Sales professionals should have the world at their fingertips, thanks to netbooks, laptops, smartphones, and the ubiquity of cloud-based data. And yet pundits and executives alike say the same basic challenge endures: the lack of personalized, targeted information.
“At a panel session last year, we had a chief information officer from Fidelity say the greatest challenge with sales folks is that he has to go over which products he has purchased from their company,” recalls Michael Gerard, vice president of the sales advisory practice at IDC. “It’s the most basic things. Reps are having a difficult time having a fluent conversation with the customer, and that gets into knowing who [she] is, about [her] company, what products [her] company may or may not have already purchased.”
This is the sweet spot for sales enablement—defined by IDC as “the delivery of the right information to the right person at the right time and in the right place to assist in moving a specific sales opportunity forward.”
Scott Santucci, senior analyst at Forrester Research, says he’s seen an explosion of interest in this area over the past year. As with any technology, however, those rushing to buy the hot newness without first establishing a clear strategy are doomed to fail. It’s not that there’s a lack of information—far from it. Instead, it’s hard to wade through the sheer tonnage of information and determine what’s up-to-date, relevant, and in a form amenable to the particular sales conversation. “It’s a very simple, yet really complicated problem,” Santucci says.
IDC’s Gerard says the first step is to figure out who owns sales enablement in your organization. While the prevailing view has the niche bridging both sales and marketing, no one seems able to agree on exactly who owns which pieces of the pie. (See “The Shotgun Marriage of Sales and Marketing.") Marketers lay claim to 69 percent of sales enablement, according to IDC, while sales pros estimate they control 60 percent. It’s not hard to imagine the damage caused by that disconnect, Gerard says: “There’s confusion amongst companies, some misalignment as to who’s doing what.”
These are nuanced problems, and Santucci says each of the relevant vendors—including BizSphere, iCentera, Kadient, and Savo Group—cater to slightly different problems. For example, he says, iCentera enables sales managers to find information in a searchable and navigable way, while Kadient expands on its strength as a request-for-proposal engine to help target content by selling-cycle stage. Savo Group provides an organizational structure for salespeople to rank various pieces of content—including white papers, product sheets, competitive knockoffs, and frequently asked questions—so, depending on customizable business rules, the software can recommend different material for any given situation.
Santucci says that BizSphere is a relative newcomer to this space, but tackles a more-ambitious problem. “Imagine a large company that can sell different combinations of products and services, and organize things in a variety of different hierarchies,” he says. “If we were calling on a c-level person about [her] particular business problem, it could span across multiple product lines. If you talk to a manager-level person, you may only talk about one particular product. How do we build a taxonomy that allows us to cascade and work within that complex an infrastructure? That’s what BizSphere does.”
These vendors offer on-premises and software-as-a-service (SaaS) models—and CSO Insights Managing Principal Jim Dickie says the SaaS option is growing in popularity, in part because those prices range between $40 and $100 per sales professional per month. That model, he adds, is an easy way for sales executives to test if sales enablement can fix a particular problem. If it does, expect sales folks to take more ownership—literally. “You’ll see people start off with SaaS, but if they decide to use it long-term, they’ll convert over to perpetual license,” Dickie says.
BY THE NUMBERS
- $135,262 is spent, on average, in support costs per year for each salesperson.
- 7 hours per week is what the average salesperson spends looking for relevant information to prepare for sales calls.
- 50 percent of the information is pushed through email.
- 10 percent is “made available in a useful format.”
Source: Forrester Research & IDC Sales Advisory Service
THE VENDOR SHORTLIST
BizSphere (www.enableyoursales.com) --- BizSphere Sales Enablement consists of four separate applications involving both sales and marketing: Sales Web, Document Generation, Content Landscape, and Editors.
iCentera (www.icentera.com/solutions-sales.asp) --- iCentera Enterprise Edition 6.0 offers wiki-page builders, customizable portals, custom tabs, a company newsroom, and dynamic email.
Kadient (www.kadient.com/products.aspx) --- Kadient Dynamic Sales Content, Sales Playbooks, and Sales Performance Analytics can be accessed directly from within sales force automation systems via productized integration with Salesforce.com and Oracle CRM On Demand.
Savo Group (www.savogroup.com/sales/effectiveness) --- Savo Sales Asset Manager provides an organizational structure to enable sales pros to rank content, based on business rules, to recommend content for each particular selling situation.