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07/29/2009

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Air Jordan 14

Brilliant! What a great read. That was a good post - informative but not too heavy. Thanks for taking the time out to write it! I think spirituality is really important too, we certainly agree on that point. A leader without spirituality is missing a key element.

Brucebrien

Gerhard,

I thoroughly enjoyed your blogpost, even though it did not mention my own company, Stratascope. Granted, we do not approach the problem in the same manner as Savo or Kadient and the like. The first problem with the term Sales Enablement is simply that it is new and therefore the definition is still up for debate. The second problem is that the term, or buzzword is very hot right now, so everyone involved in it is trying to bend the definition to more closely fit their own needs. As proof, just keep checking the definition on Wikipedia to see how often it gets edited. The third problem is not really a problem but the reality is that, while not very exciting, the term fits. If these vendors can enable a sales team to perform more effectively, why not call that "Sales Enablement".

Based on the companies that you profiled, I can certainly see the relationship to knowledge management. Most of them provide a framework for the aggregation and effective dissemination of sales and marketing assets, sounds like knowledge management. They also provide a search mechanism for locating and ranking assets, sounds like knowledge management. We believe that Sales Enablement can step beyond the confines of knowledge management.

At Stratascope we have combined sales intelligence (think Hoovers, Dow Jones and OneSource) with the knowledge management of internal assets (think Savo and Kadient), connecting them together with our own "Business Value Taxonomy" (sorry, we could not think of a better name) or language. We have created a series of relationships to connect the business processes of specific industries to the key performance indicators, roles, and specific business issues that these industries are facing. Our clients can align there solutions and marketing assets to specific business issues, processes, roles, and industries. Our own content on industries, markets, organizations, triggered news, and people are also connected to the taxonomy.

We deliver it all to the end user in a brand new Web20 user interface (released in March 2010) that so far, our customers and prospects have responded favorably to, Cisco Systems and Microsoft Dynamics being the largest.

The sales executive can look up an account, get all of the same research they would get from a traditional source, packaged specifically for a sales audience, coupled with a short list of potential business issues to discuss. As they interact with the research, tagging articles of importance, creating opportunity org charts, and confirming business issues, the assets that their organization has aligned, are automatically served up to them in context with their evolving preparation.

Many of your other concerns are also valid. We battle information obsolesence every day, having developed many algortihms to warn our users or even quarantine specific content.

The ROI's stated in the comments are real but difficult to tie to the specific vendors. As many have stated, the real ROI comes from the initiative itself, along with the committment of senior management to drive it through.

Again, great post, leaving us all with lots to think about.

James Gingerich

Well researched blog. A lot of work went into the vendor material and
analysis.

I would agree with your lipstick on a pig comment.

While having organized material at a reps fingertips can be an advantage
and perhaps improve your chances of getting the sale I would suggest that
firms considering an investment in Sales Enablement technology have a
couple of more important things in place first.

A coherent customer-centric sales methodology. If there isn't a process
in place first that has been ingrained in the reps through proper training,
additional investment in technology isn't going to make up for it.

Second, training for the reps themselves. To perform at a high level in
any endeavor training is a requirement. You'd be amazed at how many
companies believe that the reps should know how to sell on their own. They
feel that money spent here is wasted or let's just get them all new laptops
and they'll be happy.

Without these two pieces in place first investing in sales enablement
technology would be a waste. Yes the materials might be in the right
place at the right time, but without the rep making the right decision at
the right time in the right frame of mind.... the best materials in the
world are useless.


James Gingerich

Tamaraschenk

First of all, thanks a lot for this great blog with interesting, inspiring comments based on a lot of experiences and deep insights.

I would like to share some ideas from a sales enablement customer point of view (ICT industry, focus on solution selling to multinational customers, thousands of sales people, Germany based). What does it mean for us?

Sales enablement for us is much more than "lipstick on a knowledge management pig". We see it as a strategic ongoing governance (e.g. content and publishing ownership) and process issue aligned to the sales process with the target to support every person touching the account with the best available content referring to the customer's specific needs. Additionally sales enablement is about collaboration, which means for us it's a great change management challenge depending on the level of an organization's current collaboration maturity. But it won't be done by adding different web 2.0 features! Furthermore we believe that certain flexible structures depending on the complexity of both the organization and its offering portfolio are necessary, and we believe in the separation of official content and additional shared content/project experiences etc.

How did we come to sales enablement?
We experienced several years of restructurings, reorganizations especially in sales and portfolio management, and we experienced different sales portals and search engines mostly designed by organizational aspects and content producer aspects located somewhere in the Intranet. And we recognized that our sales reps don't like it. Of course not - if they need more than ten clicks to find some relevant content and another ten clicks for the next document...
So it was very clear for us that another content management tool, an upgrade of the existing sales portal meaning to add only technology would not create a "quantum jump". What we all know in an ICT company "a fool with a tool is still a fool"! We had to look for more, and we came to sales enablement. Our first impressions were the presentations and comments from IDC, Forrester and different studies I found in the web - thanks for sharing! Seeing the IDC results on customer satisfaction especially in solution selling - which is our business - we knew: that's an issue for us! And our stakeholders were quickly convinced of sales enablement!

What we figured out during the make-or-buy assessment and also the RFP phase: just implementing a web 2.0 based solution could help us but could not increase significantly our efficiency and quality. We have seen that the ability of covering complex portfolio structures is also a critical success factor beside the governance, process, content quality and change management challenges - but of course that's depending on an organization's portfolio structure.

Sales efficiency and ROI effects: From our point of view quality and efficiency have to be improved on both sides content producers and content consumers. Reducing one or two hours a week of the time sales reps spend on searching, reformatting and creating content which is available somewhere but was not found (see also IDC studies) millions of € per year could be saved . And adding the improved efficiency on the content producers side as well - hopefully we will stop creating content sales reps never use - additional savings could by realized.
But the way will be hard work: content producers have to work in a much more structured way than before: mandatory content per offering has to be defined, content lifecycle has to be managed, sales presentations for different levels have to be created, market intelligence, competition views, USP overviews and much more have to be included in the sales enablement tool - additionally also checklists and sales process related documents necessary for the sales reps have to be part of the sales enablement tool. Of course in a first step all this creates additional costs to be added to the basic operating costs of a sales enablement solutions. But on the other hand - regarding the potential on sales efficiency and quality I'm sure there is an interesting business case - especially if we take into account the quality improvements on the interface to the customer: with positive effects on revenues!

When it comes to vendor discussions: there are very good and very specific solutions available on the market, but only a few of them are really integrated solutions referring to content consumer AND content producer aspects covering the whole value chain.

We checked very precisely what analysts said, and we found our own situation in some presentations. Especially the maturity and culture discussion was important for us. We checked all these information with reference customers who already completed their sales enablement implementation. Then we got a clear picture where to go.

Finally – yes, I believe in sales enablement, we are especially in Europe in the very early beginning. From my point of view, an increasing part of the CRM market will be shifted to sales enablement in the next years, and sales enablement will definitely come to Europe! Additionally the different integration tasks e.g. CRM or SAP will increase in a second wave.

Tamara Schenk

T-Systems International GmbH
Portfolio & Offering Management - Innovation Center
Head of "Special ICT Innovation Projects"
tamara.schenk@t-systems.com
www.t-systems.com

- Life is for sharing -

Tamara Schenk

"First of all, this is a great blog with interesting, inspiring comments, and based on a lot of experiences and deep insights.

I would like to share some ideas from a sales enablement customer point of view (ICT industry, focus on solution selling to multinational customers, thousands of sales people, Germany based). What does it mean for us?

Sales enablement (or however you want to name it) for us is much more than "lipstick on a knowledge management pig". We see it as a strategic ongoing governance (e.g. content and publishing ownership) and process issue aligned to the sales process with the target to support every person touching the account with the best available content referring to the customer's specific needs. Additionally sales enablement is about collaboration, which means for us it's a great change management challenge depending on the level of an organization's current collaboration maturity. But it won't be done by adding different web 2.0 features! Furthermore we believe that certain flexible structures depending on the complexity of both the organization and its offering portfolio are necessary, and we believe in the separation of official content and shared content/experiences.

How did we come to sales enablement?
We experienced several years of restructurings, reorganizations especially in sales and portfolio management, and we experienced different sales portals and search engines mostly designed by organizational aspects and content producer aspects located somewhere in the Intranet. And we recognized that our sales reps don't like it. Of course not - when they need more than ten clicks to come to content they don't use it!

For these - common - observations some documents are existing, e.g. Jeanne Hellmann referred already to them: Sales reps will use these tools if they are helpful to get actual work done better than before. These statement were confirmed by organizations that already implemented sales enablement solutions. So it was very clear for us that another content management tool, an upgrade of the existing sales portal meaning to add technology would not create a "quantum jump". What we all know in an ICT company "a fool with a tool is still a fool"!

Concurrently we got a new and overall responsibility for our complete - and complex - offering portfolio. So we had to look for more, and we came to sales enablement. Our first impressions were the presentations and comments from IDC, Forrester and different studies I found in the web - thanks a lot! Seeing the IDC results on customer satisfaction especially in solution selling - our business - we knew: that's an issue for us! And our stakeholders were convinced of sales enablement!

What we figured out during the make-or-buy assessment and the RFP phase: just implementing a web 2.0 based solution could help us but could not increase significantly our efficiency and quality. We have seen that the ability of covering complex portfolio structures is also a critical success factor beside the governance, process, content quality and change management challenges - but of course depending on an organization's portfolio structure.

Sales efficiency: Taking into account the figures of different studies and white papers, e.g. 15 hours a week in sales are spent on searching content, reformatting content, creating content which already exists but was not found - we could save millions of € globally if we only reduce this effort by some hours! Some authors in the blog referred to A, B and C sales reps. From our experience in different sales efficiency projects it is very important to improve the performance of the C players with enough potential to become a B player and to improve the performance of the B players significantly - as Jeff Ernst remarked already on this blog. From our experience you won't be able to "clone" your top A players! They deliver always top performance and they will always sell even they are without any slides at the customers…

ROI effects: Quality and efficiency have to be improved on both sides content producers and content consumers. If you could reduce one or two hours a week of the time sales reps spend on searching, reformatting and creating content which somewhere available but was not found (see also IDC studies) you can realize savings - millions of € per year depending on your sales force. And if you add the improved efficiency on the content producers side as well - hopefully we will stop creating content sales reps never use - you can add additional savings here.
But very important: content producers have to work in a much more structured way than before: mandatory content per offering has to be defined, content lifecycle has to be managed, sales presentations for different levels have to be created, market intelligence, competition views, USP overviews and much more have to be included in the sales enablement tool - additionally also checklists and sales process related documents necessary for the sales reps have to be part of the sales enablement tool. Of course in a first step all this creates additional costs to be added to the basic operating costs of a sales enablement solutions. But on the other hand - regarding the potential on sales efficiency and quality I'm sure there is an interesting business case - especially if we take into account the quality improvements on the interface to the customer: with positive effects on the revenues!

When it comes to vendor discussions: there are very good and very specific solutions available on the market, but only a few of them are really integrated solutions referring to content consumer AND content producer aspects covering the whole value chain.

We checked very precisely what analysts said, and we found our own situation in some presentations. Especially the maturity and culture discussion was important for us. We doublechecked these information with reference customers who already completed the sales enablement implementation. Then we got a clear picture where to go.

Finally - yes I believe in sales enablement, we are especially in Europe in the very early beginning. From my point of view, an increasing part of the CRM market will be shifted to sales enablement in the next years, and sales enablement will definitely come to Europe! Additionally the different integration aspects e.g. CRM or SAP will increase in a second wave.

I'm looking forward to our current implementation which already started - and I'm looking forward to explore sales enablement as an innovation for the European market."

Best regards from Germany

Tamara Schenk

Jay Mitchell

Gerhard...

Thanks for a thought-provoking post on Sales Enablement. We couldn’t agree more with you that both the term and “attributes” of sales enablement are incredibly misunderstood by the real parties to whom it matters: sales channels, sales leadership, marketing and sales operations.

In Motum’s work with market leaders like SAP, Microsoft, Ancillary Care Services, OKI Data, SOURCE and dozens more, we see them embracing more and more the critical nature of “enabling their sales channels” (both direct and indirect) through a cohesive program that includes not only the technology you note, but sales assets, a common sales process, sales training and an accountability platform. Moreover, the content of those sales assets (e.g. collateral, pitch books, proposals, play books, discovery questions) is both relevant and compelling to the target audience in a manner that 99% of those assets rarely bring to bear. Specifically, they deliver a highly-differentiated message that positions the seller (and its solutions) uniquely in the mind of the ideal buying audience throughout all touchpoints of business development and the sales cycle.

It would be unfair to downplay the technology component, as it is a critical element, but also simply a medium for making the ingredients of "sales enablement" available to the field. The consistency of a standard sales process (ideally institutionalized within an SFA system) and a scalable training platform that activates and reinforces the field with the sales process, differentiated messaging and how to leverage the sales assets bring foundational building blocks to a too-often ill-equipped sales force. Finally, without an on-going accountability mechanism, the entire “sales enablement” initiative will fall on its face.

Most important in the big picture is that the real "client" of marketing -- sales -- is properly armed and empowered to drive sustainable and repeatable revenue growth.

We are honored to have dozens of client success stories that have “enabled their sales channels”, and would be happy to discuss the leading practices implemented by these market leaders.

Jay

Cole

Interesting article and comments. For myself, the hardest part is just making my cold calls, and follow ups and not becoming discouraged when I don't get calls back, etc...

I use and love my CRM system (Sugar CRM) to help me track activity, phone numbers, and notes, but it does not really help to motivate me, it just helps me to stay organized. But I have to have the drive and passion to actually make it meaningful.

So much of selling is psychological. Some days for me it's actually not fun, and more like pure hell, just because it's so hard to get someone to listen, or to get them to talk so you can listen. No technology that I know of can actually make this process any easier. The process of actually cold calling, networking, whatever...it just takes hard work, and a thick skin.

Chuck Carey

Gerhard,

I find that there are a lot of organizations today that 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.

All of this falls under the area of Sales Enablement.

Michael Berman

Gerhard:


What a terrific piece...funny, insightful, topical, and asking all the right questions….as always you are on the right leading edge!!!

Though it’s unfair for me to lump all sales enablement providers in one group and there’s no doubt the informed sales professional has a better chance of success than others, I must admit the “Vendor Pitches/Marketing Glitches” are the biggest reasons why I have kicked many a tire but not made any purchases.

The whole idea that any tool or technology can transform a mediocre sales talent into a top performer is laughable in my view and until these companies get off that kick they just don’t have any credibility with me. Putting aside the fact sales enablement is not illegal, I’ll compare the promise to steroids in baseball: both as performance-enhancing applications. As I recall, the first Major League baseball player busted for steroids was a back-up infielder named Manny Alexander…a rather pedestrian ballplayer. Steroids didn’t make him anything close to Alex Rodriguez any more than sales enablement tools will permit a company to “clone top performers”. Talent, industriousness, and professional commitment to continuous improvement have more to do with high achievement than anything else as far as I am concerned.

While the sales enablement companies themselves can be faulted for unrealistic hype, frankly I hold the organizations they sell to more accountable for the concept looking too much like “lipstick on a knowledge management pig”. Too many times I’ve seen sales leadership and company executive management look for some silver bullet answer rather than really working on the root of their sales problems. I touch on this a bit in my most recent blog post http://bermanmeansbusiness.blogspot.com/2009/07/debunking-and-moving-beyond-good-old.html

Selling is an active pursuit; the art & science of high-stakes human dynamics. The most researched sales organization doesn’t have a prayer of becoming a high output sales force unless it masters the discipline’s real fundamentals. Over the years I’ve seen an unfortunate trend, too many senior executives have become far removed from their sales force and their customer base they don’t have a real handle for what’s going on. Yet these same people hold the power of the pen and make decisions to purchase some whiz-bang technology that can be a facilitator but is not nearly enough to stimulate production.

Sales enablement has a future but as a useful facilitator and not as a game-changer. I don’t distrust what the analysts say about sales enablement but I don’t put that much stock in it either because they, too, are degrees removed from the real action.

Just my brief thoughts on this very compelling subject, but one of the reasons why I am thrilled you’ve started this blog is I will be a regular visitor to http://sellingpower.typepad.com/gg/2009/07/is-sales-enablement-just-lipstick-on-a-knowledge-management-pig.html is because you continue to educate in ways that make me better.

Great stuff, thanks for sharing, keep it going!!

Best Regards,

Mike Berman

Doug Schmidt

Gerhard from a sales person's perspective I am for any tool that will help me to become more productive and help me to sell better. If I have my sales person's hat on how does pertinent information as too helping me sell better get distributed through any sales organization. Keep in mind that also my culture generally creates natural competitive environments in most companies. Not an easy goal to get people to communicate some of their best practices.

As far as ROI goes, how do you effectively measure ROI? Is it the more effective information I get to increase my sales skills or is it another tool/strategy that I used.

The sales enablement question reminds me of a friend of mine who just bought his son a $5,000 bike for triathlons. My other good friend trains professional triathletes. I asked the father if he talked to the professional triathlete trainer. He told me that training will not be necessary. The father(management) believed the $5,000 bike was enough to make his son successful. I do not think this strategy will work too well. Is it the bike(tools) or son's fault? I don't think either of them.

Even with the best tools without proper training, support and understanding how to use the tools the tools/methodologies do not yield the highest performance results. Just ask Lance Armstrong. Where would he be without the training, support and tools to perform the tasks at optimum levels?

Tim Lambert

Gerhard-
Thanks for the provocative and well written post. As demonstrated by the comments that followed, you’ve hit a nerve as we all try to define what sales enablement is, and what it will become. We’d like to add three points to the discussion.

1. We believe each of the vendors you mentioned (including us, thanks!) all have unique offerings to solve a variety of sales performance challenges. We focus less on the definition and more on execution. We appreciate your positive comment on our "Guide to Enlightened Conversations". The reason we created this site is that we agree that the path to improved sales performance is about addressing the current reality and defining the appropriate path to a solution. There’s an abundance of advice (and perhaps in some cases a bit of pontification) that covers what you should do to improve sales and marketing performance. It paints a compelling picture of what a day in the life of selling could be. We don’t try to duplicate or recast the possibilities. We focus on what you can do to execute on the vision of sales enablement. There’s really no right or wrong answer since sales enablement scenarios vary as much as the companies themselves. There are however, best practices that can be shared, retrofitted and reshaped based on your situation. That’s why, before designing a sales enablement solution, defining the status quo and desired future state is so important.

2. We agree with the IDC point of view that “Salespeople can win more deals if they are better prepared” but we also suggest taking it a step further. Many sales enablement tools, portals and methodologies address sales performance during preparation for client interactions, it’s also important to improve sales performance by extending preparedness to the actual client interaction to achieve the intended sales outcome. This is essential to sales performance since these interactions represent your “moments of truth” to drive initial sales transactions and ongoing strategic customer relationships. In order to identify these “moments of truth” it’s critical to begin with a hard look at the weak links in your sales cycle. As Scott Santucci at Forrester points out, it should start with three basic questions: What do you want to sell? Who do you want to sell it to? How do you want to sell it? Sounds simple, but our clients often struggle to arrive at a consensus when answering these questions. Which points out what we often find to be another weak link: alignment. You ask the question “What’s the real cost of running a sales enablement solution?” The real cost of running a sales enablement solution isn’t only the solution itself, but also the opportunity cost of lack of adoption. Gaining alignment between three critical stakeholders – marketing, sales, customer – is the first step in reducing the risk of low or no adoption. I talk a great deal about this here: http://www.ntarainteractive.com/sales-enablement-best-practices.aspx

3. Geoffrey James’ comment about our statement “Ever feel like your sales people don’t get it?” is well-taken, but let me say first and foremost, we LOVE sales people. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be in this business. In fact, we ARE sales people – I've carried a quota, our CEO is a long-time international ‘peddler’ (his word) and our focus is, and always has been driven from the salesperson’s lens. “Ever feel like your sales people don’t get it?” isn’t a dig at the sales person, it’s a criticism of the marketing organization for delivering too many sales assets that aren’t designed to be timely, relevant and in context to what the customer needs. It’s an articulation of the misalignment between marketing, sales and the customer. One of the challenges with the “sound bite” communication culture that exists today is that we don’t always get the whole message. Our website is actually very empathetic to sales and reads: “Do you ever feel like your sales people just...don't...get it? They do get it they’re just challenged with using lackluster, out-of-date and overly complex presentations that aren’t customer ready.” So in essence we agree with Geoffrey James comment “Chances are that the salespeople "get it" all too well... and what they "get" is that the marketing messages in the "sales enablement" system are completely useless.” In fact I believe we are all more in agreement than not (not surprising.) I also participated in the Forrester Roundtable where the Sales Enablement definition was vetted by a group made up of 50% marketing and 50% sales executives and the reality is that the hardest part is picking the right terms and descriptive words, but the commonality of the challenges we face and the desire to improve was established very quickly…to borrow a quote from the movie Jerry Maguire “You had me at hello.” So now I think it’s time to get past hello and focus on delivering value to address a very timely need.


Tim Lambert
SVP, Sales Enablement Solutions
n-tara
http://ntara.com/sales-enablement-solutions.aspx

Christian Maurer

Gerhard,

thank you for the excellent overview.

Just an anecdote about the term 'sales enablement'. I do not know about your spell checker, but all the ones I use do not recognize the word 'enablement'. I therefore looked in several dictionaries and could not find the word there either. However one can find a definition of the term on Wikipedia. This probably illustrates the newness of the term, but not necessarily of the concept.

More serious to your question does sales enablement have a future? I believe yes. But only if an organization is ready and mature to put this technology to good use. Sales enablement is first a process and a discipline supported by adequate technology. It has happened with SFA, and CRM though that the technology vendors claim to be the total solution. As we all know though throwing only technology at a probelm does not solve it.

For sales enablement to be successful, it takes two, marketing and sales. They must be aligned.
In my experience establishing a common understanding of the customer buying process has proven a good starting point to get to this alignment.

Jeff Ernst

Gerhard,

Thanks for sparking a great discussion. Does sales enablement have a future? As long as Jim Dickie's data shows 40% of reps missing quota, and Lee Levitt's research shows buyers think sales reps actually slow down their buying process...yes.

You say that "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." Those aren't noble, those are by-products. Not too many VPs of Sales care about content.

The real purpose of sales enablement companies (both technology and services providers) is to help the VP of Sales address an issue that keeps him/her awake at night: "How do I scale my sales organization, to generate more revenue with fewer resources?"

Sales is like any other business process. The only way to scale it is to drive repeatable behavior. The only way to drive repeatable behavior is to surface best practices - the activities, strategies, and conversations that are proven to work in different selling situations, so that every rep can do more of those things. That's the role of sales enablement.

Think about it, what is every middle-of-the pack sales rep dying to know? What did (insert name of one of your stars) do to win that deal? More on that here http://bit.ly/ZQUeb.

If you truly believe that best practices are not resusable, then your only choice to scale sales is to hire only gifted A players. We know how well that works. You've got to enable the B and C players to be incrementally better.

The sales enablement vendors all try to surface best practices, but they do it in very different ways. Some are focused on delivering a better sales portal, some are using Web 2.0 capabilities to automate the inefficient ways sales people work today, while others allow you to guide sales reps through the customer's buying cycle using proven playbooks. The best approach for you depends on your culture.

Don't let the vendors fool you, there's no way to enable sales without hard work. But I for one would rather have a sales enablement person spend one hour to save 1,000 salespeople an hour each.

Jeff Ernst
TheSalesEnabler.com

Peter Ostrow

Gerhard, you’ve obviously struck a chord in our community. My two cents focus on the 80-20 rule, i.e. the conventional wisdom that 80% of your sales revenue is achieved by 20% of your best players.

Recent research focused on sales training shows us that average companies are currently achieving 84% of their aggregate annualized goal, but that only 63% of their sales reps are hitting their individual number. If you break down the Best-in-Class vs. Laggard performers, however, you see BIC company reps achieving quota at an 83% rate, as opposed to 50% for the lowest-performing sales teams. Perhaps “sales enablement” and “training” are interchangeable terms that can be applied to helping the “B” and “C” players achieve their full potential, rather than solving any “world crisis” on a grand scale.

Jeanne Hellman

Gerhard,

I just spent 3 years implementing one of the products above into a large, complex, global organization. What I would say is that it's not so much the technology that will make this venture a success or failure: it's the commitment the company is willing to make to ensure that the program is a success. Just throwing another portal at your sales force won't work, no matter which application it is. I have seen demos of most of these products, and frankly, they deliver just about the same benefits, when all is said and done. What differs is the model (Software as a service vs. direct install) which will determine how quickly you can get it up and running, how you can customize the features to work within your company. and what team is built to gain the adoption of both the technology and ultimately the program. The key take aways for a success implementation is the willingness of the company to support the culture change, the buy in of the sales force (ie, the end users), and the ability to get past the corporate politics which will throw up the road blocks to deter adoption and use. I do have a case study with some actual numbers on the efficiency gains we acheived, and would be happy to share some more insight offline. I addition, I published an article on what we did at Sales and Marketing Manager Magazine in June "A Case for SE" http://tiny.cc/QEUyM.

Andrew Rudin

Great blogs inspire great comments--all of which I just read. In response to your question on LinkedIn, Sales Enablement--however defined--is lipstick on a knowledge management pig. As Jim Dickie said "the key factor to making sales enablement technologies work is the team that implements them."

I'll go further: the keys are in the culture of the sales force and in the minds of the salespeople who use the tools. Whether the tools are called Sales Enablement, CRM, Social CRM, or other buzzword, organizations that champion empathetic views of customer challenges, and demonstrate thought leadership will prevail.

Information gathering and synthesis presents a huge and time-consuming task for salespeople. But until vendors have the control to restrict their products to salespeople who truly understand how to use them the outcomes won't be anywhere close to the hype. To take full advantage of Sales Enablement, salespeople need the motivation to see through their customer's eyes, and that requires knowing what information matters in the first place.

This is where vendor claims fall short. More information is not better. Information is a commodity, and having information does not equate to being knowledgeable, and being knowledgeable doesn't equate to having insight. For Sales Enablement to create productivity, a salesperson must have empathy for the prospect and the ego to lead the sales engagement. Those skills are in short supply.

Andrew Rudin
Managing Principal
Outside Technologies, Inc.
arudin(at)outsidetechnologies(dot)com

Paul

Great overview of the vendors. You are spot on when you say: 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 the different vendors.

I will try to add to this conversation here and on my blog http://salesenablement.wordpress.com

Michael Damphousse, Green Leads

@gerhard20,

Been loving the blog.

Ok, IDC's 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.” is very all encompassing.

One interesting thing to note is that they do not specify who is the recipient of the information is. Most think sales enablement, it must be the sales team. I counter with sales enablement...it could be your prospect.

Buyers have changed how they buy. They create their own buying patterns. If a sales person, or a marketing team, or an enablement tool can ENABLE a buyer to establish their desire to engage and move a sales cycle along. Now that's enablement!

Sales 2.0 is about new ways of thinking. Rethink how the buyer can be part of the sales process themselves.

@damphoux

Sameer Patel

Very important post, Gerhard

Re: 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?

I've spent a decade working with sales orgs at large organizations and I think there's another side to this to be comprehensive:
A architecture that lets sales reps ask questions and have experts wrap around the problem. I wrote about what works for sales reps based on the nature of the typical sales rep, here: "Friendfeed: Inspiration for Sales Intelligence in an Enterprise 2.0 world?" - http://bit.ly/14UlOd

The bottom line is that we need to structure this "nirvana" system as much around the content needs of sales reps, as much as responding to the human behavior that good sales reps exhibit.

Yasmin Shah

This is an insightful piece and I agree that it is about social media but the challenge has been that all social media tools are not appropriate for the enterprise. We are a large leading brand retailer in the UK and are still testing the waters with the new spcial media tools.

I smiled at your comments about twitter and just had a look at your previous comments to your post and found the www.twitter/com/streetsmartsinc feed and they currently have 404 followers and www.twitter.com/davestreetsmart has 170 folowers

Dave Batt, CEO and Founder, StreetSmarts, Inc.

Gerhard,
There is no question that some Sales Enablement and Sales Effectiveness vendors pitchi lofty and virtuous marketing promises of “how their product solves a world crisis.” The good news is an experienced executive already knows they need more than just technology to improve operating performance. I also liked your concluding point about Sales enablement companies seem stuck in the “delay economy,” while Twitter is moving information management into the real-time economy. This is a point of contention that consumers/buyers have raised as some of these vendors are slapping a new marketing message on an old technology platform.

There is a new class of technology vendor out there for buyers to consider and we can always chat about that, but my recommendation is the buyer should go back to basics. Many of us already understand the three important elements of executing successful projects: People, Process and Technology. In simple terms, a leader should first map out the strategy (process) of the business objectives they wish to achieve. Next is to make sure they have the people in place capable of executing this strategy. Finally, leverage technology that can support the new business requirements to help reinforce consistent practices, scale a distributed workforce or simply provide a prompt of “what to do next.”

We can each recall stories of seeing a great demo but realizing that the product did not perform to expectations when brought into that organization. Between these anecdotes and the bold claims technology vendors market, it’s enough to make even an even-keel person a cynic. But it is refreshing to know that leaders can take a structured approach to address the business challenges they face and that mapping the right sales enablement/sales effectiveness product to the business requirements will more often than not help organizations to achieve tangible business results.

Dave Batt
CEO and Founder
StreetSmarts Inc.,
www.streetmsarts.com
www.twitter.com/streetsmartsinc

trish bertuzzi

Gerhard, two things: First, this is a very well written and provocative piece. Second - full disclosure, Kadient is a new Bridge Group client (that I engaged with while speaking at your conference btw). Having said that, here is my two cents...

So maybe "sales enablement" is not a great term and there are a million definitions for what it means. (As an aside - the same thing can be said for Sales 2.0)Let's not get hung up on that.

If you really break down what these vendors are trying to accomplish with their solution it is to enhance the productivity and yield of the sales/marketing organizations by capturing best practices, trending messaging that resonates and integrating technology into the process. Wait a minute...isn't that what all Sales 2.0 vendors say? Lots of similiarities.

ROI is in the eye of the beholder. But a word of caution, just like in everything else there are no silver bullets. Before you can "enable" your team you need to have deveoped baseline metrics so you can measure success. Too many companies lack the foundational work required to measure progress. See our blog post on "Have You Mastered Sales 1.5?"

Net/net...it is an emerging market with a lot of potential. Again, great post with great responses and can I just say "GO Kadient!"

Geoffrey James

I think that "sales enablement" is an incredibly ugly buzzword. It makes it sound like selling is some kind of addiction, and the people around the sales team are enabling them to do indulge in it. Ugh.

I notice that a lot of sales technology companies secretly hate sales reps and don't respect the job. That's been true ever since they started talking about "Sales Force Automation" -- a term that implied that the purpose of technology was to automate the sales force out of their jobs.

The marketing tag "Ever feel like your salespeople don’t get it?" is a perfect example of this attitude. Chances are that the salespeople "get it" all too well... and what they "get" is that the marketing messages in the "sales enablement" system are completely useless.

Lee Levitt

Gerhard,

While I'm in general agreement with your comments, I'd like to share another perspective on sales enablement.

Sales enablement is a recent phenomenom, at least from a branding standpoint. At IDC we've been researching and publishing sales enablement best practices since 2007, the same year that the phrase first started showing up in Google searches.

However, sales enablement as a business process has been around for a long time. As a field sales engineer at Texas Instruments, I implemented a sales enablement function on our internal network, using hardcopy terminals for information entry and retrieval.

This was in 1985.

Social media at its best, given the constraints of the existing technology. Rapid sharing of tribal knowledge for thos that had or needed it.

I'd suggest that Patterson's Solution Selling Primer, written for the National Cash Register business, is an earlier example of sales enablement. Patterson's Primer certainly meets the IDC definition for sales enablement, and Patterson absolutely reported results with it. In the 1880s.

Companies are reporting results with sales enablement. American Express, for instance, indicated that Time-to-Revenue for new reps dropped from months to weeks after they implemented a leading SE environment. They reported this at an IDC Sales and Marketing summit in 2008.

For another large IDC client, we identified a 15% increase in sales productivity after the company implemented some basic sales enablement processes, a small subset of the possibilities in that multibillion dollar organization.

While it's still early in the sales enablement game, virtually every midsize or larger company today does *something* in the area of sales enablement, typically based on internal processes and maybe some intranet or SharePoint support.

A very small handful of companies, maybe a thousand in total, have taken a focused approach at moving their sales enablement activities to what IDC refers to as the third generation of sales enablement.

In these early markets, innovators and early adopters don't care about ROI. That's for the late majority to worry about. They're looking for competitive advantage...and they're finding it. When companies seek to address specific business challenges (new rep support, competitive response, customer intelligence, campaign support, etc), they find substantial improvements in sales productivity and customer satisfaction.

We've only scratched the surface with sales enablement. We believe that the potential for sales productivity improvement is on the order of 30-50%, or more, particularly if employed with the other four levers of sales productivity and properly measured.

And the net savings to the organization may be substantial. The typical technology firm spends more $12,000 per rep per year in marketing collateral development, with the vast majority of that expense going to waste. Firms that take an outside-in approach in sales asset development will find this cost dropping by an order of magnitude.

There's ROI for you -- higher sales productivity *and* lower costs.

Lee Levitt
Director, Sales Advisory Practice
IDC
llevitt @ idc.com

Jim Dickie

Gerhard,

Jessica Keyes, in her book InfoTrends, made a great observation; "Technology does not begat a competitive advantage any more than paint and canvas begat a Van Gogh."

The key factor to making sales enablement technologies work is the team that implements them. Having done benchmark reviews of several sales enablement initiatives, two that we found generating solid ROIs come to mind. The first was a project at Experian, headed by their Vice President of Sales Effectiveness; Kelli Stephenson, which made effective use of Kadient.

The second was a project championed by Sanford Brown, the Chief Sales Officer of Heartland Payments Systems, which they built on the StreetSmarts platform.

If anyone would like to read those case studies, please email our Senior Director of Research; kim.cameron@csoinsights.com and we'd be happy to share those with you.

Jim Dickie
Managing Partner
CSO Insights
jim.dickie@csoinsights.com

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