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?

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Do you speak Enterprise?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even SlideShare recognized its success:

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

 

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 SellingPower.com, commented on the slide show:

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

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.”

 

Sales Team Effectiveness Assessments

Blog post ‘Sales Team Effectiveness Assessments’ by Greg from peaksalesperformance.wordpress.com from October 1, 2009.

Whenever Greg gets asked for his opinion on a firm’s sales organization overall and for a development plan, he always works from a copyrighted formula:

“Sales Results = (Sales Skill + Sales Will) X (Execution + Leadership)

Each of these variables has 8 drivers.

Sales Skills (primarily B2B)

  1. Prospecting Skills
  2. Presenting Skills
  3. Probing Skills
  4. Listening Skills
  5. Closing Skills
  6. Pipeline Management Skills
  7. Product Knowledge
  8. Industry Awareness

Sales Will

  1. Recruitment Process
  2. High Performance Focus
  3. Target Compensation @ Plan
  4. Peer Recognition
  5. Family & Friend Recognition
  6. Tactical Sales Plans Aligned with Strategy
  7. Incentive Plan Clarity
  8. Effective Field Coaching

Performance Management

  1. Goal Clarity
  2. Tactical Prescription
  3. Performance Metrics
  4. Defined Performance Management Process
  5. Joint Call Activity Levels
  6. Readiness Assessment
  7. Coaching & Counseling
  8. Culture

Leadership

  1. Strategy Development
  2. Strategy Communication
  3. Tactical Definition & Measurement
  4. Readiness Planning
  5. Sales Participation
  6. Performance Management Process Execution
  7. Leadership Style
  8. Recognition & Communication

These are the 32 drivers of sales results.  Based on your industry and sales channels they will vary somewhat.

You start the assessment process with the understanding that there is a limit to the organizations resources and ability to execute change.  With this in mind, the key is to find the largest gaps and then to formulate a “do-able” organizational development plan that will begin to close those gaps.

I begin my assessments by examining the drivers at a high level, identifying the major gaps and then drilling down.  This saves me time and saves my clients significant money.  Once the four to six gaps are identified I review and discuss them with the assessment sponsors to find those gaps where the solutions can be bundled into a singular development initiative.  Again, this approach is designed to save money, time and ensure execution.

Why bother with an assessment?  It saves time, money and ensures sales growth.  Why spend money on negotiation training if your issues stem from a lack of field coaching?  Why waste time perfecting a lead generation program when your individual contributors are handicapped in their search for client pain?  Why would you continue to give up margins just because your sales pipeline is anemic?  Why continue to throw good money into an incentive plan when your recruiting process keeps bringing in candidates with low skill and low sales will?

Great organizations have a common approach to problem solving.  Assess, plan and execute.

If you want to grow sales, you’re best approach is to start at the beginning.”

Why Most Sales Enablement Initiatives Fail

The following is the post ‘Why Most Sales Enablement Initiatives Fail’ found at solutionsellingblog.com on September 22, 2009

“Sales Enablement / Sales Knowledge Management systems sound like a pretty good idea. Who can argue with the objective of “Getting just the right knowledge to just the right sales person at just the right time”?

The truth is that many of the new web content management, collaboration, and search technologies have made this objective more attainable. Unfortunately, most marketing and sales organizations do not agree on what “just the right knowledge actually is”.  As a result, the sales enablement movement seems destined to travel down the same path that the CRM industry did in its early years…the technology works fine but few people actually use it.

So, what actually is the right selling knowledge? When you’re selling simple commodity products, customers clearly understand what they want, and value is almost exclusively defined by price.  As such, the focus of sales enablement is on helping salespeople communicate features, benefits, and functional competitive advantage. Most marketing organizations do a good job with this because the taxonomy that supports the collection and sharing of product centric knowledge (i.e. the feature lists and competitive matrices) is simple to understand and implement.

However, complex products and services need to be sold in the context of solving specific customer problems, and this adds additional dimensions and complexities to the messaging and sales enablement knowledge model.  When you are really serious about supporting a solution centric sales model, the most important sales enablement objective should be to help salespeople clearly and concisely articulate value as well as product differentiation in the context of the customer’s specific problems.

I contend that this is best accomplished by rethinking the underlying taxonomy that you use for sales enablement so that in addition to the product centric knowledge mentioned above it also simplifies the capturing, sharing, and institutionalizing of three kinds of solution centric knowledge:

  1. Problem Knowledge, which helps Salespeople better understand and talk about the customer’s business problem.  This can only be done by documenting the underlying causes as well as the strategic and operational impact of the problems and those causes on the customer’s business.
  2. Capability & Problem Solving Knowledge, which helps sales people clearly communicate how their solutions actually solve the underlying causes of the customer’s problem, and more importantly, how those capabilities solve this underlying causes better than the competition.
  3. Value Knowledge, which helps salespeople clearly communicate Generic as well as Differentiated Value (see my blog on solution differentiation).

This solution centric knowledge represents the Value DNA of your organization and your best people intuitively understand and can communicate it. Unfortunately most sales and marketing folks struggle with solution centric communications, and few companies have ever reorganized their product information so that it supports this customer and problem centric perspective.

The challenge therefore is to come up with a taxonomy that simplifies the sharing of this solution centric knowledge in a fashion that everybody in marketing and sales can easily understand.

This is why a formal Problem-Solution Mapping process should be the strategic foundation for any solution centric marketing and sales enablement initiative. An effective P-S Map paints a clear concise picture of the critical customer problems your solutions solve, the key causes of those problems.  It also defines which of your capabilities and more importantly your defensible differentiators solve those underlying causes.

And, here’s the clincher. Once marketing validates that P-S Map with sales they will have clearly defined and agreed upon what just the right knowledge is, and they will have permanently eliminated the primary cause of the marketing and sales disconnect. The end result is that an effective P-S Map will become  the sanctioned taxonomy for capturing and sharing the three types of knowledge mentioned above so that marketing can finally start to deliver on the ultimate goal of getting just the right knowledge to just the right salesperson, at just the right time.

For more information on Problem-Solution Mapping please visit the Solution Marketing section of our web site spisales.com