Product marketing teams need to know how their product is fairing and what sales material is driving sales conversations forward

feedback from sales

On January 8, 2010, Ken Knickerbocker wrote ‘Can sales give as good as it gets?’:

“When Joe Galvin of Sirius Decisions wrote “sales enablement is about knowledge transfer” last month, he spoke about how Salespeople need to access and acquire constantly changing information from a variety of internal sources to maintain their state of knowledge readiness and be able transfer that knowledge to their customers.

Joe is right of course, but he only has half of the picture. He should have also included the two-way exchange of knowledge that must exist if a sales and marketing organization is to flourish.

Not only must knowledge in the form of content, insight and data flow to the sales person, but insight, understanding and even raw data must flow back to other sales ecosystem stakeholders supporting the sales as well.

For instance, lead gen groups need up-to-the-minute and accurate knowledge of lead status and campaign effectiveness passed to them to make adjustments in the current campaigns or plan their next initiative or event.

Product marketing teams need to know how their product is fairing and what sales material is driving sales conversations forward.

Finance and legal teams need knowledge of the terms and conditions agreed to and the customers performance against those targets the prior year as they consider pricing on new projects and opportunities with the same client.

The sales operations group needs a damn near perfect knowledge of where each opportunity sits in the pipeline, how likely, for how much and when the deal is to close to generate a forecast executives can take to the street.

Professional services leaders need to see what service level agreements are being extended to ensure the appropriate resources are trained and available when the value promised must be delivered.

C-level executives need knowledge about the strength of the pipeline and current status of strategic opportunities and clients to determine where their time is best applied to drive forecasted results.

Enabling sales people is a first step, but in a world where everyone sells, sales enablement must take on more of a two-way, enterprise wide exchange of information and knowledge.”

I agree with the post above, but I’m wondering which feedback from Sales to Marketing is a task of Sales Enablement applications and which is a task of CRM systems? I can only speak to Sales Enablement applications:

Having a dashboard overview of both your inventory of sales material and its usage lets you track whether a certain sales region or certain products/services/solutions have no material available or whether it is not being looked at.

You will see which type of material 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 dashboard BizSphere calls ‘Content Landscape’ as well as even more detailed usage metrics of the Sales Enablement application; 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 is the Sales Enablement application Jeanne Hellman looks at in her case study of “implementing Sales Enablement in a complex, global company”.

Content Landscape

This is when you know you need Sales Enablement

Sales and Marketing Management Magazine published Jeanne Hellman‘s article ‘A Sales Optimization Strategy’, on November 16, 2009. Here the part that takes a historic look at the company [Nortel Networks] where Jeanne and later myself drove the adoption of the BizSphere Sales Enablement solution:

A Case Study

A global telecom company decided to implement a Sales Enablement strategy mid-2006 as part of a larger business transformation initiative to reduce SG&A (selling, general, and administrative expenses of an operating budget) and to address long-standing complaints from the sales force. 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 6,000 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, customer relationship management (CRM), and tracking tools. In addition, there was no federated search (no common search platform).

As you can imagine, 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.”

Be sure to see the post ‘Case Study of one of the biggest Sales Enablement application implementations’ as it gives you the detailed document on the case above.

Case Study of one of the biggest Sales Enablement application implementations

In September 2009 my former colleague Jeanne Hellman wrote the case study ‘Sales Enablement Implementation & Case Study: Achieving Your Sales Knowledge Advantage’. Here the table of contents:

Part 1: Arm your sales force with access to information

Connect the dots between marketing and sales

Optimize your sales force

Part 2: How to gain a “Knowledge Advantage”

Access to knowledge is key to success

The state of knowing

Your typical company-centric approach

Garbage in – garbage out!

Turning company spiel to customer value

Part 3: Setting the Stage for Change

Company snapshot: the summer of ‘06

At no time were we trying to get 100% adoption

Know your sellers

The revolving door

Phases and Work Streams

Part 4: Improving the bottom line

Reduced SG&A by $22M

Specific results: efficiency, time and waste reduction

Part 5: Lessons learned

Buy versus rent

Advice from the front lines

  1. Do your due diligence
  2. Build relationships
  3. Focus on the delivery of content
  4. Establish accountability for usage – it works!
  5. Ensure content availability and value
  6. Single source data
  7. Auto-generate key customer collateral
  8. Grow a thick skin
  9. Choose Wisely
  10. Adoption, Adoption, Adoption

Food for thought

Once sellers see the value, they will use it

‘The cost of running a sales enablement solution: Is there a need for editorial staff to help create and edit content?’ is my own blog post about topics like Single Sourcing and Auto-Generation of marketing assets / content Jeanne talks about in her case study.

Sales Enablement in a nutshell

Sandeep Pandit asked the following question about Sales Enablement on LinkedIn Answers and got the great answers below:

“What are the best practices of Sales Enablement? Also please list down the activities which are required to enable Sales in IT industry.
Sales Enablement is the fine art of enabling Sales function with the tools, knowledge, resources and processes so that Sales community can go and book orders, get the same delivered and subsequently be ready to service it.”

Garry Mansfield:

“[…] Each aspect is focused on providing the customer facing teams with the material to have a real conversation with the target customer. They may be the CEO or a telecoms manager but all of them will likely be involved in the buying decision and will talk. Therefore consistency in the message is key and you should invest time to get this message clear and relevant.

From my experience the materials that helps most are those that give confidence in those conversations; this can come in the form of training, collateral, fact sheets, account planning, deal/opportunity strategy etc. Ultimately the value of what you are offering needs to be expressible in terms that the customer would understand, recognise and be able to act on.

A clear description and information on customers likely issues will help the client facing teams to engage in conversations to understand the customer better. they can then probe further for evidence and supporting facts to build an offer that is more compelling.

Also, a clear articulation of what you do, backed with the SO WHAT? answers and suitable proof points will also help to build credibility with the client.

When I speak with clients and buyers, each of them say the same thing. Broadly there are three stages to the buying process:

  1. you have to help the customer to understand that they have a problem that can be solved. and it is important enough to invest resources in to fix.
  2. you have to help the customer to explore the options available to them in solving the problem and demonstrate why the option you have is best suited to their need.
  3. you have to prove that your organisation is best placed to deliver this option in the competitive marketplace. […]”

Bob Apollo:

“[…] Sales enablement is – as you’ve no doubt concluded – a critical success factor for B2B companies. I’d suggest that there are four key elements that need to be mastered:

  1. Clarity about who your best prospects are and how to recognise them
  2. A deep understanding of the business issues that are likely to cause them to take action
  3. Clear insights into the sources of information they trust when they start researching solutions
  4. A profound appreciation of their decision making process and how and why they choose to buy

In my experience, it is critical that sales and marketing work together in a truly collaborative fashion to develop a common agreement and a common language in each of these areas.

If you can develop a clear picture of the buying decision process that your prospects go through, you’ll be in great shape to create the tools and programs that are going to have the most impact on facilitating the buying process.

You’ll also avoid the huge amount of wasted effort that most companies put into the creation of sales and marketing deliverables that at the end of the day have no impact what so ever the on chances of a prospect buying the solution. […]”

I would like to respond to the discussion above with a slide by BizSphere. It shows how the Sales Enablement approach I have worked with [at a corporation with over 4,000 sales people world-wide] provides a context sales and marketing can collaborate in to equip the customer facing teams, who have to sell very complex portfolios, with the right…

  • core messages;
  • resources;
  • internal contacts;
  • and [cross-selling/up-selling] relationships

…for the right audience at the equally complex client:


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, 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 (in the “Hot on Twitter” section).


The need to improve the quality and output of knowledge workers

McKinsey Publishing’s ‘What Matters’ posted ‘Using technology to improve workforce collaboration’ by James Manyika, Kara Sprague and Lareina Yee on October 27, 2009:

“Knowledge workers fuel innovation and growth, yet the nature of knowledge work remains poorly understood—as do the ways to improve its effectiveness. The heart of what knowledge workers do on the job is collaborate, which in the broadest terms means they interact to solve problems, serve customers, engage with partners, and nurture new ideas. Technology and workflow processes support knowledge worker success and are increasingly sources of comparative differentiation. Those able to use new technologies to reshape how they work are finding significant productivity gains. This article shares our research on how technology can improve the quality and output of knowledge workers.

Knowledge workers are growing in numbers. In some sectors of the economy, such as healthcare providers and education, they account for 75 percent of the workforce; in the United States, their wages total 18 percent of GDP. The nature of collaborative work ranges from high levels of abstract thinking on the part of scientists to building and maintaining professional contacts and information networks to more ground-level problem solving. […]

For companies, knowledge workers are expensive assets—earning a wage premium that ranges from 55 percent to 75 percent over the pay of workers who perform more basic production and transaction tasks. Yet there are wide variations in the performance of knowledge workers, as well as in their access to technologies that could improve it. Our research shows that the performance gap between top and bottom companies in collaboration-intense sectors is nine times that of production- or transaction-intense sectors. And that underscores what remains a significant challenge for corporations and national economics alike: how to improve the productivity of this prized and growing corps of workers (Exhibit 1). […]”

To see the full article, footnotes and exhibits please visit ‘Using technology to improve workforce collaboration’

“[…] Consider the collaborative creative work needed to win an advertising campaign or the high levels of service needed to satisfy public citizens. Or, in a similar vein, the interplay between a company and its customers or partners that results in an innovative product.

Raising the quality of these interactions is largely uncharted territory. Taking a systematic view, however, helps bring some of the key issues into focus. Our research suggests that improvements depend upon getting a better fix on who actually is doing the collaborating within companies, as well as understanding the details of how that interactive work is done. Just as important is deciding how to support interactions with technology—in particular, Web 2.0 tools such as social networks, wikis, and video. There is potential for sizeable gains from even modest improvements. Our survey research shows that at least 20 percent and as much as 50 percent of collaborative activity results in wasted effort. And the sources of this waste—including poorly planned meetings, unproductive travel time, and the rising tide of redundant e-mail communications, just to name a few—are many and growing in knowledge-intense industries. […]”

“[…] But most companies are only beginning to take these paths. That’s because, in many respects, raising the collaboration game differs from traditional ways of boosting productivity. In production and transaction work, technology use is often part of a broader campaign to reduce head counts and costs—steps that are familiar to most managers. In the collaboration setting, technology is used differently. It multiplies interactions and extends the reach of knowledge workers. That allows for the speedier product development found at P&G and improved partner and customer intimacy at Cisco. In general, this is new terrain for most managers. […]”

“[…] Web technologies can diminish the wasted efforts. Take the case of “searching”: inefficiencies arise when a staffer is unclear about which colleague within the organization may be tapped for specific knowledge to solve a problem. One remedy is network mapping, a technology that plots work relationships among individuals, reducing search time by providing insights into the pools of knowledge within the company,

Meanwhile, as more of knowledge workers’ output involves digital content, other forms of waste multiply. Fact checking, annotations, and edits lead to handoffs and serial revisions that we term “interpretation” waste. Similarly, as this digital information often must serve audiences across distribution channels—printed documents, PowerPoint slides, and videos, for example—inefficiencies arise from “translation.” At times content is needlessly reworked or even distorted as it crosses channel boundaries. […]”

As you can see below, BizSphere‘s knowledge management approach lets employees upload ‘user generated’ resources into the area ‘Community Content’. Another area you cannot see here would be ‘Official Content’. In all areas employees get to rate resources, to comment on them and to see how many of their peers downloaded them. One click on the left on ‘Contacts’ gives you visibility to who the subject matter experts for what you are looking at are and options to contact them. This reduces the search time by providing insights into the pools of knowledge within the company as talked about in the article above.

user generated content and comments as well as rating from peers

Gerhard Gschwandtner (@gerhard20), the Sales 2.0 and Sales Enablement expert from, 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?’

Is the expertise of your sales and sales support people harnessed and enabled to have a ROI?

‘Is the expertise of your sales and sales support people harnessed and enabled to have a ROI?’ by Jeanne Hellman (author of case study ‘Sales Enablement Implementation & Case Study: Achieving Your Sales Knowledge Advantage’):

“McKinsey says: 47% of US workers are paid up to 75% premium. Are you getting your moneyʼs worth?

When companies look to measure the ROI of initiatives, they tend to focus on the obvious usual suspects. But if the definition of what McKinsey is measuring across all US workers here was, “all those employees who contribute and create information, provide knowledge or expertise, and tailor or deliver this knowledge/information to gain clients, win profitable deals, and retain customers“, then in many organizations, the percentage of people who are paid up to 75% premium might as well be double the 47% McKinsey has. You have to consider all the supporting roles found within large enterprises.

However more to the point, any challenge so broadly affecting the company and potentially so tied to the top and bottom line has to be seen as strategic, especially in particular, at the large, global Enterprise. Why? The inherent challenges of a complex global organization [heavily matrixed, many regions, multiple product groups, etc. = many silos] – they sell complex solutions in a complex selling environment with complex processes in multiple markets with a complex set of competitors. (Get it? Its complex!)

For the majority of these companies their comparative advantage is how well they can leverage their expertise:

  • Expertise in the clientʼs situation/context;
  • Expertise in any aspect of the available solutions;
  • Expertise in the market and competitors.

With the increased speed of all markets today, changes in the competitive landscape and unforeseen macro-events, technical disruptions and innovations can impact entire industries and regions. How quickly your organization can respond, shift and adapt will determine if you lead/win or follow/lose.

Manage the complexity of your environment (lots of data sources and business processes): When we define the term Sales Enablement portal as “the place on your intranet where employees contribute and create information, provide knowledge or expertise, and tailor or deliver this knowledge/information to gain clients, win profitable deals, and retain customers” then my advice is to make sure the technical aspects of your Sales Enablement portal fits into your landscape and you do not create some over-simplified new one (e.g. yet one more place to put and get information for each business unit or country).

Do not see the statement “We are in the information age” as just something regarding the broader world we live in, but make it an important part of your corporate culture: The lesson of web 2.0 for companies is that people=expertise. There are a lot of innovations that can streamline peopleʼs collaboration and leverage their expertise (social networks, wikis, SharePoint like platforms, micro-blogging, instant messaging, Voice over IP, etc.). But they all are not right for every company, and you can spend more time trying to manage all of the technologies than getting any value from them. Just because they all exist doesnʼt mean you have to use them.

Some tips for selecting a new collaboration technology for your large, global enterprise to help get you on your way are:

  • Find the right few technologies to support your culture of collaborating. (No culture of collaborating? You better get one – fast)
  • Manage your technologies: donʼt let them dictate your strategies
  • Focus the development and deployment of technologies to specific groups and goals
  • Be iterative in the process to use success to build momentum – leverage quick wins
  • Develop and understand the personas of your sellers or other end users: define their needs and any benefits gained – whatʼs in it for them?
  • Create a Sales Enablement road map that includes all four legs of Sales Enablement (People, Technology, Processes and Content).

Best of luck circumnavigating this brave, new (collaborative and technically advanced) world.”


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

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 and add if necessary

Lead Generation: Telesales Tagging
o Add campaigns in
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.” 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 which offers a competing solution to their AppExchange partners Kadient and SAVO.

Other vendors include (marketing automation and sales enablement) (channel sales), (team collaboration) and

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 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.

Information Architecture?

In a Sales 2.0 world there is no doubt about the need for Sales Enablement applications to be social / web 2.0.

As indicated in the graphic below, I would hope that even Customer Service taps into and participates in the harnessed collective intelligence of Sales and Marketing by using the Sales Enablement application.

sales enablement app

Graphic from Dion Hinchcliffe but altered with regards to ‘Sales Enablement Application’ instead of ‘online community’.

For such a Sales Enablement application to play together with the rest of the intranet / Enterprise 2.0 and the customer facing website, information architectures need to be aligned.

Information architecture?

Information architecture is the organization of sites, the content management system(s), metadata, ontologies, taxonomies, etc … This has actually been the biggest problem for users of intranets as the following data shows (not too fresh anymore but I think it holds true still):

Pain points of Intranets

– 42% Problems with the information architecture
– 38% Search functionality is missing or unsatisfying
– 28% Information is missing or outdated
– 19% Graphical User Interface (GUI) is cluttered/crowded
– 11% Performance problems
– 9% Too little relevance to day-to-day job

Source: Translated from STIMMT Intranet Report 2003


On May 15, 2009, @scottsantucci noted:

“Had a briefing from BizSphere. Very interesting thinking, particularly about the need for an information architecture.”

The need for an information architecture that cross-references content and contacts based on taxonomies (for example the taxonomy of sales regions) to establish context for sales people becomes clear when looking at old-fashioned sales portals like the ones many businesses expect their sales people to navigate still:


In case you are in Marketing / Sales Enablement at a business that sells to businesses all over the world, would it look anywhere close to the image above when all products and services, that your company needs to enable sales people and channel partners for, were shown in a taxonomy/hierarchy?

Do you have traditional intranet pages for each country or sales region that you have sales people or channel partners in?

If so, then you have thousands of silos to maintain and your users have hundreds of mouse clicks stealing their time! (Also see “Important characteristics of how typical sales reps at large organizations roll”.)

Or with the words of Bruce A. Brien from his blog post ‘Marketing Alignment is critical to Sales Enablement’ from July 16, 2009:

“It is one thing to create a massive library of assets with a navigation structure that only a marketing guru could navigate, it is quite another to enable your sales organization by delivering just the right assets at the right time in the buying process, related to the right industry and business issues being addressed. That’s right, your sales teams will not be able to nor will they want to navigate some intranet or “knowledge garden” as it was called at one company at which I worked. If this is what you have done, your assets will get stale and sales will claim that they can’t find anything they need. Marketing is not supporting them. Don’t waste money creating the asset if you can’t deliver it when and where it is needed.”

Displaying your content and the feedback from your sales people and channel partners in…

  1. a context (an information architecture)
  2. in Rich Internet Applications using web 2.0 technologies

… makes the scary amount of traditional intranet pages from the image above a thing of the past. These web 1.0 sales portals have to become tools that help sales people excel at selling. From my point of view they need to offer a highly customized experience for each user based on…

– what we know about their job,
– what we know about their language and location,
– what we know about their last visits to the tool,
– what they want and don’t want to see (they might have taken the time to adjust some settings),
– what marketing or corporate want them to see (news alert/announcement, promotion/campaign, etc…)
– what their peers have rated, tagged, contributed…
– and what they are allowed to see (channel partners aren’t allowed to see everything etc…).

BizSphere Sales Web is one Sales Enablement application that…

  1. starts with establishing a context as mentioned above
  2. and then encourages to break up all content into small nuggets,
  3. which get tagged according to the parts of the context they are applicable to.
  4. Finally, for sales people this allows to simply auto-generate a polished client-facing presentation or document that includes all the right nuggets (e.g. customer references from the right country and industry vertical etc…).