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

Description:
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 Salesforce.com and add if necessary

Lead Generation: Telesales Tagging
o Add campaigns in Salesforce.com
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.”

N-tara.com 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 Salesforce.com which offers a competing solution to their AppExchange partners Kadient and SAVO.

Other vendors include Avitage.com (marketing automation and sales enablement) Streetsmarts.com (channel sales), Groupswim.com (team collaboration) and Salesforce.com

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 Slideshare.com. 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.

Job opening – Knowledge and Operations Manager of Sales Enablement

Requisition Number: 8107
Posting Date: 10/Sep/09
Area of Interest: Sales
Job Title: Knowledge and Operations Manager of Sales Enablement
Company: AMD
City/Town: Austin
State/ Province/ Region: Texas
Country: United States


Job Description:

The Operations and Knowledge Manager of Sales Enablement will report into the Sales Enablement Program Manager. This person has responsibility for the overall vision, direction, and global structure for the knowledge management system and operations of the Sales Enablement engine at AMD: knowledge assets, governance processes, sales enablement standards and requirements, communications protocols and other aspects. This person will ensure that all sales enablement requirements for campaigns, product launches and other triggers are collected, prioritized and communicated to the teams responsible for the content development and delivery.

Key Responsibilities:
• Develop sales enablement plans for marketing campaigns, product launches and other key triggers that include content, delivery, sources and audiences
• Set the strategy; define and manage the plan for the overall knowledge management system for sales enablement: mind share, best practices, proven sales strategies, access to subject matter experts and other knowledge assets
• Define the vision, requirements and, in some cases manage and administer sales enablement delivery systems and the sales portal (content repository for sales enablement content)
• Define and drive communications strategies and protocols for all sales enablement activities
• Establish and enforce the standards for sales enablement content: sales collateral, talk tracts, product information updates, etc.
• Represent the team’s requirements for IT, corporate communications and other services

Position Qualifications:
• 10+ years of experience
• 3+ years of experience in sales and marketing roles
• Proven experience in influencing and managing across organizations
• Leadership experience; service organization leadership experience a plus
• Experience in corporate training, sales enablement or sales operations a plus
• Experience with knowledge management or sales training systems a plus

See full job ad and apply here.

Sales people are Just In Time Learners

Chuck Carey, CEO of compendian.com left a great comment on Gerhard Gschwandtner’s (@gerhard20) post ‘Is Sales Enablement just lipstick on a knowledge management pig?’ on July 31, 2009:

“[…] a lot of organizations today […] are attempting to in some way capture and deliver information to their people. They may use SharePoint or Groove or other methods of doing so, most of these solutions are not easy to use and don’t provide a very good search engine to allow the person to get what they want.

I believe that sales people are what I call ‘Just in time learners’, in other words they learn what they need to know when they need to know it. If you put them through sales or product training they lose what they learned quickly, unless they can use it and reeinforce it. That is why organizations are attempting to provide information in a way that sales people need it. So the delivery of Just in time Knowledge makes sense to me.

Most sales people are overwhelmed with too much information. So, if they could get the specific information they need, the way they need it, when they need it, it would help them move the sale along. Plus if sales people can tap into knowledge that has been gained from similar experiences that would be of value as well. The problem has been, as you identified, capturing that knowledge from people who have it. That is why people need to be trained with the right questions to ask so they can be transcribed in a way that will provide value to others. […]”

 

Is Sales Enablement just Lipstick on a Knowledge Management Pig

Gerhard GschwandtnerIn case you have not seen http://sellingpower.typepad.com/gg/2009/07/is-sales-enablement-just-lipstick-on-a-knowledge-management-pig.html It is a must read!

I will try to discuss some of the aspects here on this blog later.

Gerhard Gschwandtner @gerhard20 the author is spot on when he writes:

“[…] 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 end-user 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

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. […]”

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 topics.stimmt.ch/intranet/

cube


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:

offerings


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…).

 

Do you want your sales people to spend their time customizing slide decks?

Many Sales Enablement startups are citing Forrester’s Scott Santucci’s ‘Uncovering The Hidden Costs Of Sales Support’ from April 13, 2009 to make a business case for their services:

“Technology vendors are spending, on average, 19% of their selling, general, and administrative (SG&A) costs or $135,262 per quota-carrying salesperson in support-related activities. Few are aware of this enormous amount because the costs are hidden — tucked away in many different budgets dispersed throughout the organization. Corralling these random acts of sales support presents a golden opportunity. By creating a strategic sales enablement program, marketers can drive significant cost savings in the short term, while improving their companies’ competitiveness to thrive in the new growth cycle.”

On July 7, 2009 Michael Gerard (VP, Research for IDC’s Executive Advisory Group) posted on his blog:

“[…] 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 (to be published end of July)). This includes assets that have been developed for sales, channels, prospects and current customers. IDC estimates that at least 30% of companies’ marketing investment, including program and people spend, is dedicated to creating content and marketing assets. Clearly, marketers can leverage cost reduction opportunities if they take the time to improve their content management process and technologies.

– “Our content is all over the place…a more formalized content portal is being created to get our sales team the most relevant materials when they need them.”
– “…marketing is funding an improved marketing asset management system and we are hoping to achieve 3% – 5% reduction/reallocation of spend on annual asset development and improved production efficiencies.” (improvements in production efficiency, reduced program time-to-market, and reduced re-work).

In the next several weeks, IDC will be publishing a sales enablement report highlighting best practices in marketing content management from a lifecycle management, technology, and measurement perspective. Detailed company case studies will be also be included. […]”

In 2004 it was IDC’s ‘The Cost of Information Tasks to the Enterprise’:

Whitepaper IDC Hidden Costs 0405


OK, we are in 2009 now and a lot of productivity enhancing apps are popping up on the iPhones, LinkedIns and CRM platforms of today. Information workers in marketing and sales departments have many tools available to them that will free up time when used wisely. When Google Wave becomes available in the fall, searching in conversations you had with your team or in the history of documents you collaborated on will become much more enjoyable. However, when it comes to gathering information for documents, creating images, creating documents/presentations, editing/reviewing, filing and organizing documents, we all still lose a lot of time that should be spent on bringing in additional revenue.

How often do you find yourself copying and pasting value propositions, customer references from different industries and product images from older documents into new versions that are targeted at a slightly different audience?

ABC: Always Be Customizing (Sales Decks, Value Props,…)

We need to be able to generate highly customized documents on the fly by selecting the offering, the audience, the industry vertical etc… and we do not want to spend time re-formatting anything. We just want to chose a template that is then applied to all the content.

document generation feature tour

document generation


 

Save yourself and your sales people a lot of time and nerves, better spent with the customer!

Go beyond slides libraries! Basically bring it to the next level by breaking up slides into ‘content nuggets’ and use web 3.0 concepts to auto-generate customized files out of a mind-bobbling number of possible combinations. Saves real dollars / time normally spent on designing PowerPoint or other doc types. No more outsourcing to graphics agencies. Just pick the template and hit “generate”. The result will be polished and include cross-selling opportunities and case studies from the chosen country…

Knowledge Management Capabilities of CRM Systems

On June 22nd, 2009 Christian Maurer @camaurer wrote this post (Links added by the author of this blog):
Christian Maurer

What are the Knowledge Management Capabilities of CRM Systems: A reality check?

To understand whether the answer to this question is of relevance when looking for ways how to improve productivity of a sales force, let us ask

Why is Knowledge Management important in Selling?
There are many formulas telling what is needed for having success in sales. While these formulas vary slightly, knowledge seems to be an essential component in all of them.  So it seems useful to look into the question how well CRM systems support salespeople in holding the needed knowledge readily available. To answer this question, we need to look at different aspects of knowledge

The 3 C’s of Knowledge
For a successful sales campaign, adequate knowledge is needed about:
1.    The customer’s/prospect’s situation
2.    The competitive landscape
3.    The supplier’s capabilities

How do CRM Systems Support These Domains?
Using the above framework, we can make the following observations.

1. Customer Knowledge
One of the primary purposes of CRM systems is to provide data structures allowing tracking every relevant interaction between the companies customer facing people with the customers/prospects, they look after. Thus a body of situational knowledge is created. Consultation of this knowledge is then particularly valuable in the maintenance of a customer relationship.

This body of knowledge is however not sufficient when building or expanding a customer relationship. In this case, the following additional elements are needed:
•    Background information about the prospect
•    The current situation the prospect  is in
•    Trigger events causing sales people to want to build the relationship to eventually close a deal.

While CRM systems might provide a structure to capture this information for ready reference, the original source is outside of such systems. What is captured is the knowledge salespeople have gained through research activities such as: General searches on the internet, reading general printed press or specific trade journals and increasingly through the use of specialized systems made available in a Sales 2.0 context.  CRM systems support the research activity through specialized systems by providing embedded links to such system. The research can be conducted without leaving the CRM systems context. Some of those specialized systems can also automatically push information into CRM data structures.

2. Competitive Knowledge
For building and consultation of competitive knowledge, CRM systems are used pretty similar to what is described above for customer knowledge. In large companies, there might though also be dedicated people researching the competitive landscape and making it available for ready reference in CRM systems, together with the knowledge built up by sales people themselves from information learned through customer interactions.

3. Capabilities Knowledge
Was one to ask salespeople where they get the information about their companies and product and services capabilities so they know what to say in a particular sales situation, they hardly would answer, that the CRM system is the primary source. Most CRM systems do though hold some capabilities knowledge usually referred to as company literature. The original design idea for this was to enable sales people to easily and efficiently answer fulfill information requests from their customers. There are though two factors that limit the usefulness of such company literature repositories. First, the internet has caused the number of such direct information requests from customers to drop drastically. Second, it is a well known fact that salespeople consider such literature not to be of much use in their campaigns anyway and make thus little to no use of it.

Capabilities knowledge is probably mostly stored in Sales Portals. These portals are often built from a product marketing perspective.  Salespeople are thus left on their own to match the complexity of the customer requirements and the complexity of their companies capabilities to propose a valuable solution to the customer. Furthermore, customers today do not tolerate salespeople being simple conveyers of canned marketing prepared standard value propositions anymore. Salespeople are expected to be able to add value to the interaction. The messaging has to be adapted to the individual customer and to the current context of a sales campaign.

Conclusion
While CRM systems are configured to guide salespeople in what needs to be done in a sales campaign through the implementation of sales processes, they provide no support for the sales people of what is best said to the customer in a particular phase of the process. Sales portals are also no help for this as capabilities knowledge is stored under a different view point there. It becomes thus pretty obvious that sales enablement systems guiding salespeople in what needs to be said in a particular phase of the sales process and allowing furthermore the tailoring of the messaging to the specific customer context can significantly improve the productivity of salespeople, while maintaining image integrity required from a marketing perspective.

About the Author:
Christian Maurer, The Sales Executive Resource, is an independent sales effectiveness consultant, trainer and coach. He has a proven track record of helping leaders of large, global B2B sales organizations to increase their productivity.
http://www.linkedin.com/in/camaurerconsulting
http://ultimatesalesexecresource.blogspot.com/