Why Most Sales Enablement Initiatives Fail

The following is the post ‘Why Most Sales Enablement Initiatives Fail’ found at solutionsellingblog.com on September 22, 2009

“Sales Enablement / Sales Knowledge Management systems sound like a pretty good idea. Who can argue with the objective of “Getting just the right knowledge to just the right sales person at just the right time”?

The truth is that many of the new web content management, collaboration, and search technologies have made this objective more attainable. Unfortunately, most marketing and sales organizations do not agree on what “just the right knowledge actually is”.  As a result, the sales enablement movement seems destined to travel down the same path that the CRM industry did in its early years…the technology works fine but few people actually use it.

So, what actually is the right selling knowledge? When you’re selling simple commodity products, customers clearly understand what they want, and value is almost exclusively defined by price.  As such, the focus of sales enablement is on helping salespeople communicate features, benefits, and functional competitive advantage. Most marketing organizations do a good job with this because the taxonomy that supports the collection and sharing of product centric knowledge (i.e. the feature lists and competitive matrices) is simple to understand and implement.

However, complex products and services need to be sold in the context of solving specific customer problems, and this adds additional dimensions and complexities to the messaging and sales enablement knowledge model.  When you are really serious about supporting a solution centric sales model, the most important sales enablement objective should be to help salespeople clearly and concisely articulate value as well as product differentiation in the context of the customer’s specific problems.

I contend that this is best accomplished by rethinking the underlying taxonomy that you use for sales enablement so that in addition to the product centric knowledge mentioned above it also simplifies the capturing, sharing, and institutionalizing of three kinds of solution centric knowledge:

  1. Problem Knowledge, which helps Salespeople better understand and talk about the customer’s business problem.  This can only be done by documenting the underlying causes as well as the strategic and operational impact of the problems and those causes on the customer’s business.
  2. Capability & Problem Solving Knowledge, which helps sales people clearly communicate how their solutions actually solve the underlying causes of the customer’s problem, and more importantly, how those capabilities solve this underlying causes better than the competition.
  3. Value Knowledge, which helps salespeople clearly communicate Generic as well as Differentiated Value (see my blog on solution differentiation).

This solution centric knowledge represents the Value DNA of your organization and your best people intuitively understand and can communicate it. Unfortunately most sales and marketing folks struggle with solution centric communications, and few companies have ever reorganized their product information so that it supports this customer and problem centric perspective.

The challenge therefore is to come up with a taxonomy that simplifies the sharing of this solution centric knowledge in a fashion that everybody in marketing and sales can easily understand.

This is why a formal Problem-Solution Mapping process should be the strategic foundation for any solution centric marketing and sales enablement initiative. An effective P-S Map paints a clear concise picture of the critical customer problems your solutions solve, the key causes of those problems.  It also defines which of your capabilities and more importantly your defensible differentiators solve those underlying causes.

And, here’s the clincher. Once marketing validates that P-S Map with sales they will have clearly defined and agreed upon what just the right knowledge is, and they will have permanently eliminated the primary cause of the marketing and sales disconnect. The end result is that an effective P-S Map will become  the sanctioned taxonomy for capturing and sharing the three types of knowledge mentioned above so that marketing can finally start to deliver on the ultimate goal of getting just the right knowledge to just the right salesperson, at just the right time.

For more information on Problem-Solution Mapping please visit the Solution Marketing section of our web site spisales.com

One thought on “Why Most Sales Enablement Initiatives Fail”

  1. Most sales enablement projects fail because they lack the tools and process to align with how customers buy.
    So much time and energy has gone into contact management (SFA) and pipeline management. However, everyone seems to forget that the only reason the customer is in the pipeline is because they want to buy a product/service. Sales reps are not equipped to quickly recommend a good solution for the customer. As products get more complex, this has become a challenging area. This is key area and needs immediate attention for sales enablement to work.


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