of the former TribalKnowledge.tv / ThoughtActionGroup commented the following on my work-in-progress list of players in the Sales Enablement market, which I updated:
“I believe I commented on this some months ago, but the situation appears to be getting worse. The term “sales enablement” appears to have been largely hijacked by a variety of vendors, selling hardware, software, and services, as a means of jumping on the latest, sales-associated, money-making bandwagon.
Savo continues to attempt some level of balance with “professional services” and much to say about their version of sales enablement, but it all still comes across as product marketing and PR. BizSphere takes a more credible, solution-approach. […]”
Yesterday, BizSphere uploaded new slides to slideshare. Note the second one, which as a comparison is a view on the ecosystem too:
Here is my recent blog post on the user interface of the BizSphere Sales Enablement solution suite.
After a lot of focus on their global clients and a number of new releases of the BizSphere Sales Enablement solution suite, BizSphere allowed a look at their UX design (user experience) / user interface.
In case you speak German, you can read/watch interviews with the BizSphere staff here.
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 This will reveal gaps and outdated versions.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 (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 used to work with BizSphere. Here is a list of all other vendors I know of.
Thanks to twitter I was just reminded of a great case study Jeanne Hellman wrote about the implementation of the BizSphere Sales Enablement Solution Suite at Nortel Networks in 2006 and the following years. It was published in 2010 by salesandmarketing.com
“Jeanne Hellman is a published subject matter expert on Sales Enablement strategies. […] she has focused on the implementation and adoption of a Sales Enablement strategy in a global $11.2bn telecom equipment and professional services company. […]”
For a complete copy of the implementation Case Study and her other articles and presentation slides, contact her through LinkedIn.
“[…] decided to implement a Sales Enablement strategy mid-2006 as part of a larger business transformation initiative to reduce SG&A […] and to address long-standing complaints from the salesforce. It was a heavily matrixed, global organization with approximately 450 products, 30 solutions, and more than 90 different professional services, and every seller was expected to sell “everything on the truck.” Information was spread around 20-plus team sites and the corporate-sanctioned sales portal, which hosted more than 6000 documents distributed among 185 different document types, not to mention the separate competitive and business intelligence sites; installed base sites; and the mix of ordering, pricing, proposal generation, CRM, and tracking tools. In addition, there was no federated search (no common search platform).
[…] it took sellers hours to look for basic information (validating numerous studies from several industry analysts). Seller confidence in marketing was low and complaints were high, as was attested to by the yearly seller satisfaction surveys (or dissatisfaction surveys) that had been conducted.
[…] the Sales Enablement efforts contributed to the reduction of the SG&A. Looking back to the 13 Top Initiatives from the CSO Insights’ Survey, we decreased the SG&A by approximately $22m dollars just by “improving rep access to knowledge to sell effectively” and “more closely aligning sales and marketing.” These were measurable, impactful savings from improving the productivity of the selling resources and support staff and eliminating waste (unnecessary tasks and content duplication). […] It’s ultimately up to your salesforce to find relevant content, digest it, interpret it, fill in any missing gaps, and then adapt it to match their customer needs. While the topic of the actual content is a different discussion that needs to take place, Sales Enablement can successfully help your teams convert your messaging from company spiel to customer value and deliver it more intuitively and efficiently.”
Here is a list of all other vendors I know of.
One of my posts on the question “where Sales Enablement lives within an organization” got a comment requesting further clarification of the following graphic:
The comment was asking where to find sales people in the graphic and what the role of sales playbooks is. I have to admit that it is difficult to read, but the sales people are actually represented within the green area as indicated by the words Sales Force. (This is not a reference to salesforceDOTcom.)
This speaks to the point that sales people and the legacy sales portals, that are supposed to enable them, sit in between a highly matrixed organization on the one side and just as complex an organization on the client’s side. These legacy sales portals are one-dimensional (they fail to show content & contact details of subject experts in the context of the highly matrixed organization and in context to which pain point on the client side is addressed) and there are often several portals as there are so many silos of information.
Each sales playbook is a great tool for a small subset of the sales force (as shown in the graphic), but comes out of one of the silos, fed by only some of the Product/Portfolio Marketing teams or one regional team. When all content (e.g. customer references from different regions or specific value propositions per industry vertical…) lives in a multi-dimensional business context like it is made possible in BizSphere (which is a Sales Enablement Solution Suite that was designed to cut across all silos. Full disclosure: I work with them.), a completely customized sales playbook for any given sales situation can be auto-generated.
In contrast to legacy sales portals, BizSphere takes at least three dimensions into account. These could be:
- Where is the seller going to a meeting? (Sales regions, countries…)
- What does the seller want to sell (Portfolio of products, services and solutions.)
- What does the seller need in order to be successful in the meeting? (Content types like white paper, case study, ROI-Calculator, contact details of a subject matter expert, etc…)
You might also want to define a taxonomy of customer pain points and map your products against them or add other dimensions that your company thinks in. BizSphere then lets you filter down by media type, language of the content, and/or the sales step you are in with the opportunity you are working.
- Imagine the 1st orange arrow in the graphic above to be a customer reference from a Canadian client for a specific security solution.
- Imagine the 2nd orange arrow to be the contact details of the sales engineer in South Africa who is the expert for a given service.
- The 3rd orange arrow could be an ROI-calculator for the same service but it is really specific to the mining industry and therefore relevant in Western Australia.
Can you get lost in BizSphere? No way, because nothing is easier than answering: What do I want to sell, where do I want to sell it and what would help me to close the deal? Once you set your context in these three dimensions you will have filtered down from thousands of marketing assets / pieces of collateral to only the relevant ones.
My blog post ‘How the metrics of a Sales Enablement application help you to save sales people even more time’:
Today, I had a look at the usage metrics and statistics report gathered at a large enterprise that recently launched the BizSphere Sales Enablement application to replace more than 35 intranet portals. What I love about the report is that it not only tracks which content sales people view, download, rate (with up to 5 stars) or comment on (We actually also display all of the above in the front-end to show sales people where the good stuff is.), but it also tracks what they were not able to find. An anonymous list of all search queries that were punched in comes with the number of actual results that were displayed. That way the owners of the Sales Enablement application at our customers can take a look at all search queries that led to zero results and specifically address what must be a huge frustration for sales people who are trying to prepare a customer meeting.
Constant loop of quantitative and qualitative feedback lets you improve the experience
Knowing which way people search, what they are looking for, and to analyze whether the content does actually exist or still needs to be created is very insightful. Not only does it direct the content planning process (to invest marketing dollars only for content that will actually be used), but it also helps to focus on the important topics when optimizing your texts and their tags for indexing by the search. What I mean by this is that a search term that led to zero results can be added – visible or invisible – to the content that would had been the perfect match. An example from one of our early customers – Nortel – would be frequent searches for CS1k with the expectation to find content for the product CS1000. It is just fair enough that people search the way they speak and analyzing the metrics and statistics helps you to improve their search experience.
Enterprise 2.0 style collaboration
Besides the quantitative things to look at, you also have the qualitative feedback in form of comments under each piece of content. When people start to…
- comment on a white paper why it did not resonate with customers in a specific industry vertical,
- add competitive insight from the field on an internal presentation,
- applaud or criticize the authors
- and help each other with lots of comments etc…
…then each piece of content has its own blog.
A word, that is not an official term but keeps on showing up in these comments or in the log files mentioned above, can be added as an alias of a product/service/solution, region/country or resource/document type.
The real Enterprise 2.0 style collaboration starts to happen when your Sales Enablement application allows your employees or even your channel partners to share their own documents or links which they found helpful. When everything can be accessed from one place and is marked as ‘peer contribution’ or as ‘content approved by marketing’, then there might be a chance to ensure that everyone is always using the latest version and does not waste time emailing people for it.
The report – this ‘one place’ should show in real-time – tells you who contributed the content that gets a lot of love and the collaboration around it might reveal insights of the kind only employees touching the customer accounts gather and the marketing department usually finds out about late.