February 2010 issue of CRM magazine: Sales Enablement Tools – The relevant vendors

I keep a work in progress list of Sales Enablement vendors. In its February 2010 issue CRM magazine does a great job at singling out the relevant vendors:

Sales Enablement Tools

Make the Selling Simpler: Organizations want sales reps to have access to the right information at the most critical moments
By Christopher Musico
[…]

“[…] the sweet spot for sales enablement—defined by IDC as “the delivery of the right information to the right person at the right time and in the right place to assist in moving a specific sales opportunity forward.”
Scott Santucci, senior analyst at Forrester Research, says he’s seen an explosion of interest in this area over the past year. […]
Santucci says each of the relevant vendors—including BizSphere, iCentera, Kadient, and Savo Group—cater to slightly different problems. […]

BY THE NUMBERS

  • $135,262 is spent, on average, in support costs per year for each salesperson.
  • 7 hours per week is what the average salesperson spends looking for relevant information to prepare for sales calls.
  • 50 percent of the information is pushed through email.
  • 10 percent is “made available in a useful format.”

Source: Forrester Research & IDC Sales Advisory Service

THE VENDOR SHORTLIST

BizSphere — BizSphere Sales Enablement consists of four separate applications involving both sales and marketing: Sales Web, Document Generation, Content Landscape, and Editors.
iCentera (www.icentera.com) — iCentera Enterprise Edition 6.0 offers wiki-page builders, customizable portals, custom tabs, a company newsroom, and dynamic email.
Kadient — Kadient Dynamic Sales Content, Sales Playbooks, and Sales Performance Analytics can be accessed directly from within sales force automation systems via productized integration with Salesforce.com and Oracle CRM On Demand.
Savo Group — Savo Sales Asset Manager provides an organizational structure to enable sales pros to rank content, based on business rules, to recommend content for each particular selling situation.”

 

Using the Buying Process to Provide Contextually Relevant Content

On December 14, 2009 Christian Maurer wrote the blog post ‘Using the Buying Process to Provide Contextually Relevant Content’:

“In his post “It is time to think about creating an enterprise context” Matthias Roebel clearly shows that the definition of a stable enterprise context makes information exchange and management more effective. Sharing information is only effective if the shared information can easily be found by others when needed. An enterprise context to me is thus a multidimensional information space, allowing relevant information to be found from various points of view tied to the day in a life scenario of a sales person.

For sales enablement systems, it is of particular importance that the customer view is considered when structuring this information space. As I explained in my last post on this blog (The Need to Understand the Context, B2B Sales People are Operating in) one of the key customer views to be included is the customer’s buying process.

This recommendation is based on the recognition that Buyer/Seller relationships are changing. By staying with the sales process as the structuring element, these important changes might be missed or discovered too late.

Scott Santucci from Forester research in a recent post confirmed this fact of changing relationships. He writes:

“Buyer/Seller relationships are stratifying right before our eyes into a new caste system of strategic, value-added vendors on the one end and undifferentiated, commodity-type suppliers on the other.”

He suggests a

“…new selling model of actually co-creating value with customers and focusing on helping those customers drive business outcome”.

is needed.

In this post, I want to discuss how using steps in the customer’s buying process as one dimension to structure and access content is key to this new selling model.

What are the major steps in a customer’s buying process?

Activities to be carried out by the customers in the buying process might vary according to the size and type of organization. However the fundamental decisions to be made for advancing in the buying process remain the same. Structuring content according to what decision it actually supports, seems therefore a more robust concept. On a high level, there are 3 fundamental decision points:

The buyer:

  1. has to come to the insight that a status quo is no longer tolerable if the business should prosper and a more detailed investigation is needed.
  2. concludes that the ‘cost of the problem’ outweighs the ‘cost of solutions’ than can be bought
  3. decides to buy from the seller offering the best ‘perceived future in use value’ compared to the to be paid ‘cash value’

There are usually minor decision points in between these major milestones. But for the illustration of how to structure content along the customer’s buying process, the granularity of the 3 major milestones appears to be sufficient.

What contents will help the buyer to reach a decision?

Some people might see a deontological problem by the seller “pushing” the buyer over the first decision point. It is however legitimate for the seller to help the buyer already to come to the conclusion that the frustration with the status quo is no longer tolerable; provided it is done with the right mindset: Helping customers to get better outcomes for their business. What kind of content is then needed to help the customer in a non manipulative way to come to this conclusion?

Geoffrey James’ blog post “Neil Rackham: Sales is a Research Job” provides some guidance. In there, he cites Neil Rackham’s second rule for sales research being:

“Prospective customers do not value information about products; instead they value information about the industry and the customer’s competition, providing it is current and up-to-date”.

Standard “Corporate Literature” produced by the seller’s organization will thus hardly be what is needed to reach the first milestone in the customer’s buying process. Imagine yourself in the situation trying to assess the importance of a problem and you do not yet know whether you need a solution and if so, whether it could be bought somewhere. Now ask yourself how you would react to a salesperson rattling down a laundry list of features and if you are lucky maybe even a few benefits You would consider the seller’s pitch as being annoying because it is totally irrelevant to the decision you need to make.

Industry or analyst reports creating awareness about the problem the seller can address are a better suiting tactic. This also means that not all contents in Sales Enablement systems are produced by the seller’s organization. Making such reports available in a Sales Enablement system, linked to this early phase of the buying process, reduces the time sales people spend to research for such content and insures that the best suited content for that phase is used.

After reaching the first milestone, the co-creation of value between seller and buyer takes place. In this phase “educational” content, helping the customer to define the specific cost of the pain (e.g. if I do nothing, my sales continue to lag behind those of my strongest competitor by 1M$ per month) and showing how the seller’s solution can address the problem is to be provided (e.g. canned webinars, white papers etc.) The aim of this content is to help the customer to evaluate whether the cost of the pain outweighs the typical investment in a solution to solve the problem.

Considering this milestone is very relevant. Research shows that 20% of forecasted deals end up with ‘no decision’ (i.e. nothing at all is bought). I consider ignoring this second milestone as a root cause for this phenomenon.

This second milestone also allows for the distinction between value-added vendors and commodity type suppliers. The latter typically start their selling process only when the customer has reached the conclusion that solutions providing a positive return compared to the cost of the problem can be bought on the market.

To help the customer with the final selection of the seller with the highest impact on a business outcome, product literature sometimes helps, success stories and ROI calculations are other content to be used.

Conclusion

Using the customer’s buying process as an additional mean to structure the content to be provided within a Sales Enablement systems can be looked at as one of the “manageable projects” Scott Santucci suggests to address the strategic challenges of being successful in the “new caste system”.

References:

It is time to think about creating an enterprise context (Matthias Roebel)

The Need to Understand the Context, B2B Sales People are Operating in (Christian Maurer)

Its been a while why and what’s going on with sales enablement these days (Scott Santucci)

Neil Rackham: Sales is a Research Job (Geoffrey James)”

 

As a buyer, do you prefer a sales person who talks about your purchase in the context of your use case or one who assumes that the product is right for you just because of your physical proximity?

On December 21, 2009 Lee Levitt wrote the blog post ‘Open for Business or Hoping for Business?’ in which he basically makes the case for investments in Sales Enablement in 2010:

“[…] 2010 is promising to be a challenging year even as the economy slowly improves. Few analysts are expecting a return to robust growth anytime soon; those organizations that wait for calm waters and steady winds in this market will find themselves left on the beach.

The winners in 2010 will continue to hone their market definition, development and selling processes. Market leaders are:

  • Defining markets more narrowly
  • Prioritizing opportunities more systematically
  • Building deeper intelligence about individual organizations
  • Targeting marketing and sales assets more precisely
  • Analyzing the interim and final results more carefully


Measure What You Manage

The net effect of this work is two-fold. First, these organizations are finding higher ROI on their marketing and sales investments. While not all investments provide equal and high returns, the increased inspection of the process and results provides better and faster opportunities to modify and improve. Secondly, the organizations conducting this level of analysis and management are outdistancing their peers. Simply put, the right sales resource delivering the right sales conversation to the right prospect at the right time is vastly more compelling than a rep reading from a script or dragging a prospect through the corporate presentation.

As a buyer, which would you prefer – a sales person who talks about your purchase in the context of your use case or one who assumes that his or her product is right for you just because of your physical proximity?

We’ve all been there – we’ve been in both buying and selling situations in which everybody clicks and the process goes smoothly and quickly to the benefit of both parties. We’ve also suffered through situations in which it’s clear to almost everybody that the conversation is going nowhere.

Some marketing and sales executives have told me that they have chosen not to undertake this work because the underlying data is not available or that the process development and management appears difficult. They’re partially correct – the data is not easily available and the work is hard. This is what separates the leaders from everyone else. The leaders have chosen to take on this work and they are already enjoying the results.

Approximately a dozen technology companies have deeply invested in this work. Another couple of dozen are in some stage of investigation and implementation. These companies will be rewarded with higher top line revenue growth, profitability and customer satisfaction.

What Will be Different?

I’ll leave you with a challenge – what will you do to improve the efficacy of your marketing and sales activities in 2010? Do you still believe that what you did in 2008 and 2009 will work in 2010? What are you willing to do differently in 2010 to improve your results?”

See the full blog post and leave your comments here.

Sales Enablement bloggers on Knowledge and Context

On December 1, 2009 Matthias Roebel from MING Labs wrote the following post entitled “It is time to think about creating an enterprise context”:

“Hang on a second! Could the following be happening? By implementing an enterprise social network a company is solving all its Sales Enablement Challenges? Well, I doubt it.

No question, it is extremely important for every company to leverage the social networking and interaction technologies available today. They actually might encourage employees to share knowledge and to connect with each other more easily. However, if a social networking strategy is implemented without addressing some fundamental content management and communications problems within the enterprise, it won’t be successful in the long run.

“Facebook doesn’t have your friends. It has facts about your friends. Google is at its best when it gives you links to links, not the information itself,” says Seth Godin in his recent blog post “Getting Meta“. Technology can just be an enabler, not the solution to existing fundamental problems – social software makes no exception here.

Why is that? Just imagine an international school, where students from all over the world are gathering. All of them are speaking different mother tongues – a lingua franca like English is missing however. Now offer to this crowd of students the possibility to network. What you’ll see happening is them networking within their language silos. Just like on Facebook or LinkedIn: Nobody is having friends he can’t communicate with – like in the real world.

Finding a common language

So, in order to make collaboration and knowledge exchange strategies sustainable and successful a common language within the enterprise needs to be established – a lingua franca, an enterprise context. If this is not happening, Sales and Marketing, Communications and Delivery will keep on misunderstanding each other causing a lot of inefficiencies for the company. And they will keep on producing more and more information without actually creating a knowledge base for the company – the social content additionally created by the masses, even would come on top of this information pile.

You may think: This sounds pretty philosophical and far from reality? Let me proof to you the opposite with two examples. The first example is related to the incredible number of different namings for the same type of document. Take a brochure: It may be called brochure or flyer or customer deliverable or, or, or… I’ve seen companies with 500+ different labels for in fact just over 70 types for content items.

The second example is related to the offerings of a company. Times are changing quickly and so are the names of products and solutions. It’s quite normal in an enterprise, that some people are still speaking about a product using its older name while others are using the new name or an abbreviation – such differences are another source for misunderstandings.

“Right now, there’s way too much stuff and far too little information about that stuff. Sounds like an opportunity,” Seth Godin also states in “Getting Meta”. And exactly this opportunity enterprises need to explore, if they really want to become serious about a sustainable knowledge strategy for their Sales and Delivery, their Marketing and Communications departments. To overcome their existing challenges in the area of Sales Enablement they need to start creating information about information, in other words: meta data. Organizing this meta data in a controlled framework means setting up a commonly agreed on enterprise context, which describes the macro and the micro structures of the companies in a simple, but effective manner.

Once set up, the company’s knowledge base can grow steadily and even socially without causing additional information overload. Marketing can produce content right on target, and Sales reliably receives the information they need to lead valuable conversations with their customers.”

 

On November 22, 2009 Scott Santucci from blogs.forrester.com/tech_sales_enablement/ wrote the following in his post “It’s Been A While, Why — And What’s Going On With Sales Enablement These Days?”:

“[…] Too often people are focused on very tactical, short-term things to boost sales or improve skills, but a year later have very little to show for that effort. Why?

Enterprise selling is complex, and that complexity creates a paradox […] where making things simple for customers and sales requires you to confront the fact that you have a variety of people in your company who each carry different perspectives of who your customers are; and what needs to be done to solve them.

Declaring you need better sales people (or smarter sales people), or focusing on more activity (more leads, more calls); misses the point entirely.

Your customers have access to more information now […] than they have ever had before in the history of mankind. Preparing your sales people with more product knowledge is not suitable today as you are arming your field with the vary information customers can get themselves.

Buyer/seller relationships are stratifying right before our eyes into a new caste systems of strategic, value-added vendors on the one end; and undifferentiated, commodity-type suppliers on the other. Addressing this issue requires a fundamentally different way to go-to-market than we have had in the past and it means we’ve got to confront the mismatch in our business unit construct and product-centric view points with the new selling model of actually co-creating value with customers and focusing on helping those customers drive business outcomes.

[…] you would be very surprised at the number of your competitors who are building strategic programs right now to address these exact issues. The trick is to first understand this is a holistic problem, and then break it down into a set of manageable projects where you can “fix the plane while it’s flying”.”

 

In response to Scott’s blog post Ken Knickerbocker wrote the following on December 1, 2009:

“Scott stated “you have a variety of people in your company who each carry different perspectives of who your customers are; and what needs to be done to [help] them.”

So true. In your presentation Scott you refer to this as blind men describing an elephant challenge. All the blind men see the elephant differently depending on which part of the animal they happen to be touching.

[…] I’ve begun calling it the Mexico Dilemma. How one defines Mexico is largely dependent on where in Mexico they’ve visited. […]

So it is within any sales system. To someone tasked with ramping new sales people, knowledge management is an essential element in helping new recruits find the material and best practices needed to make a c-level call or position the company’s wide portfolio of products and services in the first meeting with that executive. But the Chief Sales Officer, with a singular focus on closing deals and meeting quarterly objectives, objectives the CFO and Wall Street are counting on, may not place the same emphasis on knowledge management. Instead knowledge management becomes just another SG&A line item to that CSO, one that is easily paired back in tough economic times.”

Sales and Marketing Misalignment

Great post at sellingpower.typepad.com ‘The Ten Causes of Sales and Marketing Misalignment’ from October 28, 2009:

“Every year CSO Insights surveys more than 1,800 sales organizations, and every year the survey indicates that many sales and marketing organizations are operating in separate silos. Here are the 10 obstacles that stand in the way of sales and marketing alignment:

1. The CEO who does not insist on unified reporting on the company’s sales pipeline. Why? Because most CEOs don’t know that CRM technology offers pipeline visibility and marketing software offers a clear insight into the results of each marketing campaign. The best part is that the marketing software can be seamlessly integrated with CRM.

2. Salespeople who complain that the sales leads generated from marketing are useless. Why? Because their sales manager is unwilling or unable to diagnose the root of the problem. Many companies have cured this problem with simple solutions such as A) have marketing people spend a day in the field with salespeople, and B) have sales and marketing people spend one hour together to define the word “prospect.”

3. Marketing people who believe that they know what’s best for the sales force. Why? Because some marketing managers are proud of their analytical faculties. They trust their “instincts” and therefore believe that they know best how to fill the top of the funnel and why leads get dropped from the pipeline. The solution: Collaborate with sales and establish a shared responsibility model for pipeline dynamics.

4. Salespeople try to reduce complexity; marketing people tend to move in the opposite direction. Why? At the end of a series of engagements, salespeople want their prospects to say one word: yes. Marketing people want to find many different ways to presell prospects through a complex arrangement of stories and messages that resonate in the carefully targeted prospect’s mind. The simple solution: Let your customers tell the story in person, online, through social media, on video, in virtual reality.

5. Sales and marketing can’t agree on the barriers they face in the market. Why? In many instances the barriers are self-imposed. For example, in one large company, a strategic decision made at the top called for a bundling of solutions. Marketing launched a massive advertising campaign, salespeople received new playbooks and training, yet the campaign failed, since salespeople sold individual units that earned them higher commissions. The solution: Create a premortem analysis prior to large initiatives.

6. Both sales and marketing lose track of how customers buy. Why? Because sales managers cling to sales models that worked in the past, and marketing managers feed into the established (but obsolete) sales process. The solution: Align the sales process with the customer’s buying process.

7. No clarity about the value proposition. Why? When you have few customers, it is hard to define what your customers value. When you have many customers, it can become more difficult, since each market segment values your solution differently. The solution: Ask your customers, “How are we doing?” Spending a day with customers leads to more clarity than spending a week studying market-research reports.

8. Inability to speak the same language. Why? Salespeople are concerned with closing deals; marketing managers are concerned with opening opportunities. Salespeople believe that a lead is a prospect who has a need, a budget, the authority to buy, and is willing to buy within a short time frame. Marketing believes that a lead is someone who is supposed to buy based on marketing research and demographic information.

9. Inability to agree on the best tactics and strategies to win in this economy. Why? Nobody can figure out where the economy is headed. Chief sales officers are preoccupied with getting better leads into the pipeline so they can drive up sales. Marketing managers get often sidetracked by shiny objects, such as new marketing software, building online communities, new advertising messages, analyzing the competition, creating a social-media strategy, etc. The solution: Create a monthly review system for the simple purpose of aligning priorities.

10. Sales and Marketing managers tend to forget their mission. Why? In the heat of the battle for higher sales and greater market share, we forget the noble purpose of our company. Peter Drucker once said, “The purpose of business is to create a customer.” Without a customer we don’t have a business. The solution to sales and marketing alignment is to remember who signs our paychecks: the customer. This is a good enough reason to take the initiative today, reach out to your counterpart, and align sales and marketing around your company’s original mission and vision.

More solutions: Sam Reese, CEO of Miller Heiman on the subject of alignment [video]. It’s only five minutes, but these ideas could be worth five million.”

Please leave your comments and watch the video here.

Steven Woods (@stevewoods) from www.eloqua.com wrote the sort of related post ‘Sales and Marketing Alignment: Operational Challenges Might be a Good Sign’ at http://digitalbodylanguage.blogspot.com on November 10, 2009:

“I often get asked how one measures success in aligning marketing and sales. Alignment is a fairly fuzzy concept, so it’s hard to find a definitive metric to look at in order to determine alignment. However, there are some very interesting signs of great progress that I have seen a number of times that are worth highlighting. One of those signs is when the different operational styles of marketing and sales become an observed problem. That is actually a symptom of growing alignment between sales and marketing.What does that mean?

Sales and marketing are very different organizations with very different natural ways of operating. Marketing, even in forward-leaning organizations that have invested heavily in lead nurturing, is often organized around campaigns or events. Sales, being very much a people discipline, is organized around sales people’s time.

This operational style become very apparent when your sales and marketing teams become very closely aligned around the sales lead handoff process. In this process, leads from marketing are handed to sales for follow-up, and sales calls in to those leads to engage with them and work towards an opportunity. However, the natural propensity of marketing to run campaigns or events, which generate a point-in-time spike in leads, begins to conflict with the sales team’s ability to follow-up on those leads, which is governed by the number of sales people on the team, and the number of hours in a day.

It is usually very difficult to make instantaneous adjustments in the number of sales people available to call hot leads, and the number of hours in a day is even more difficult to adjust. This leaves a challenging disconnect. As we’ve addressed earlier, the ability to connect with leads successfully is very dependent on the speed with which you follow up, so this disconnect has significant implications on sales success.

If a marketing campaign generates a spike of marketing qualified leads on a Monday, for example, and those leads are passed to sales, there will likely be an overwhelming number of leads for that Monday. The calls will spill over into Tuesday, and Wednesday, where the sales team will face declining success rates due to the elapsed time, and by Thursday, the sales team will be out of leads.

A far better solution would be to “throttle” marketing campaigns so that a more steady stream of leads flows to sales. Not all campaigns can be throttled, but many can. If there is to be an outbound email marketing campaign that generates leads, it is better to split it into 5 equal sections and spread it over 5 days than it is to send it all at once. Not only will the sales team not be overwhelmed with leads on one day, but the increase in successful connections they make will keep them busier with the same number of leads as in the original scenario.

When marketing and sales begin to get more closely aligned, the operational differences between the two groups become more apparent. Many of the challenges your teams will face in shifting their operations to be better in synch are actually signs of a growing level of alignment.”

Please leave your comments at the original post.

Do you speak Enterprise? The need to be fluent in your customers’ language

I just saw the great blog post ‘Bringing the Right People to the Table’ by IDC’s Michael Gerard from November 4, 2009:

“In my prior blog [‘Survey Says: “Put Away the Generic Pitch!”‘] I spoke a lot about the need for sales to have deeper, two-way conversations with customers. As I have these discussions with sales operations and sales executives, there’s much discussion about sales enablement for “sales reps” and “sales teams”; however, the need for sales reps to better leverage their own immediate and extended team (i.e., sales, marketing and engineering) as part of the sales process receives little attention.

I included a chart in my last blog from some of our customer experience research indicating that one of the top messages buyers are telling us is that sales reps need to “bring the right people to the table”. This may be intuitive and standard practice for the “A” reps, however, how are we ensuring that we’re making this as easy as possible for the “A” reps and equipping our “B” reps with the knowledge and capabilities to accomplish this task? Are you expecting your front line sales individuals to know too much? And to what extent are you providing these reps with the knowledge and capabilities to best leverage expertise within your organization to approach clients with the best “team”?

Questions to ask yourself about your current state in this area include:

1. Are my sales reps sufficiently fluent in our customers’ language (and needs) and our companies’ products and solutions to have a deep conversation with customers?
2. Do sales reps know when to bring in the right people for customer engagements? (e.g., presales engineers, industry specialists, subject matter experts (SMEs))
3. How do sales reps access SMEs for questions? (e.g., SME access through your internal sales enablement application; leverage of internal social media capabilities to get questions answered)
4. What process do you have in place to help reps justify the need for more resources for an account and/or opportunity? (e.g., through the account planning and opportunity management process)
5. How do you ensure that sales reps always know where to go for information? (e.g., One sales exec. indicated at a recent Sales Leadership Board Meeting that “Our sales teams are not seeking information on a daily basis; therefore, they continuously forget it exists or where to get it.”)

It’s not always what you know, but who you know. And leveraging expertise across the organization can, in may cases, be the difference between winning or losing a deal.”

 

Michael’s post beautifully highlights the need to find a common language for conversations inside (only with a common vocabulary across all regions/divisions of your enterprise will you be able to leverage internal social media capabilities to get questions answered) and outside your enterprise.

Let me relate this to a slide show by BizSphere, which is getting a lot of attention on Twitter, on SlideShare and amongst Sales Enablement experts:

Do you speak Enterprise?

This slide looks complicated, but basically it just shows the different personas in your sales enablement ecosystem.

They all will have better conversations within your enterprise and with the customer when all the content they access and share uses a common vocabulary (that takes into account how your customers speak) and is tagged within the dimensions of an agreed upon information architecture:

  1. The persona of the information architect (A persona doesn’t have to be a full-time job. It is more like a hat you are wearing during a task.) analyses how sales people consume information and what vocabulary resonates with the customer.
  2. Then the dimensions of what BizSphere calls the ‘InfoSpace’ (= the context / the information architecture) are being built and adapted. One dimension could be customer needs.
  3. Your product marketing folks publish their content into the context and cannot not structure it by the agreed upon vocabulary.
  4. Your sales reps learn the common language they should speak with the customer in, always know where to go to for information and are encouraged to do so on a daily basis.

When the place to go to for information Michael mentions above, has such a context where everything is structured the same way, it is quite the contrary to the silos of information you find in most enterprises today.

Gerhard Gschwandtner (@gerhard20), the Sales 2.0 and Sales Enablement expert from SellingPower.com, commented on the slide show:

“Great presentation! I think that this solution is head and shoulders ahead of some of your competitors I’ve written about recently in this post ‘Is Sales Enablement just Lipstick on a Knowledge Management Pig?’

Even SlideShare recognized its success:

“BizSphere Sales Enablement – 2009 Q4” is being tweeted more than any other document on SlideShare right now. So we’ve put it on the homepage of SlideShare.net (in the “Hot on Twitter” section).

 

See your sales asset development cost drop by an order of magnitude

In response to ‘Is Sales Enablement just Lipstick on a Knowledge Management Pig?’ by Gerhard Gschwandtner (@gerhard20) Lee Levitt (former Director, Sales Advisory Practice; IDC) wrote the following comment on July 29, 2009:

“[…] Sales enablement is a recent phenomenon, at least from a branding standpoint. At IDC we’ve been researching and publishing sales enablement best practices since 2007, the same year that the phrase first started showing up in Google searches.

However, sales enablement as a business process has been around for a long time. As a field sales engineer at Texas Instruments, I implemented a sales enablement function on our internal network, using hardcopy terminals for information entry and retrieval. This was in 1985.

Social media at its best, given the constraints of the existing technology. Rapid sharing of tribal knowledge for those that had or needed it.

I’d suggest that Patterson’s Solution Selling Primer, written for the National Cash Register business, is an earlier example of sales enablement. Patterson’s Primer certainly meets the IDC definition for sales enablement, and Patterson absolutely reported results with it. In the 1880s.

Companies are reporting results with sales enablement. American Express, for instance, indicated that Time-to-Revenue for new reps dropped from months to weeks after they implemented a leading SE environment. They reported this at an IDC Sales and Marketing summit in 2008.

For another large IDC client, we identified a 15% increase in sales productivity after the company implemented some basic sales enablement processes, a small subset of the possibilities in that multibillion dollar organization.

While it’s still early in the sales enablement game, virtually every midsize or larger company today does something in the area of sales enablement, typically based on internal processes and maybe some intranet or SharePoint support.

A very small handful of companies, maybe a thousand in total, have taken a focused approach at moving their sales enablement activities to what IDC refers to as the third generation of sales enablement.

In these early markets, innovators and early adopters don’t care about ROI. That’s for the late majority to worry about. They’re looking for competitive advantage…and they’re finding it. When companies seek to address specific business challenges (new rep support, competitive response, customer intelligence, campaign support, etc), they find substantial improvements in sales productivity and customer satisfaction.

We’ve only scratched the surface with sales enablement. We believe that the potential for sales productivity improvement is on the order of 30-50%, or more, particularly if employed with the other four levers of sales productivity and properly measured.

And the net savings to the organization may be substantial. The typical technology firm spends more $12,000 per rep per year in marketing collateral development, with the vast majority of that expense going to waste. Firms that take an outside-in approach in sales asset development will find this cost dropping by an order of magnitude.

There’s ROI for you – higher sales productivity and lower costs.”

The cost of running a sales enablement solution: Is there a need for editorial staff to help create and edit content?

In ‘Is Sales Enablement just Lipstick on a Knowledge Management Pig?’ Gerhard Gschwandtner (@gerhard20) asked:

“What’s the real cost of running a Sales Enablement solution? Is there a need for editorial staff to help create and edit content, to set up template standards and apply them?”

The following job posting gives a bit of a hint what kind of tasks around a Sales Enablement Web Portal need to be performed manually:

Job Title: Sales Enablement Intern

Company: Initiate Systems

Job Location(s): Chicago, IL, US

Description:
Sales Enablement: Sales Enablement Web Portal– Maintain the sales portal by:
o Naming, dating, tagging and approving submitted assets on a daily basis
o Building or creating custom pages when needed
o Special projects

Sales Enablement: Sales Methodology (RADAR) Opportunity Sessions
o Scheduling monthly RADAR sessions for AEs
o Researching submitted RADAR opportunities to find additional materials

  • Hoovers
  • LinkedIn
  • Google
  • Spoke

Sales Enablement: Weekly Reports
o Sales Portal weekly reports

o RADAR monthly reports

As time permits:
Lead Generation: Lead Processing
o Research incoming leads verify in Salesforce.com and add if necessary

Lead Generation: Telesales Tagging
o Add campaigns in Salesforce.com
o Add tasks for AEs in Healthcare and Enterprise

Lead Generation: Assist with Tradeshows
o Assemble collateral

Lead Generation: Mailings
o Tag campaigns
o Mail merge letters

Having been working with the cutting edge Sales Enablement solution BizSphere at the large b2b company Nortel since 2007, I can comment on the extend to which the tasks above can be automated:

o The submission process (for assets or pieces of information like contact details) can be shortened.

  • Empower both – providers of official content (Product Marketing, MarComm, CI/MI, Training Department, Event Planning Team, etc.) and users who want to contribute (Sales, Customer Service, rest of work force, Channel Partners, etc.) – with an easy way to submit from within the context of the specific combination of geography, product/service/solution and type of information they are looking at. That takes care of the tagging. If they want to tag things further they should be allowed to.
  • Implement a Content Governance model that automates notifications regarding content that needs to be approved, that reached the end of its Life Cycle, or that is meant for a limited audience only.

document generation

  • For most companies cutting down the number of ways to submit content and even unifying the process so that one form allows to upload a single instance (Single Sourcing) and to publish it to multiple locations (facing the public, channel partners or only sales people) would be the wildest dream.
    BizSphere goes further than Single Sourcing of assets. It does Single Sourcing for the fragments (nuggets) your assets consist of. When you only have one instance of a photo, a logo, the number of employees you have or lets say a value proposition, then it will be updated in all your assets the moment you update this instance. Your assets are being auto-generated! The moment you click the ‘Generate’ button, hundreds of nuggets come together to form an asset that is customized for the context you chose. You want to pitch an offering to a customer in Spain? Then the auto-generation means that only the customer references from Spain are being pulled and put together in a polished way according to the chosen template. (See Do we really want people who earn $150 an hour creating PowerPoint presentations from scratch? and Do you want your sales people to spend their time customizing slide decks?)

o The task of building pages can be reduced to typing the name of a new offering (product/service/solution) and clicking ‘Publish’.

  • When you have established a context, your assets or their nuggets live in, then your sales portal’s pages can be dynamic and just list everything that is applicable for the given combination of geography, offering and type of information. A manually built page would be a silo that would be pretty much outdated the moment the intern from the job posting above has finished it. In BizSphere adding the name of a new offering automatically extends the number of possible combinations of geography, offering and type of information. For each of these combinations BizSphere lists what has a good standing with regards to its life cycle, therefore everything you see is fresh.

o Reports should be in real-time and not weekly.

  • Having a dash board overview of both your inventory of assets and their usage lets you track whether a certain region or offering has no assets available or whether they are not being looked at. You will see which type of assets your sales people love (Ratings might not tell you a lot but usage data will). This ability is crucial in becoming better and better in focusing your marketing efforts on what will actually help sales to close deals. “IDC research shows that over 40% of all marketing assets handed over to sales are not in use today.” (IDC’s Best Practices in Sales Enablement – Content and Marketing, July 2009) Why pay someone to create reports every week when you and everybody else, who is interested, could have the kind of dash board BizSphere calls ‘Content Landscape’ as well as even more detailed usage metrics of the Sales Enablement solution; all of it in real-time and sliced and diced as you wish. For presentations to executives just create a deep link to how you sliced and diced the data and they will get to see the current – as opposed to last week’s – data.

BizSphere was the Sales Enablement solution Jeanne Hellman looks at in her case study of “implementing Sales Enablement in a complex, global company”.

Content Landscape

Analysts don’t analyze the economic realities of sales enablement solutions

In ‘Is Sales Enablement just Lipstick on a Knowledge Management Pig?’ Gerhard Gschwandtner (@gerhard20) asked “What Exactly Are Sales Enablement Vendors Selling?”. Please make sure you see all the comments on the original post (from July 29, 2009) as a lot of the parties mentioned in the post responded. To address some of the gaps Gerhard identified in the text quoted below, Jeanne Hellman has written a case study of “implementing Sales Enablement in a complex, global company”. Contact her if you would like to get a copy.

“The noble purpose of Sales Enablement companies is to help sales organizations save time finding relevant information, create and organize sales content and create quick access to all experts across the enterprise.

It makes total sense. Salespeople can win more deals if they are better prepared. To back up this theory, IDC research shows that 33% of unsuccessful deals could have been won if the salesperson had been better informed or acted more client-oriented.

An even more important issue is the growing amount of time that salespeople spend searching for information to answer customer questions. What if a program could give salespeople exactly what they need to know so that they can transform information-chasing time into customer-chasing time? It all makes sense. I can picture the sales-enablement software programmers being obsessed with sales efficiency and sales effectiveness. But let’s take a look how the sales enablement vendors are selling their solution to you, the sales leader.

Vendor Pitches or Marketing Glitches?

Savo promises, “Never sell alone!” Does that hit a hot button for you? I don’t know many lonely salespeople. On another part of the SAVO site I read, “Clone top performers.” Excuse me! Why not promise, “Clone your Swiss bank account”?

Kadient’s Website isn’t shy about pitching the exact same theme on their home page: “What if all of your salespeople could sell like your top performers?” The promise continues, “With Kadient’s on-demand sales enablement application, you arm your sales team with the knowledge, messages and strategies they need to win at every stage of the customer’s buying cycle.” If they found the key to winning at every stage, how come Kadient isn’t a hugely successful company?

iCentera bills itself as a sales enablement company. Their pitch is a model of modesty: “Sales Enablement maximizes your sales organization’s ability to communicate through a central messaging vehicle.” The key benefit: “Close more business through more knowledgeable sales people.”

N-tara.com created a special sales enablement site with this teaser copy: “Ever feel like your salespeople don’t get it?” Here is the pitch: “N-tara’s sales enablement solutions equip your sales force with engaging, customer-ready content that is timely, relevant and in context to your customer’s needs.” The best part of their site is a “Guide to Enlightened Conversations”. It is engaging, interactive and it makes a lot of sense.

BizSphere is a European sales enablement vendor located in Wiesbaden, Germany, with offices in Toronto. The pitch: “Do you want your sellers to minimize preparation time and maximize quality time with your clients?” The key benefits: close more deals, increase average deal size, shorten your sales cycle. It is a clear and concise pitch.

Another vendor in the space is Salesforce.com which offers a competing solution to their AppExchange partners Kadient and SAVO.

Other vendors include Avitage.com (marketing automation and sales enablement) Streetsmarts.com (channel sales), Groupswim.com (team collaboration) and Salesforce.com

What Do The Industry Analysts Say About Sales Enablement?

Technology vendors often seek out the help of industry analysts, who lend a helping hand (for a small fee) with objective research that can help sales leaders choose among the competing solutions. When you go to the Websites of sales enablement vendors, you’ll see the same references to IDC and Forrester Research. On November 13th, 2008, Forrester conducted a teleconference entitled, Strategic Sales Enablement. For a $250 fee you could listen to their insights. The analysts defined sales enablement as

“a strategic, ongoing process that equips all client-facing employees with the ability to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation with the right set of customer stakeholders at each stage of the customer’s problem-solving life cycle.”

If you want to decide for yourself if the paying attendees got their money’s worth, download the ppt at no charge (you need to sign in though).

Not to be outdone, IDC created a very insightful presentation in January of this year. Their definition of sales enablement:

“The delivery of the right information to the right person at the right time and in the right place, to assist moving a specific sales opportunity forward.”

IDC is a bit more generous with their Sales Enablement wisdom. They posted their ppt on Slideshare.com. They scored more than 1,600 views to date.

Gartner defines sales enablement as

“[providing] the sales force with communications programs and tools to drive activity and enhanced productivity.”

On one side we have vendor hype, on the other side we have analyst reasoning. What does this add up to so far? The vendors write the music, the analysts sing the theme song: Here is the category, here are the vendors, here is who is cool, and here is who made it to the magic quadrant.

Here Is What’s Missing:

Analysts don’t tell you that reality is always a step or two ahead of their definitions.

Analysts don’t analyze the economic realities of a sales enablement solution. There are no ROI studies nor objective research that compares the effectiveness of SAVO vs. Kadient vs. iCentera.

Analysts don’t create user studies that tell you more about the information infrastructure, the flaws with the search functions, the project abandon rate by vendor, the average user acceptance, the obsolescence factor of the data, the amount of information that’s missing just because nobody knows where all the useful data is located, the amount of time it takes to train (and retrain) salespeople, or the enduser satisfaction level with the graphical interface (some of the designs are an insult to the eye).

The vendors want you to believe that their sales enablement tools allow you to harness the collective intelligence of your sales organization. It sounds great, but who in the world can define and measure what that means? How do we know what best practices can positively influence sales productivity? Who decides what not to make available (due to security issues)? Most salespeople can’t write coherently, and most of the top salespeople can’t articulate what makes them successful. So how do we really capture sales intelligence?

What’s the real cost of running a sales enablement solution? Is there a need for editorial staff to help create and edit content, to set up template standards and apply them?

How much of a company’s “best practices” and sales intelligence is reusable? If I am a salesrep, getting ready for a presentation to Boeing in Seattle, and I download a presentation that one of my peers created for Airbus, how much data can I reuse, and how much do I have to create from scratch?

Sales enablement companies are NOT too savvy when it comes to social media. Search for Kadient on Twitter – zero results. iCentera has 43 followers, SAVO has 391, BizSphere is the leader with 441 followers. [Post was written on 07/29/2009]

The point is this: Social media tools allow people to connect with lightning speed. If Jill in Jackson wants a ppt presentation on jackhammers, I can tweet and send her a link in seconds.

Here is my biggest concern:
Sales enablement companies seem stuck in the “delay economy,” while Twitter is moving information management into the real-time economy.

How Future-Proof Is Sales Enablement?

“What sales incentives are best for salespeople age 20-30?” Someone in England, who said, “Technology, like iPods.”

Please read the comments and leave your own comment on the original post.