It’s time to share some insights on sales enablement platforms/solutions and their real value – and how to leverage their full potential.
A few weeks ago, there was an interesting LinkedIn question regarding sales enablement platforms. It was called „So you’ve got a platform for Sales Enablement! What is the feature that really benefits or differentiates, that enables you more than yesterday?“
Those of you who know me won’t be surprised that I wrote a response which was rather a blog post than a short response on a LinkedIn question. That’s why I’m writing this blog post on one of my favorite topics – for YOU, the whole sales enablement tribe out there!
First of all, there are platform providers and platform providers. Some of them just sell a software product, a platform, and some of them sell a variety of sales enablement services, for instance consulting services to identify the customer’s current state and specific business challenges, specific implementation services tailored to the customer’s current state, change management consulting services and additional content management services. I think, we don’t need to debate that the tool providers won’t be the winners in that business.
Anyhow, some platform providers still believe – and that’s how they are selling – that technology itself would deliver significant business value to their clients. However you might think about that… I don’t agree.
In fact, I strongly believe, that technology is a great enabler for additional business value and that we need to leverage this great potential with a smart and holistic implementation strategy – then, we will get a win-win situation and see significant return on our investment – in terms of growth and efficiency!
But one without the other won’t deliver the expected added value.
The reason is this: There is a critical dependency – and that’s sales content. Yes, sales content and the related content management processes! So, what has to be done to leverage the full potential of technology? It’s all about „content management homework“, which is from my point of view a mandatory phase in every sales enablement platform implementation project. But that’s not the most funny part of the project, especially not in a large organization.
Let’s start with the end in mind to give you an impression what I mean: You live in wonderful, effective and efficient sales content world, without any random acts of content creation. All the attributes you mapped to your content are completely covered by the newly implemented sales enablement platform and you create great value in terms of reduced search time, reduced ramp-up time for new hires, dynamic content generation and increased collaboration between content contributors and content consumers based on a variety of social collaborative features – and you receive great analytics in multiple dimensions.
What does that mean and how to get there? It means, that content types are defined and categorized, the purpose is defined for each content type (e.g. gain appropriate access or create shared vision of success), the internal and external target groups including their altitude level are mapped, each content type is also mapped to customer oriented milestones along the sales process or directly to the customer’s problem solving process.
You might get a first impression what has to be done…. Yes, it’s a lot of work and I strongly recommend to start with a content assessment – what is really relevant and what’s not required and not used? Be brave and throw away everything that’s no longer relevant for your organization. You will find the same or similar content on different platforms, portals, you will find content that’s outdated, that’s no longer relevant, content which has at least to be reworked and so on.
Quality before quantity – that should be your mission for content and for platforms!
Then, each content type has a clearly defined RACI matrix regarding content creating, content publishing and content localization including the relevant budgets – covering all relevant roles in your organization that are working on sales content. All that is by definition a cross-functional endeavor. Not only marketing, product marketing, but also solution sales roles, presales roles, portfolio managers, process managers, solution designers, sales enablement managers and commercial roles are content contributors!
Based on that content management foundation – you could launch your shiny new platform! Then, make your roadmap and prepare the next level and create dynamic content – and that’s where technology can be really very valuable and very helpful. An example can be to create standardized and modularized content elements focused on specific selling situations in specific industries. If a sales person is then looking for challenge x, industry y, target audience is CIO, first meeting etc. – and the sales enablement platform creates an 80/20 approach for the specific selling situation – the missing 20% have to be customized – much better than customize 50% or rework everything! That creates value for sales reps in terms of much more selling time! The same principle helps you to design dynamic playbooks, ideally connected to your CRM system – cherry on the cake!
Additional benefits are mobile services, social features like commenting, rating, contact information on the specific solution manager, marketing manager, solution sales contacts – just one mouse click away – the possibility to chat and to use web conferencing and all those features also in a mobile version – all that is very, very valuable!
Sales people will use what’s quick and easy and what creates value for their daily business. And, be aware…. sales people will never distinguish between platform and content – it’s one system for them, and that’s exactly how it should be.
Finally: Really smart sales enablement vendors are aware of all these issues, they know pretty well how big the change effort in your organization might be to leverage the full collaborative potential of their technology. They don’t sell a product, they sell tailored services, e.g. consulting services that help customers to master all the content issues together combined with their technology, based on a professional analysis of the current state including professional change management services.
Really smart providers love to solve your problem and to create long-term business value for you, they are not focused on selling you a product only…
You might be interested in more blog posts on that topic – on Michael Fox’s excellent sales enablement blog: