Q4 2014 Sales Enablement market news and trends

As my list of Sales Enablement solutions has grown, I would like to take a look at some recent Sales Enablement market news and trends:
Continue reading “Q4 2014 Sales Enablement market news and trends”

define a taxonomy of customer pain points and map your products and solutions against them

One of my posts on the question “where Sales Enablement lives within an organization” got a comment requesting further clarification of the following graphic:

The comment was asking where to find sales people in the graphic and what the role of sales playbooks is. I have to admit that it is difficult to read, but the sales people are actually represented within the green area as indicated by the words Sales Force. (This is not a reference to salesforceDOTcom.)

This speaks to the point that sales people and the legacy sales portals, that are supposed to enable them, sit in between a highly matrixed organization on the one side and just as complex an organization on the client’s side. These legacy sales portals are one-dimensional (they fail to show content & contact details of subject experts in the context of the highly matrixed organization and in context to which pain point on the client side is addressed) and there are often several portals as there are so many silos of information.

Each sales playbook is a great tool for a small subset of the sales force (as shown in the graphic), but comes out of one of the silos, fed by only some of the Product/Portfolio Marketing teams or one regional team. When all content (e.g. customer references from different regions or specific value propositions per industry vertical…) lives in a multi-dimensional business context like it is made possible in BizSphere (which is a Sales Enablement Solution Suite that was designed to cut across all silos. Full disclosure: I work with them.), a completely customized sales playbook for any given sales situation can be auto-generated.

In contrast to legacy sales portals, BizSphere takes at least three dimensions into account. These could be:

  • Where is the seller going to a meeting? (Sales regions, countries…)
  • What does the seller want to sell (Portfolio of products, services and solutions.)
  • What does the seller need in order to be successful in the meeting? (Content types like white paper, case study, ROI-Calculator, contact details of a subject matter expert, etc…)

You might also want to define a taxonomy of customer pain points and map your products against them or add other dimensions that your company thinks in. BizSphere then lets you filter down by media type, language of the content, and/or the sales step you are in with the opportunity you are working.

The dimensions of Sales Enablement

  • Imagine the 1st orange arrow in the graphic above to be a customer reference from a Canadian client for a specific security solution.
  • Imagine the 2nd orange arrow to be the contact details of the sales engineer in South Africa who is the expert for a given service.
  • The 3rd orange arrow could be an ROI-calculator for the same service but it is really specific to the mining industry and therefore relevant in Western Australia.
Can you already see how here the regional teams can have as much of say in “which content is relevant for specific sales situations?” as the product marketing team?

Can you get lost in BizSphere? No way, because nothing is easier than answering: What do I want to sell, where do I want to sell it and what would help me to close the deal? Once you set your context in these three dimensions you will have filtered down from thousands of marketing assets / pieces of collateral to only the relevant ones.

Job opening – Sales Enablement Marcom Program Manager at Philips

Sales Enablement Marcom Program Manager
City: Andover
State: Massachusetts
Company Name: Philips
Job Category: Marketing/Advertising/PR

The global Marketing Communications (Marcom) organization for Philips Healthcare is responsible for developing and executing integrated marketing communications programs that support defined business objectives.

This unique Program Manager role will initially focus on resolving the implementation and support issues for the new Sale Enablement website for North America. This Program Manager will collaborate with Marcom Operations and the Sales Enablement team to assess the integration of this tool with Marketing Communications Literature Management System, iPad app content management system, and other locations for storing Marcom content. Once the Sales Enablement program is implemented, this individual will focus on maintenance of the tool approximately 50 percent of his/her time. The other 50 percent will involve traditional Marcom program management for the Global Sales and Service North America Marcom team.

The traditional Marcom Program Manager (PM) role translates marketing objectives into optimal, effective promotional activities and communications programs, based on the Marcom plan and strategies developed by the Marcom Manager. The Program Manager plays an important consultative role in determining the best approach for projects by providing advice on potential avenues for execution and their related budgetary and timing considerations. The Program Manager organizes the interdepartmental activities and manages the external vendors to ensure completion of the project on schedule, within budget, and according to agreed upon objectives. The Program Manager must have some familiarity with and an understanding of the Marketing partners products, markets and strategic goals.

Ensure successful execution of Marcom Plans, which are developed by the Marcom Manager in conjunction with Marketing partners
Act as project team lead and oversee the availability, motivation and participation of the project members, including vendors
Manage projects via our web-based project management tool (Marcom Central) from initiation through delivery, ensuring commitment to targets and objectives set in the brief, which is developed by the Marcom Manager in cooperation with Marketing partners
Add value throughout the project management process
Select and manage vendors
Coordinate and manage creative assets
Manage the Regulatory & Legal review process through Marcom Central
Manage the invoicing process
Comply with and support priorities, direction and leadership from the Marcom Manager
Develop an understanding of business(es), target customers, marketing objectives and challenges
Participate in loop teams as needed for cross-segment or crossbusiness projects, tradeshows and events
Assist in the management of Marketing partner expectations regarding project deliverables, timing and cost
Ensure that all timelines, schedules and budgets are adhered to in cooperation with the Marcom Manager
Keep Marcom Central information updated and complete assigned fields
Act as an ambassador for the Marcom organization and Marcom Central
Incorporate corporate brand strategy and marketing communications policies into all activities

Requirements

Bachelors degree in communications, advertising, marketing or related field
5+ years experience in marketing communications required
Healthcare or IT communications experience preferred
Experience working with and integrating content management systems and web sites
Comprehensive creative project management experience
Extensive experience managing projects with advertising/design/multimedia and other creative firms
Basic knowledge of print product, basic graphic design, web design, multimedia production and design software, such as Adobe Photoshop
Writing and editing skills
Experience managing creative projects that adhere to brand standards
Experience working closely with colleagues across geographic/time boundaries
Experience successfully collaborating with colleagues and management that are located remotely
Ability to work cross-functionally and globally, identifying synergies between modalities and/or markets to drive efficiencies and consistency of messaging
Proven experience that demonstrates an ability to thrive in an environment that demands juggling multiple priorities and customers simultaneously
Ability to make autonomous decisions based on a thorough understanding and analysis of organizational and business objectives
Strong service orientation and highly proactive working style
Experience managing budgets and working within specified departmental/company processes

Constant loop of quantitative and qualitative feedback in a Sales Enablement portal

My blog post ‘How the metrics of a Sales Enablement application help you to save sales people even more time’:

Today, I had a look at the usage metrics and statistics report gathered at a large enterprise that recently launched the BizSphere Sales Enablement application to replace more than 35 intranet portals. What I love about the report is that it not only tracks which content sales people view, download, rate (with up to 5 stars) or comment on (We actually also display all of the above in the front-end to show sales people where the good stuff is.), but it also tracks what they were not able to find. An anonymous list of all search queries that were punched in comes with the number of actual results that were displayed. That way the owners of the Sales Enablement application at our customers can take a look at all search queries that led to zero results and specifically address what must be a huge frustration for sales people who are trying to prepare a customer meeting.

Constant loop of quantitative and qualitative feedback lets you improve the experience

Knowing which way people search, what they are looking for, and to analyze whether the content does actually exist or still needs to be created is very insightful. Not only does it direct the content planning process (to invest marketing dollars only for content that will actually be used), but it also helps to focus on the important topics when optimizing your texts and their tags for indexing by the search. What I mean by this is that a search term that led to zero results can be added – visible or invisible – to the content that would had been the perfect match. An example from one of our early customers – Nortel – would be frequent searches for CS1k with the expectation to find content for the product CS1000. It is just fair enough that people search the way they speak and analyzing the metrics and statistics helps you to improve their search experience.

Enterprise 2.0 style collaboration

Besides the quantitative things to look at, you also have the qualitative feedback in form of comments under each piece of content. When people start to…

  • comment on a white paper why it did not resonate with customers in a specific industry vertical,
  • add competitive insight from the field on an internal presentation,
  • applaud or criticize the authors
  • and help each other with lots of comments etc…

…then each piece of content has its own blog.

A word, that is not an official term but keeps on showing up in these comments or in the log files mentioned above, can be added as an alias of a product/service/solution, region/country or resource/document type.

The real Enterprise 2.0 style collaboration starts to happen when your Sales Enablement application allows your employees or even your channel partners to share their own documents or links which they found helpful. When everything can be accessed from one place and is marked as ‘peer contribution’ or as ‘content approved by marketing’, then there might be a chance to ensure that everyone is always using the latest version and does not waste time emailing people for it.

The report – this ‘one place’ should show in real-time – tells you who contributed the content that gets a lot of love and the collaboration around it might reveal insights of the kind only employees touching the customer accounts gather and the marketing department usually finds out about late.

Enterprise 2.0 from a Sales Enablement point of view

Sales Enablement Platforms – needs and benefits

On April 6, 2010, Stefan Broda from posted: “Alan Willis of Solutions for Sales @salesready) wrote a detailed and insightful post entitled ‘Sales Enablement Platforms – needs and benefits’. Solution for Sales is one of our trusted partners in the UK and one of the pioneers of the term ‘Sales Enablement‘. While BizSphere provides technology and methodology to clients so that their sales force is able to access the most relevant information to their current sales situation, Solution for Sales creates this information for its clients. Their interactive sales kits have become an industry standard. Especially through this synergy, we are looking forward to a mutually productive partnership with Solution for Sales.

Thanks to Solution for Sales for allowing us to re-post their article on our blog. It describes the sales enablement theme from a business perspective and greatly compliments the articles on our page:

Sales Enablement Platforms – needs and benefits

Salespeople volunteer for a tough job. The complexity of what they sell and the sophistication of the people they sell to increase year by year. In this environment every sales interaction and conversation is important, which is why the best salespeople spend so much time preparing for their conversations with customers and creating the materials they will use.

But salespeople are often not well served by the resources they are given to prepare for these conversations. The problem resides at two levels: the quality of sales materials is often poor and it is hard to find the right resources, even if they do exist. The concept of the sales enablement platform – a knowledge management tool for sales – has arisen as a solution to the second of these problems. This article outlines the requirements for an effective sales enablement platform and analyses the benefits.

What customers want

Customers have grown out of having products sold to them; they have even tired of solutions selling. Now they want to buy on the basis of business outcomes. The communications company doesn’t want an improved customer loyalty system; it wants customers that stay longer and spend more. The manufacturer no longer wants an improved supply chain solution; it wants lower supply costs and on time delivery. And they want to look at all the options for achieving their desired outcome.

One consequence is that customers expect salespeople to explain how they can deliver outcomes. They are looking for salespeople to share a point of view, not just ask questions. Customers want to work with salespeople who bring business knowledge from a wide range of different situations; salespeople who can contribute new business ideas.

What salespeople need

The sales cycle can be viewed as a series of interactions or conversations with the customer. Each sales interaction has a specific set of objectives: it must change a viewpoint, unearth information, resolve a concern, solve a problem or provide needed information. Knowing this, and understanding the customer’s expectations, it is apparent that the salesperson, when preparing for a sales conversation, needs to be able to marshal a wide range of information and structure it according to the context and objectives of each different situation. Salespeople need better information systems to help them do this, and the sales enablement platform has evolved to address this need.

What’s the problem?

Typically, current tools do not meet the information needs of salespeople – see below “What salespeople say they need”. These shortfalls are damaging because salespeople rely on sales resources to fuel the engine of sales conversations – no fuel, no progress.

What salespeople say they need

  • One source – I don’t want to have to search through multiple, unconnected information silos, arranged arbitrarily e.g. according to product set, department, country
  • The big picture – I need the high level view so I can spot related offerings and cross and up sell opportunities
  • Concise and complete – I want just the resources that are relevant now, not loads of extraneous stuff. But it must be all the resources, from all departments
  • Arranged for me – I don’t want to have to be an expert on the portfolio to get to the resources I need
  • In my language – it must respond to the words I use
  • Responding to the sales context – e.g. the stage of sale, technical vs business
  • Linking me to people who can help – I want to connect to salespeople who have been here before me, and to the expert behind the resource
  • Listening to me – I’d like the opportunity to comment and share information. I’d like to be updated on topics that I choose

The impact – sales efficiency

Much has been written about the impact of these problems on salesforce productivity. For example, IDC research says that on average each week a salesperson spends:

  • 6.4 hours creating presentations
  • 5.8 hours searching for client-related information
  • 2.3 hours searching for marketing collateral

Clearly, if these processes could be speeded up sales would be more efficient. For example, for a salesforce of 500, saving one hour each week is worth over €500k each year in simple efficiency savings. That means getting more sales out of the same size salesforce or accommodating salesperson wastage without loss of sales.

Significant as this is, Solutions for Sales believes that it is the potential improvement in sales effectiveness delivered by the sales enablement platform that offers the most significant gains.

The impact – sales effectiveness

We have argued that customers expect a higher quality of interaction with their sales contacts. They want business advice; they want a balanced view; they want to focus on their desired business outcome not the salesperson’s desired sales outcome. To meet these customer expectations salespeople need to tap into a wide range of resources and quickly find all that is available to make the next sales interaction successful.

This is something salespeople are not doing well according to statistics from IDC, which show that:

  • 33% of all unsuccessful deals could have been won if the seller had been better informed and had acted more client-oriented
  • 57% of customers feel that salespeople are poorly prepared or not prepared at all at initial meetings
  • More than 50% of customers expect salespeople to be better informed about client-specific requirements and goals

If accessing sales resources is difficult or laborious, it is our experience that the salesperson’s patience runs out long before all relevant resources have been discovered. The result is sales meetings that fall into the 57% that customers judge to be poorly prepared and sales opportunities that end up in the 33% that would have been won if the salesperson had been better informed.

The most significant benefit of a good sales enablement platform is that it improves the quality of the sales conversation, which results in more wins. When it comes to quantifying this benefit there are so many other factors at play that it is hard to provide objective figures. Readers must judge for themselves, but if it is accepted that salespeople who are better prepared for sales meetings can achieve a 1% higher win rate, then for a company with sales of €250 million the result would be an extra €1.5 – €2.5 million of sales each year. And there’s another important benefit: the salesperson that demonstrates the ability to talk outcomes with their customer gains visibility of more sales opportunities.

Marketing has needs too

Sales enablement platforms are not just for sales. Marketing has a whole range of requirements in this area. See below:

What CMOs say they need

  • Drive Sales – I need to have better ways of steering Sales in the direction the company wants to go
  • Satisfy Sales – I want to provide the sales resources that salespeople need. I am sick of hearing them say that Marketing is no help
  • Economise on Marketing resource – I would like to know which resources are valued by sales so I can save money by stopping doing what’s not wanted
  • Improve visibility – I want to see who’s using what, which resources are getting old, and what the coverage is of sales resources across the portfolio
  • Develop a broader view – I’d like people to have a better understanding of the breadth of our capability and the positive synergies across our portfolio
  • Exploit all our resources – I want everyone to be able to contribute to selling, including organisations like professional services and delivery
  • Encourage interaction – I need to get salespeople sharing their experience and marketing people contributing their knowledge directly to sales
  • Structured, uniform and global – I’m worried that the ad-hoc social networking and web tools that are springing up will just create confusion. Worse, if they aren’t maintained they will mislead

Producing the best sales resources

People all round the company have information that can help sales. Of course the main producers are Products, Marketing and Sales themselves, but there are others. In some companies Professional Services and Consulting divisions have information on the services they offer, their expertise and their processes, methods and tools. They may produce opinion pieces and white papers. This is valuable material in a complex sales process. Delivery and Operations can provide performance statistics and quality measures that are useful sales ammunition, and customers want to know about the design, implementation and support services available to them.

Products, Marketing, Sales, Professional Services, Consulting, Delivery and Operations will all have their own ways of producing and storing information – this is what created the silos in the first place. The good news is that these don’t have to change. The sales enablement platform spans all these sources, presenting sales materials from all departments as an integrated whole. As well as giving 360° visibility, the sales enablement platform helps producers by providing:

  • Structure: defining the types of resource salespeople need; formats; desired content
  • User feedback: comments from salespeople on how resources can be improved and what new resources are needed
  • User rating: rating and usage statistics allow producers to judge how well they are doing and allow managers to identify the best producers and the most popular types of resource
  • Inventory control: to highlight when resources need updating or are approaching end-of-life, and show where more resources are needed

The result is a continuous improvement cycle that leads towards better quality sales resources which are more useful to salespeople.

Sales enablement in context

The selling process can be viewed as a series of conversations between salesperson and customer, so the job of sales enablement is to make those conversations more interesting and ultimately more rewarding for both parties.

When preparing for a sales call, the salesperson needs sales resources that are appropriate to the specific conversation being planned. Successful companies make sure that high quality sales resources exist, and they make it easy for salespeople to find the right resources for the job at hand. The sales enablement platform solves the second of these problems. It gives sellers access to the right sales resources and information – the fuel that powers the engine of sales. Moreover, it helps improve the quality of sales resources by creating channels for feedback and engagement so that content producers get a better understanding of what’s needed.

Conclusions

The sales enablement platform is a strategic tool that CMOs can use to define the portfolio structure, drive sales behaviour and optimise product marketing resource. It cuts through organisational silos and allows every department to play its part in supporting sales. It fosters business networking amongst salespeople and with other departments that have a major impact on sales, such as Marketing, Operations and Professional Services. It improves the quality of sales resources by facilitating feedback and engagement between users and producers. For all these activities it provides a structure that is uniform, maintainable and scalable.

For the Sales VP, the sales enablement platform facilitates better execution in the everyday work of the salesforce, leading to lower sales costs and a higher win rate. The result is a solid business case for investment, which explains why the sales enablement platform is taking its place alongside CRM and marketing automation as a must-have business tool.

This article was written by Alan Willis of Solutions for Sales.”

Legacy sales portals provide no feedback to ensure marketing produces valuable material. Sales is too busy to address the issue

feedback from sales

On February 7, 2010 navigateknowledge.blogspot.com posted ‘Sales Enablement – An Inverse Definition’:

“Instead of defining sales enablement, I prefer to focus on the inadequacies of the existing legacy sales portals (many large companies have more than six). Sales Portals widen the gulf between sales and marketing.

An investment in sales enablement pays dividends in several ways but perhaps the strongest benefit is the alignment of a customers marketing investment with their sales resources. The legacy sales portals that are still being used by most businesses actually reinforce the practices that keep marketing and sales teams misaligned. Marketing teams are rewarded based partially on their ability to create sales collateral, brochures, presentations, campaigns, and such; whereas sales teams are rewarded based on their ability to retire quota. Legacy sales portals provide no feedback mechanisms to ensure the marketing team is actually producing valuable material to aid the sales effort, and the sales teams are too busy working to meet/exceed their numbers that they can’t take time out to address the issue.

The longer this problem goes unchecked, the more systemic it becomes. The only time anyone in sales talks about it is when they don’t make their numbers or hit their accelerators, at which point the “complaints” are largely ignored. The problem is compounded year after year as more marketing materials get posted onto the portal with little or no governance in place to remove “dated” items, making finding useful material even more difficult. The useful material that is found typically has to be reworked, taking valuable “selling” hours away from sales.

It is estimated that from 70% to as high as 90% of the material produced by marketing goes unused by sales. (IDC). […]”

I could not have described these pain points better. I’m sure that pretty much everyone in the B2B environment can relate to the them. No matter which Sales Enablement vendor you decide to work with, what needs to be done is the following:

  • Implement ‘Content Governance’ (automate a life cycle for content, define responsibilities for roles, send them automated reminders to rework what the life cycle has pulled off the portal, …)

life cycle for content

  • Add ‘Social Features’ everyone is familiar with from the web 2.0 like rating, commenting and uploading of their own content or links (gets everyone engaged and gathers feedback on the content as well as new insights from the field)

sales-web_social

  • Analyze (‘Content Intelligence’) the usage of your improved sales portal and how the two steps above yield fruit
  • Take action with ‘Content Planning’ based on your findings

Content Intelligence
The example above shows that there are 19 customer reference documents for EMEA but not a single one about a customer in Luxembourg. If you wanted to target a prospect in Luxembourg that might be a problem. A dash board overview for your Content Intelligence like the showcased Content Landscape from BizSphere helps you to identify gaps in your content inventory.

AMD blogs on Sales Enablement

David Kenyon, VP of WW Channel Marketing for AMD says “making channel & sales enablement a critical priority” & “just combined three disparate groups into one enablement team that is metric- and objective-driven, tasked with improving the content and training experience for […] sales teams and channel customers.”

At http://blogs.amd.com/channel/ David posted ‘Sales Enablement: Finding what you are looking for in sales and marketing content’:

[…] “Have you ever looked for something you knew that you needed, but couldn’t find it?” Of course we all have those experiences – some more than others, depending on your organization skills. What about when that happens to you electronically? What about those times when you are looking for content, training materials, or have a question that you know is answered in some obscure presentation that you’ve stored somewhere, but you just can’t find it?

In the channel partner community, I imagine that this happens even more often.  Today’s channel partners participate in multiple vendor programs, are barraged by content everyday from over-eager marketing product managers, and likely have terabytes of storage taken up with stale presentations that are never opened once they hit the spinning platters. Sales enablement of channel partners through well-placed and designed content, training and knowledge management, is not just a critical competitive advantage for manufacturers, it’s an experience as rare as a hole-in-one in my lackluster golf game.

How do you make it easy for partners to get information, training, and answers without them having to call tons of 800 numbers or salespeople, or search Web sites for what  seems like hours? It is a question that perplexes most companies, and I believe few actually address. At a recent channel conference I attended, a speaker asked the audience of 300 or so channels executives: “Who believes your intranet or company site is easier to navigate and find things than the global Internet?” Only two people raised their hands. The speaker then made the point that companies devote teams of IT individuals and professionals to design these properties to no productive avail, it seems.

The question then becomes:  how can a company enable its sales team via private portals and electronic communications to provide the easiest possible experience for its partners and customers? It’s a question we are facing at AMD alongside the other hundreds companies represented at that channel conference, and thousands of others around the world. In fact, we are making channel and sales enablement a critical priority.

We have just combined three disparate groups into one enablement team that is metric- and objective-driven, tasked with improving the content and training experience for our sales teams and channel customers. As we transition into a single, integrated sales enablement team, our online resources are front and center in our line of sight. Looking at successful models across industries, a few key attributes stand out: global integration; one interface to partners for all types of interaction; simplified and consistent timing and communications.  And, most importantly: simplify, simplify, simplify web interfaces to external audiences.

In short, it’s time to get serious about improving sales and channel enablement.  At AMD, we want to make this not just a good experience, but also an advantage to doing business with us.  We’d love your feedback as we work through the plans over the upcoming weeks and months. Just like you, we don’t have the time or the patience to spend hours looking for things that should take us seconds to find and activate. Who does? […]”

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…).

 

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/