Enablement, I would not claim ownership. All stakeholders like product marketing, training, CI/MI, the teams for pricing and ROI / business case calculations, the customer reference database, corporate branding, MarComs, etc… should be invited… invited to house their content and – just as important – their contact details in that one joint portal.
A portal… not for the sake of the technology or to have yet another portal… but… a portal to let all these stakeholders see which of their content works and which doesn’t (also which content is missing and which gets insightful comments as a feedback loop from the field or the channel back to corporate).
When there is this one interface that cuts across all team sites and the silos the many regional or functional groups might have built with SharePoint or LiveLink or any of these solutions, your sales people and channel partners can – for the first time – see what is available for the given sales situation they are in. None of the stakeholders “owns” this more than the others and the portal just helps to filter by sales step, region, industry vertical, content type, etc… to make visible whether the sale is being enabled or specific content and contacts are missing.
The single biggest complaint about Sales Enablement, I hear from sales people is missing content… content that is more specific than the generic pitch. A portal, that comes along with all stakeholders agreeing on content governance, a life-cycle duration for the content and responsibilities to respond to feedback & requests, will first of all make these gaps painfully visible and then guide the content planning to invest marketing’s dollars as effective as possible.
To come back to your question, in some organizations it might be the CMO and in others the sales leader or portfolio manager – who is the executive sponsor, who aligns all the stakeholders to feed the new portal and shut down the old ones.
inability to get sales and marketing teams aligned around the right processes and technologies costs upwards of 10 percent of revenue per year
On July 21, 2011, IDC hosted a webinar entitled “Setting Your Sales Enablement Strategy”. In the invite for the webinar IDC revealed a very interesting number that really helps to put the financial impact a proper Sales Enablement strategy can make into perspective:
“Is Sales Enablement a new concept? Certainly not. Marketing and some sales organizations have been attempting for decades to equip their direct and indirect sales channels with the right information, at the right time, in the right format, to assist in moving specific opportunities forward. However, companies’ inability to get their sales and marketing teams aligned around the right processes and technologies (or at least consistent ones) has cost them upwards of 10% or more of revenue per year; or $100 M for a $1B company. [...]“
The following chart (source IDG Connect) was also shared during the webinar:
slideshare.net/dbatup/implementing-sales-enablement by David Batup, founder of perperitus.com:
David sums up Sales Enablement as “a range of activities, disciplines and thinking focused on removing the barriers that often get in the way of successfully closing deals”.
“Sales enablement is all about maximising the outcome of the opportunity development time a salesperson has, and minimising the time spent on activities that can only be described, unkindly by some, as sales procrastination. To do this, sales enablement is about preparation for, the holding of, and follow-up from customer meetings to ensure the salesperson has the greatest chance of success, where success is moving the sale forward or closing.”
“Central to sales enablement is the idea of harnessing the knowledge and best practices of your best salespeople (the so-called ‘rainmakers’), to the benefit of the whole sales operation. And it is also about approaching the sales cycle not from the perspective of your company’s products and services, but from your customers’ perspective.”
“I suggest the major steps for sales enablement are:
- Understand how to articulate your products to customers’ business needs, buying cycle and information needs. Engage with your top performing salespeople
- Overlay the ‘moments of truth’ (MOT) onto the customer’s buying cycle to create an MOT map and include the levels of responsiveness required to meet their needs
- Define the sales enablement problem from the perspective of the customer and salespeople’s needs. Identify the collateral, tools and solutions that will support the salesperson before and after the appointment
- Invest in developing or aligning your assets to meet the customer’s business and process needs. Deploy the assets in a way that makes them easily accessible to sales, ensure they are in the context of the sales cycle and where appropriate provide customer self-service [...]“
“[...] Sales and marketing teams may say, “So what, this is what we do already, isn’t it?” But there is evidence that there is still a big shortfall in the way salespeople are prepared for and conduct themselves in front of the customer, relative to the customers’ expectations.[...]“
- 57% of customers felt the salesperson was not prepared for the meeting
- 33% of customers say deals could have been won if the salesperson had been better prepared
- 65% of sales time is spent not selling
- 7 hours a week is what the average salesperson spends looking for relevant information to prepare for sales calls
- 70%–90% of marketing material goes unused by sales
- 50% of information is pushed through email
- It takes an average of 7 months to ramp up a new salesperson.
Ian Richardson at ianrichardson.com/blog wrote ‘When is Knowledge Management Not Knowledge Management?’ on April 23, 2010. As I write a lot about providing context on this blog, I really liked his second last sentence:
“When people talk about knowledge management, they actually mean information management. You may think I’m playing with semantics, but there is an important distinction and one which applies to people such as I, who are in the business of managing information.
To imply that computer systems manage knowledge, demonstrates a fundamental omission in understanding of how people interact with computers. It implies that if you take information a and apply it to person b, then person b will become “knowledgable” about a. This is far from accurate. People (as the dictionary definitions state) have a mental state of “knowledge” which is affected by whatever new information is added. [...]
One cannot impart knowledge simply by making information available. Knowledge is a state of mind, gained from a gradual layering of learning experiences over time.
Companies implementing e-learning systems often make the mistake of assuming that the same information will have the same effect on all users. This is not the case. How people interpret the information they provide is actually the sum of the knowledge they extract and keep.
Let’s take you for example. You may be reading this because you have an interest in knowledge management and you arrived here from Google. You will have a whole host of prior knowledge about “knowledge management” with which to compare my assertions and either agree, disagree or be ambivalent regarding each point. the sum of this assessment is the knowledge which you will take from it. On the other hand, someone who arrives here from my Twitter feed is unlikely to have this context of being a “knowledge management expert” and they will have a different assessment of the content.
Good learning systems (aha – new term) not only allow for these different user contexts, but react to them by using the information provided by the user to infer one of many possible “contexts” – and then deliver more appropriate information.
At no point do we deliver or manage “knowledge”. [...]“
On April 5, 2010, I posted the following at EnableYourSales.com/blog:
On March 23, 2010, the German speaking site http://carta.info published an interview with Prof. Peter Kruse about complexity and the net.
The following quote (my own translation) supports BizSphere‘s knowledge management methods and user interface ideas, which aim to reduce the firehose of information (that marketing departments in B2B companies provide for sales people and channel partners plus what web 2.0 / enterprise 2.0 add) to what is relevant for a specific sales situation:
“…on the web, people use language way too undisciplined. Without a guiding context you can never be sure how a word used as a tag was meant. What’s the tag ‘drama’ worth, when one person tags pages from divorce lawyers because he is currently experiencing drama in his marriage and another person tags certain theatre productions in his city?”
In the BizSphere Sales Enablement solution we do allow ‘free tagging’ but in addition we force content, contacts, comments, etc. to be tagged in a defined enterprise language – the context. For example, the intersection points of the following taxonomies – or tagging dimensions – create a clearly defined space for all relevant sales information to “live in”:
- products, services and solutions
- information types
- regions and countries
Thanks to the tagging dimensions being defined specifically for each enterprise, they can be used as a common enterprise language – even across different mother tongues. The benefits for the seller are simple yet effective: Searching for information supported by a commonly agreed semantic enterprise language delivers the results which are making sense in a certain sales context. This is something a classical search approach can’t deliver.
Sales Enablement means a clear value proposition for each of the audiences: business lead, their researchers / support in the deal, and technical folks who implement
“I’ve been working on a lot of sales enablement kits lately. My biggest learning on sales enablement came about ten years ago, when I did a study for a big enterprise technology company on marketing effectiveness. We looked at three marketing objectives: Generate demand, drive awareness and comprehension, and enable the sales force. In hindsight, it was ultra-simple. But, we came up with a really powerful conclusion. The most effective programs, in terms of ROI, were sales enablement programs. However, when we spoke to reps, they complained about 90% of the content they were provided. What really mattered was the 10% “really good” stuff that made the deals.
So, the recommendation had two parts: First, invest more in sales enablement. Second, only produce 1/5 of the material. This sounds like a “duh” recommendation, because we’ve all heard the trite adage about the CMO who says “I know I could cut 50% of my marketing spend, I just don’t which 50%”… but there was more to it. The number one thing reps needed, it turned out, was cascading detail about the solutions they were selling. Reps selling into complex organizations need to be enabled with at least three levels of detail–one for the business lead, one for his or her researchers / support in the deal, and one for the technical folks that will actually be doing the implementation. Without a clear value proposition and component model for each of these audiences, reps spend hundreds of hours spinning their wheels. In most cases, these levels of detail don’t exist, at least not in distilled form.
Another interesting observation I’ve had is that companies are usually really good at selling into one of the above audiences, but lousy at selling in to the other two. For example, Microsoft seems really good at selling into the implementers, but not so good with the decision makers and researchers. They’re ok, don’t get me wrong, but every company has its strength. So, if you can figure out how to make selling into role a strength, you’ll outcompete your rivals and win.
Each level of detail should also cascade. If we’re focusing on a value proposition, it might cascade like this:
- Decision Maker: Acme helps me realize my performance targets by providing my teams with the best possible productivity tools, while functioning flexibly with my existing systems.
- Researcher: Acme provides superior performance management tools across the finance and HR functions, at a superior value / price ratio to the competitive set; Acme’s core APIs are best-in-class and can be integrated with a minimum of effort compared to the competitive set.
- Implementer: Acme’s integration services are flexible and best-in-class, and can be installed on any of my core systems using its easy-to-use customization kit; Acme’s load balancing services make it the least impactful to our overall operating environment
The idea here is that the value proposition builds from one level to the other. Researchers and implementers will still be interested in the “core” business value proposition, but the value we can provide them needs to be more specific to be sufficient for them to be comfortable.
The same concept applies when we get to component model. For a decision maker, a component model should be purely functional, but should show exactly how the solution in mind meets their business needs and enables the value proposition. The component model would then be filled in with detail and potentially blown into a few pages for the researcher. Finally, when it came to implementation, the component model would turn into a full-blown technical design. The key is that it’s translatable top-to-bottom and bottom-to-top. An example is shown below:
Thoughts about this topic? What are some examples of cascading sales enablement / core content that have worked for you?”
Please leave your comments on the original post ‘Cascading detail for sales enablement’.