This post is relevant to both buyers and sellers of sales enablement systems. My hypothesis: over the next few years, knowledge optimization will be more important to sales enablement programs than process optimization.
This year I’ve talked with many, many dozen sales performance management, sales effectiveness, and sales force automation vendors . Most of them fit into a category of solutions commonly called sales enablement. This isn’t a new term, but perhaps my definition is. Sales enablement is the collection of processes and tools that either:
- make it easier for sales representatives to their jobs
- make it easier for clients and prospects to conduct business with your company
Many SFA-extensions fit into this definition, including strategic account planning, CPQ, opportunity predictive analytics, and sales content management, to name a just a few.
While listening to a vendor who provides a new, but impressive, sales training solution, it occurred to me that there are two fundamental differences to what sales enablement solutions do.
- Sales processes optimization: automate processes to remove inefficiencies, resulting in time savings and more selling time
- Sales knowledge optimization: automate the delivery of relevant information and automate the measurement of knowledge retention
The first approach includes sales methodologies, sales content management, order management, or quoting tools. The second includes sales training, sales coaching, predictive analytics for opportunities, and social collaboration tools.
Based upon what I’ve seen from vendors’ go-to-market positioning and marketing, these two approaches are usually mutually exclusive. The well-established vendors tend to talk process optimization; the newer vendors tend to talk knowledge optimization. Having watched the SFA market for many years, I know how this came to be, but that’s beside the point at the moment. What’s important is how this division impacts sales enablement buyers.
Implemented appropriately, both approaches drive successful sales outcomes. However, I’m very interested in seeing how the sales knowledge optimization field develops. Having experienced first-hand how difficult process optimization is, and having seen clients continually wrestle with effective sales execution, it seems to me that there are some logical limits to process optimization. Knowledge optimization, on the other hand, doesn’t require the process design and execution that makes the first approach difficult. Plus, knowledge is practically an unqualified good, exponentially improving outcomes the more it is shared and nurtured.
Stay tuned for more on this topic. In the meantime, I welcome your thoughts here.
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