Sales Enablement: Knowledge Management for Sales and Marketing to enable global collaboration

Sales Enablement: Knowledge Management for Sales and Marketing to enable global collaboration – for the International Conference on Knowledge Management (ICKM 2009)

“In this paper, several core team members of BizSphere line out the main challenge of information overload that the organization sees for enterprises in the 21st century. Applying the problem of the explosion of unstructured information and therefore decline of information relevance to Sales and Marketing, this paper describes the discipline of Sales Enablement. In the second part, BizSphere’s approach to Sales Enablement is further discussed with main stress on how to structure information using proper meta-information management (Information Space), keeping track of content production using inventory methods as well as enabling applications to generate documents for its users. For this conference most relevant, two components of BizSphere’s knowledge management concepts are discussed: managing contacts in the information space and connecting them with unified communication.”

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.”

Way too much stuff and far too little information about that stuff – Context matters

On November 29, 2009, Seth Godin wrote about what we in Sales Enablement for b2b enterprises are focused on:
Context matters!

Getting meta

Wikipedia contains facts about facts. It’s a collection of facts from other places.

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.

Over and over, the Internet is allowing new levels of abstraction. Information about information might be worth more than the information itself. Which posts should I read? Which elements of the project are at risk? Who is making the biggest difference to the organization?

Right now, there’s way too much stuff and far too little information about that stuff. Sounds like an opportunity.

I couldn’t agree more with Seth that this is an opportunity. Successfully using this opportunity will have to do with web 3.0 (semantic) approaches being applied to the stuff from web 1.0 and web 2.0 as well as understanding what information architecture is and how it can be set up for complex organizations.

For the approach to Sales Enablement I have been working with at a company with 4,000+ sales people you could say:
SharePoint (or similar) has your marketing assets for sales reps.

Sales Enablement – as the layer on top – has the facts about your marketing assets:

  • Which assets/links/comments should a sales rep read for a specific sales situation?
  • Who is the contributor of marketing assets or comments that really drive sales?

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.

Selling, as the Art of Persuasion, was killed by Information Overload

In the comments of ‘Facts vs Fiction – Social Media Tools in B2B Selling’ I found the following from Jacques Werth:

“[…] The reason that selling is dying is because the basic concept of how to sell is obsolete. Selling, as the Art of Persuasion, is dead. It was killed by Information Overload. The markets for every product and service are far more sophisticated than ten years ago.

  • Cold-calling doesn’t work anymore.
  • Lead acquisition methods are costly and inefficient.
  • Finding needs has become counter-productive.
  • Establishing Rapport has become counter-productive.
  • Educating prospects has become counter-productive.
  • Selling benefits turns off most prospects.
  • Persuasion causes resistance.
  • Selling points have become resistance points.
  • Consultative selling has been show to be fraudulent.
  • Closing techniques do not work.
  • Overcoming objections kills sales.

Top sales producers do not do any of the above. Their sales processes are simple, yet highly effective.

  • They know how to find prospects that are ready, willing, and able to buy.
  • They know how to develop immediate relationships of mutual trust and respect.
  • They know how to determine prospects’ exact buying intentions.
  • They know the importance of assessing prospects’ conditions of satisfaction.
  • They know how to quickly arrive at mutual agreements and mutual commitments.
  • They know how to have prospects’ enthusiastically close the sale.”

Obviously this does not tell us how to become or create a top sales producer but it shows all that is broken and won’t work in a Sales 2.0 world anymore.

In one of his own blog posts Jacques Werth goes on to say…

“[…] There are no secret tips. There are no magic tricks. Effective selling is about finding a sales process that works, following that process carefully, and measuring the results. Pay attention to doing it right. You can’t learn how to sell just by reading articles or participating in sales discussion groups. Although it is possible to learn to sell by reading a lot of books, this doesn’t work for most people.

Books and CD’s can teach you a great deal about selling, but not much about the step-by-step details on how to actually do it. For that, we recommend training and practice. […]”

Sales runs on information; access to it and use of it – The best sales people are those who learn how to access information

gist

The post ‘The ‘Gist’ of a new Sales Tool’ by Jim Keenan (@heykeenan) from aSalesGuy.com emphasizes beautifully that “sales runs on information; access to it and use of it” and that the “best sales people are those who learn how to access information […]”:

“I love finding good sales tools. Few things get me as excited as finding good tool to help me achieve my goals. One of the biggest areas for improvement is access to information. Sales runs on information; access to it and use of it. The best sales people are those who learn how to access information others can’t and know how to use it.

Finding information has usually meant research. Companies like Hoovers would compile all the info and we would go tearing through it looking for the tidbit to give us an edge. The problem was Hoovers controlled the info. If they couldn’t find it or chose not to add it, you didn’t get it. Google Alerts has upped the game a bit, but if you’re like me, you get a little tired of managing the tons of emails that come in everyday. I just couldn’t keep up with all the different alerts. This is why I’m excited about Gist.

Gist has the potential to be the next killer sales app. Gist is a new site that allows you to link your contact list to the web. After you sign up, you are prompted to upload your address book. Gist supports, Oulook, Vcard, Gmail, as well as LinkedIn and Facebook. Once your accounts have been set up, (you can set up more than one) Gist begins to pull all the information from the web it can and puts it into a clean dashboard by person, by company. What I like about how Gist works is I can see a client or companies entire web presence in a single click. Gist does a Google search and throws up all the relevant info on the people and companies in my contacts. It tracks the tweets, and blog posts, as well as any new web mentions. Getting information on clients has always been difficult. Gist is changing this and has taken a tremendous step into bringing sales people closer to their clients and what their clients are saying. Gist also provides the same rich information for the companies in your contacts, as it does for your contact list.

There are a few features I really enjoy. One is the ability to dial up or down the importance of a contact or company. The more important a contact, the higher on the dashboard you can make them show up. This gives you control on who gets more attention your watch list. Gist also syncs with your email account for better organization of all your account information. Gist gives you the ability to share contacts with other Gist users and merge contacts into a single view. (ex: multiple contacts at a single company.)

I have been using it for a few weeks and have just scratched the surface. I uploaded my entire contact list, not sure I’d do that again. There are too many people I just don’t care to watch. Gist does integrate with Salesforce.com. Which was a good move. I haven’t played with that feature yet. I am curious on how it’ll work.

Gist is headed in the right direction. As more and more people come online, via Twitter, Blogs, LinkedIn etc, Gist will provide you immediate information that can be used in the sales process, relationship building and a myriad of other business needs.

Gist is easy to use and easy to set up. I don’t see any barrier to adoption. Go sign up and tell me what you think. Playing with it is the only true way to find out how something works. Come back and give us your two cents.”

Please leave your comments on the original post.