by Todd Youngblood
A recent study conducted by CSO Insights indicated that poor sales knowledge management is hitting the top and bottom lines of companies in extremely negative ways. These included high sales rep turn over, longer sell cycles and lower win rates.
What a paradox. On the one hand we’re absolutely drowning in information. On the other hand key information that sales reps need to sell effectively is still routinely hard to acquire. I hear this all the time from sales reps and executives, and the complaint is supported by the CSO Insights study.
Without a doubt, information on almost any topic imaginable is available virtually instantaneously. It’s useful, therefore, to think about the kinds of information that are not readily available even with today’s technology. Perhaps not surprisingly, much of it is directly related to sales issues.
Consider Wikipedia with its more than 2.8 million articles. Does even one of them address how one of the solutions your company provides could help a customer in industry X? Is there one that explains how to differentiate your offerings from those of competitors? How about one that provides responses to common objections heard from consumers of your products and services?
These are pretty basic questions, and the largest single collection of knowledge in the history of the world doesn’t touch on any of them! How can this be? Is wiki technology one that simply does not apply to sales? Or is there something else going on?
Well, as Pogo would say, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” It’s not Wikipedia, and it’s not the wiki technology that supports it. It’s the source of the information. It is totally unreasonable to expect that some anonymous web surfer could have even an inkling about the highly specialized, often unique situations faced by our prospects and customers. The knowledge, experience, insight and information needed by a sales rep cannot possibly be provided by an outsider. It has to come from an individual or group intimately involved with and knowledgeable about not only your specific target markets, but also your specific products and services and how they can be applied.
In other words, you! (…along with your entire sales and sales support team)
What if your organization had a Wikipedia-like thing where sales, technical support, … actually everybody in your organization could record bits of information they deem potentially useful? Maybe some folks from vendors and customers could be invited to participate. It would be interesting to see how much could actually get collected and how quickly. It would be even more interesting to see the impact on sales results. (The CSO Insights study shows a turnover rate 25.4% less for companies with good sales knowledge management and similar differences for sell cycle and win rate.)
Too expensive and difficult to implement you say? Guess again. I personally set up a wiki platform for The YPS Group. The cost of the technology platform is $71.40 annually. The cost of the software is $0. (We using TikiWiki.) I e-mailed a request to our web hosting provider and within 15 minutes everything was up and running. It took me about two hours to customize the system, set up security etc. It takes less than five minutes to teach someone how to create a new page, edit one, upload and download files, search the content and become generally adept at using the system.
It’s too early for us to fully assess the impact and value of what we call our “Sales Knowledge Mine.” I can tell you though, that it’s already loaded up with information and that I add and refer to it on a daily basis. We’ve just started enabling more people to use it. The quantity, quality and value of the content is increasing dramatically.
It’s going to become – maybe already has become- an indispensable sales tool for us. But then, how could it not? Those of us out there selling, closest to the customer; are feeding our observations, insights and ideas into a common pool that is being used and continuously updated and improved by all of us. Shouldn’t you be facilitating the same kind of knowledge exchange?
Think about it…