Competing with email

ice

Follow-up to my post What is the Sales Enablement market size and how hot is it? that has my constantly updated public spread sheet of vendors I’m aware of & definitions of Sales Enablement I subscribe to:

Out of 4 vendors Scott Santucci talked about in CRM magazine’s article ‘Sales Enablement Tools’ in 2010, …

“[…] Santucci says each of the relevant vendors — including BizSphere, iCentera, Kadient, & Savo Group — cater to slightly different problems. […]”

…only one still operates under the same name in 2015.

Besides the ever increasing number of new market entrants, what Sales Enablement vendors are really competing with and will be for the foreseeable future is email!

A recent whitepaper with data from an August 2015 survey by Highspot and Heinz Marketing says

“More than 70% of respondents rely on email to distribute content to their sales organization.”

It might seem logical to expect the importance of email to decline as baby boomers are retiring and millennials advance in the workforce.

However, the October 2015 IBV Millennial Survey ‘How Millennials are reshaping B2B marketing‘ by the IBM Institute for Business Value suggests a distinct preference for email amongst millennials. [This was for engaging with b2b vendors after the sales cycle has started, but in terms of the type of activity and state of mind it could be compared to receiving content from your own marketing / sales enablement organization.]

Source: IBV Millennial survey. ©2015 IBM Corporation
Source: IBV Millennial survey. ©2015 IBM Corporation

 

For sales enablement teams that means that for their most important task – as per the whitepaper with data from an August 2015 survey by Highspot and Heinz Marketing – “Making sure sales team can find content” they have to focus on ways to make that happen via email or deeply integrated with email.
whitepaper

Source: whitepaper with data from an August 2015 survey by Highspot & Heinz Marketing

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Developing and rolling out apps for b2b sales people

FatStax Mobile Apps just published a document with 8 steps on implementing iPads for your sales force. Of those 8 steps I would like to share steps 3-6 below. You can download the full document here or follow their blog, where they discuss each step in more detailed blog posts. For me many of their recommendations make sense even for app developers who target enterprises or corporate employees who need to plan the rollout of a particular app on a number of different devices. I have added http://fatstax.com to my work in progress list of all Sales Enablement vendors.

“[…]

Step 3: Legacy systems—know the users and the owners.

Build a cross-functional team.

Think about existing software systems and business processes that will integrate with the iPad. The owners of those systems—on the technical, operational and business sides of the organization—should get involved early in the process. Build a cross-functional team that connects internal stakeholders with external consultants and developers.

Integrate successfully.

Get key people in IT, marketing, sales and other relevant areas involved early by creating a cross-functional team. It will show others that the idea has broad-based support. Finding allies now and keeping them throughout the iPad rollout will make it easier to navigate company policies, and it may inspire a broader mobile strategy for the organization. Involving stakeholders certainly will help with the development process and ensure a more relevant outcome.

The added expense of integration should come with higher returns, including better workflow efficiencies, more satisfied sales teams and the slick look and feel of a made-to-order solution.

Step 4: Set a realistic budget.

Engaging other departments may reveal additional ways to use iPads for sales, which also may reveal additional expenses. Use the input of others to create a realistic budget. Remember to look beyond the cost of purchasing an iPad for each person. In addition to purchasing the hardware, common iPad-related expenses that may get overlooked, include:

iPad cases Sales people need an easy-to-hold case that keeps the screen clean.
Data plans Talk to current and competing data plan providers.
Support What can the company absorb and what needs to be outsourced? What support can vendors provide?
Provisioning Make the internal app accessible from the iTunes library or an enterprise-based “store.”
Programmers Internal or external, programmers are expensive. Use them to custom-design apps or assist with integration.
Security Invest in encryption and wipe functionality for when an iPad is lost.
Distribution Account for the cost of shipping “loaded” iPads to team members.
VPN Check to see if VPN access apps are included in current services.
Integrators Decide if CRM and ERP integration is required for success.
Apps Plan a budget that encompasses business and pleasure.
Pilot program Identify a subset of the budget for a one- or two-phase pilot program.

Step 5: Find or make apps that work for sales.

Unless a company has the desire and budget to build its own mobile development and support team, the fastest, easiest and least expensive way to keep pace with changing hardware and software is to rely on external developers. Developers that specialize in designing all-inclusive apps for enterprises live and breathe everything related to the iPad. These specialized vendors have worked with other enterprises, giving them a great deal of exposure to user experience preferences. They may have additional advice and ideas on the best way to securely deploy iPads, as well as their product, their product to enterprise sales teams.

Whether working with internal developers or outside consultants, make sure the people designing or customizing apps for the sales team understand what sales people need. Their understanding can make all the difference in the ultimate sales force adoption of an app. For example, does the team understand the following?

  • What do sales people in their company do on a daily basis?
  • How do they interact with customers?
  • What does the sales process look like?
  • How can sales be improved and enhanced with new tools?

Learn, adapt and deploy.

No developer team will code the perfect app the first time. An app’s success will grow over time based on user experiences from the field. The iPad is so flexible that apps can, and should, evolve with feedback. Use caution when an over-zealous IT department or developers tell the sales team what it needs or how an app “should” work. For example, sales people may discover that “standard-sized” app buttons don’t work well during customer encounters. If they need big buttons, give them big buttons!

Step 6: Test assumptions in a pilot.

A great way to test assumptions, uncover missing budget items, and reveal enterprise software integration needs is to conduct an iPad pilot. Phase 1 of a pilot might include a small group of enthusiastic users. Consider tapping people who already own the iPad for personal use or who have been especially vocal about adding them to the sales team’s tool box.

Define pilot goals.

Clearly define goals for the pilot participants, and consider how much time it will take them to provide pilot feedback. If necessary, compensate participants for lost opportunities so they can attend weekly meetings or log experiences. Let participants discover what they need to make the iPad an effective part of the sales process and daily workflow.

Don’t pilot more than four apps at a time.

Sales people have the job of closing sales, so don’t plan for users to test more than three to four apps in a pilot. Starting simple with a mix of everyday apps and one custom app is much more manageable.

 Sales people often look for app-based solutions to help:

  • Manage e-mail
  • Connect to the VPN
  • Organize and access literature
  • Navigate product catalogs
  • Participate in training
  • Update CRM systems
  • Log expenses
  • Track compensation

[…]”

You can download the full document here or follow their blog, where they discuss each step in more detailed blog posts.

Comment on the Sales Enablement market

Michael Fox 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:

BizSphere: Sales Enablement comparison

View more presentations from BizSphere

Here is my recent blog post on the user interface of the BizSphere Sales Enablement solution suite.

You can find them on CrunchbaseHere is the list of all other vendors I know of.

Keep up with customer pain points

offering portfolio as a taxonomy
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.

semantic web or web 3.0 and sales enablement

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.

Solution for Sales on 7 key requirements for Sales Enablement platforms

The dimensions of Sales Enablement

Usually, I use the blue graphic by BizSphere AG to explain why the context, in which the content and contacts from marketing/sales/HR/training and other departments “live”, is multidimensional.

Solution for Sales at solutionforsales.com created a great graphic (see below) that drives home the same point along with an article laying out ‘7 key requirements for Sales Enablement platforms’:

“The Sales Enablement Platform, sometimes called the sales knowledge management system, is taking its place alongside the CRM system as one of the must-have platforms of an advanced sales organisation. Any company planning to implement a Sales Enablement platform will have a long list of requirements, but the true significance of some factors is not always clear ahead of implementation. This article draws on experience of implementing and using Sales Enablement platforms to highlight 7 key requirements and explain their significance. It focuses on the needs of larger, more complex companies – the ones that have most to gain from a Sales Enablement platform.”

Sales Enablement platforms

The 7 key requirements are:

1. One source

2. No double-posting

3. Dedicated cross-company system

4. Structured information space

5. Integrated community content

6. The means to attract attention

7. Effective inventory management

Case Study of BizSphere Sales Enablement at Nortel Networks

matrixed organization

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.

Before

Nortel…

“[…] 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.

After

[…] 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.

Where does Sales Enablement live within an organization?

An updated version of the following post can be found here, (February 5, 2017)

On September 7, 2010, Eric Nitschke (Launch International) asked the following questions on the LinkedIn Group Sales Enablement Content. Please see my response below:

“Sales Enablement: Where does it live?
Several clients have asked us for best practices in sales enablement – specifically who owns it?

I’d support our marketing colleagues who are trying to align selling messages with product positioning and messaging documents. Others on the training side would say that their training materials are the baseline for sales enablement. Finally, the “sales enablement automation” crowd would claim ownership of the process and fulfillment of sales enablement materials on their web-based or internally-hosted portals.

So I ask YOU – learned Sales Enablement Content Group members: Where does Sales Enablement live?”

Coming from the point of view of someone providing web-based or internally-hosted portals for Sales Enablement, I would not claim ownership. All stakeholders like product marketing, training, CI/MI, the teams for pricing and ROI / business case calculations, the customer reference database, corporate branding, MarComs, etc… should be invited… invited to house their content and – just as important – their contact details in that one joint portal.

A portal… not for the sake of the technology or to have yet another portal… but… a portal to let all these stakeholders see which of their content works and which doesn’t (also which content is missing and which gets insightful comments as a feedback loop from the field or the channel back to corporate).

When there is this one interface that cuts across all team sites and the silos the many regional or functional groups might have built with SharePoint or LiveLink or any of these solutions, your sales people and channel partners can – for the first time – see what is available for the given sales situation they are in. None of the stakeholders “owns” this more than the others and the portal just helps to filter by sales step, region, industry vertical, content type, etc… to make visible whether the sale is being enabled or specific content and contacts are missing.

matrixed organization

The single biggest complaint about Sales Enablement, I hear from sales people is missing content… content that is more specific than the generic pitch. A portal, that comes along with all stakeholders agreeing on content governance, a life-cycle duration for the content and responsibilities to respond to feedback & requests, will first of all make these gaps painfully visible and then guide the content planning to invest marketing’s dollars as effective as possible.

To come back to your question, in some organizations it might be the CMO and in others the sales leader or portfolio manager – who is the executive sponsor, who aligns all the stakeholders to feed the new portal and shut down the old ones.