A look at the user interface of the BizSphere Sales Enablement Solution Suite

BizSphere AGAfter a lot of focus on their global clients and a number of new releases of the BizSphere Sales Enablement solution suite, BizSphere allowed a look at their UX design (user experience) / user interface.

You can find them on CrunchbaseHere is a list of all other vendors I know of.

In case you speak German, you can read/watch interviews with the BizSphere staff at agitano.com

BizSphere SalesWeb

sales web SalesWeb

BizSphere AG sales web SalesWeb

BizSphere ContentLandscape

contentlandscape content landscape

Content Landscape: Interaction prototype from Moritz Stefaner

inability to get sales and marketing teams aligned around the right processes and technologies costs upwards of 10 percent of revenue per year

On July 21, 2011, IDC hosted a webinar entitled “Setting Your Sales Enablement Strategy”. In the invite for the webinar IDC revealed a very interesting number that really helps to put the financial impact a proper Sales Enablement strategy can make into perspective:

“Is Sales Enablement a new concept? Certainly not. Marketing and some sales organizations have been attempting for decades to equip their direct and indirect sales channels with the right information, at the right time, in the right format, to assist in moving specific opportunities forward. However, companies’ inability to get their sales and marketing teams aligned around the right processes and technologies (or at least consistent ones) has cost them upwards of 10% or more of revenue per year; or $100 M for a $1B company. […]”

The following chart (source IDG Connect) was also shared during the webinar:


The sales cycle can be viewed as a series of interactions or conversations with the customer

In the group “Sales Enablement Gurus” on LinkedIn.com Tamara Schenk (@tamaraschenk) (Portfolio & Offering Management – Innovation Center; T-Systems International GmbH) left the following comment on a discussion called “Sales enablement platforms – needs and benefits”, which is the name of a blog post that can be found at the BizSphere blog, my blog and the original source – the Solution for Sales blog:

“The sales cycle can be viewed as a series of interactions or conversations with the customer.” Right! If we remember a holistic sales enablement approach we should be able to equip all our client facing people with the right set of resources that they are able to have valuable conversations with the customers at each stage of their problem solving process (also see Forrester Research’s sales enablement definition).

What does it mean for content producing people in Marketing and Portfolio & Offering management and as well for the sales enablement platforms as a content and knowledge management foundation?
Content needs to become well structured, re-usable and easy to be customized, definitions of internal and external resources or content types are a prerequisite, too. Not only one or two slide decks for sales are necessary. First you should have content according to the sales cycle respectively to the customers problem solving process. Second resources for different audiences are required, e.g. for C-level, for workshops, for second and third meetings.
Third, to deliver all these resources, a certain degree of structure, re-useability and customizing of sales content is required.
For sales enablement platforms it means a lot of flexibility regarding taxonomies, relationships, collaboration features and e.g. features regarding content structures, re-useability, generating content automatically.

And last but not least a lot of sales resources are focused on the vendors company and portfolio structure, but where’s the customer? Sales resources without specific business value for the customer are not really helpful, the customer will alway ask “so what, what’s in for me?” Being aware of delivering business outcomes instead of products or solutions will be key for success.

In the long run vendors who are able to address business outcomes instead of product features, who are able to create a shared vision with an interesting business case will win the deals.”

Legacy sales portals provide no feedback to ensure marketing produces valuable material. Sales is too busy to address the issue

feedback from sales

On February 7, 2010 navigateknowledge.blogspot.com posted ‘Sales Enablement – An Inverse Definition’:

“Instead of defining sales enablement, I prefer to focus on the inadequacies of the existing legacy sales portals (many large companies have more than six). Sales Portals widen the gulf between sales and marketing.

An investment in sales enablement pays dividends in several ways but perhaps the strongest benefit is the alignment of a customers marketing investment with their sales resources. The legacy sales portals that are still being used by most businesses actually reinforce the practices that keep marketing and sales teams misaligned. Marketing teams are rewarded based partially on their ability to create sales collateral, brochures, presentations, campaigns, and such; whereas sales teams are rewarded based on their ability to retire quota. Legacy sales portals provide no feedback mechanisms to ensure the marketing team is actually producing valuable material to aid the sales effort, and the sales teams are too busy working to meet/exceed their numbers that they can’t take time out to address the issue.

The longer this problem goes unchecked, the more systemic it becomes. The only time anyone in sales talks about it is when they don’t make their numbers or hit their accelerators, at which point the “complaints” are largely ignored. The problem is compounded year after year as more marketing materials get posted onto the portal with little or no governance in place to remove “dated” items, making finding useful material even more difficult. The useful material that is found typically has to be reworked, taking valuable “selling” hours away from sales.

It is estimated that from 70% to as high as 90% of the material produced by marketing goes unused by sales. (IDC). […]”

I could not have described these pain points better. I’m sure that pretty much everyone in the B2B environment can relate to the them. No matter which Sales Enablement vendor you decide to work with, what needs to be done is the following:

  • Implement ‘Content Governance’ (automate a life cycle for content, define responsibilities for roles, send them automated reminders to rework what the life cycle has pulled off the portal, …)

life cycle for content

  • Add ‘Social Features’ everyone is familiar with from the web 2.0 like rating, commenting and uploading of their own content or links (gets everyone engaged and gathers feedback on the content as well as new insights from the field)


  • Analyze (‘Content Intelligence’) the usage of your improved sales portal and how the two steps above yield fruit
  • Take action with ‘Content Planning’ based on your findings

Content Intelligence
The example above shows that there are 19 customer reference documents for EMEA but not a single one about a customer in Luxembourg. If you wanted to target a prospect in Luxembourg that might be a problem. A dash board overview for your Content Intelligence like the showcased Content Landscape from BizSphere helps you to identify gaps in your content inventory.

Content Intelligence? Yet another buzzword? Turns out it is almost as important as Business Intelligence

On January 27, 2010 Marc Seefelder of BizSphere brought up an interesting question in his post ‘3 Reasons why Enterprises need Content Intelligence’:

“[…] huge companies spend so much money on Business Intelligence (think of the Data Warehouses, OLAP tools and executive dashboards etc.), but don´t spend a dime on gaining intelligence on one of the biggest assets in the company – their knowledge inventory.

Fortune 500 companies invest millions of dollars every year to produce up-to-date material for marketing, sales and employee training. Shockingly, less than half of the produced material is used at all […]”

Way too much stuff and far too little information about that stuff – Context matters

On November 29, 2009, Seth Godin wrote about what we in Sales Enablement for b2b enterprises are focused on:
Context matters!

Getting meta

Wikipedia contains facts about facts. It’s a collection of facts from other places.

Facebook doesn’t have your friends. It has facts about your friends.

Google is at its best when it gives you links to links, not the information itself.

Over and over, the Internet is allowing new levels of abstraction. Information about information might be worth more than the information itself. Which posts should I read? Which elements of the project are at risk? Who is making the biggest difference to the organization?

Right now, there’s way too much stuff and far too little information about that stuff. Sounds like an opportunity.

I couldn’t agree more with Seth that this is an opportunity. Successfully using this opportunity will have to do with web 3.0 (semantic) approaches being applied to the stuff from web 1.0 and web 2.0 as well as understanding what information architecture is and how it can be set up for complex organizations.

For the approach to Sales Enablement I have been working with at a company with 4,000+ sales people you could say:
SharePoint (or similar) has your marketing assets for sales reps.

Sales Enablement – as the layer on top – has the facts about your marketing assets:

  • Which assets/links/comments should a sales rep read for a specific sales situation?
  • Who is the contributor of marketing assets or comments that really drive sales?

Collateral Damage: Building a Content Plan

14-Oct-2009, my favorite marketing blogger April Dunford (@aprildunford) from aprildunford.com/blog wrote the post ‘Collateral Damage: Building a Content Plan’:

“I remember when building collateral used to be a large part of a product marketer’s job.  A lousy part.  I remember the last brochure I worked on like it was yesterday.  Getting it done was a nightmare of epic arguments over screen shots, customer quotes and whether or not to include the mailing address for the European office we expected to close within a month.  The project went on for weeks and once it was done we didn’t look at again for a year, mainly because we didn’t have the budget to update it but also because we were traumatized.

Old-style collateral was all centered around the product rather than the customer.  It was designed to be as generic as possible, making it only mildly relevant to the majority of customers and regardless of what was happening in the market, the brochure only got updated when there was a new version of the product.  How backward is that?

Thankfully we’ve moved into a new era where the barriers to creating and distributing content to customers and prospects are coming down and we marketers can focus on the business of creating and delivering content that is relevant, useful and engaging to the customers and prospects that consume it.

I think every product needs a content plan.  The content plan should include delivery of the following:

  1. Web content – I still see a lot of generic web content out there.  Different segments and different buyers are looking for different types of information.  Informational needs also change as customers progress across the buying cycle.  Product marketers need to step into the shoes of each of their customers and create content that is relevant for them.  Your content plan needs to include regular updates to this information.
  2. Blog posts – There is so much great information in your company that doesn’t belong on the web site and isn’t appropriate for a press release. As the product marketer you need to be setting aside some time to plan what themes you want to cover in the blog, and creating content.  I often hear younger marketers complain that they don’t have time to write blog posts.  That’s when I get all old lady on them, “When I was your age we spent 10 weeks a year making something called a BROCHURE!!”  A structured plan for what you want to write about will make it easier to get the job done.
  3. Video – I’m a huge fan of video and I don’t think startups take advantage of it enough.  HD cameras are cheap.  With an external microphone, a bit of decent lighting some practice, you can make a marketing video that looks professional without breaking the bank.  See below for some resources to learn more about how to make a good looking video but my experience is to just get out there a shoot and edit a lot and it gets easy pretty fast.
  4. Presentations – You probably already spend a ton of time building presentations. There are lots of ways to make those available as slides alone or with a narration as a slidecast.
  5. Links – As a good marketer, you are already spending a certain amount of time watching what’s happening in the market.  You’ll find posts and articles that support your view of the market or talk about your products that you can share.  I used to use delicious for this but now I think Twitter is the ultimate tool for link sharing with your community.
  6. Screencasting – A screencast lets you capture what’s happening on your screen and add a voice over to it.  Chances are you’ve got a killer demo that you use in sales calls and at shows.  Screencasting lets you get your demos out to a wider audience. The tools are cheap and easy to use so there’s no excuse not to experiment with these.
  7. Custom collateral – At one company I worked with they had 2 major segments – retail and insurance – with separate collateral for each.  Brochures were assembled with customer quotes, highlighted features and screen shots swapped in and out depending on the audience.  Small print runs for this material are pricier on a per-piece basis but they didn’t print often and the sales force and customers loved it.  Your company probably doesn’t do many trade shows (if you are, seriously, we should talk), so gone are the days of giving out 100’s of brochures to clog up convention hall garbage bins.  Don’t waste money printing where you don’t need to.
  8. eBooks and White papers – White papers are still a good medium for a more detailed technical topic.  More and more I see these published as eBooks which makes them a bit easier to read on an eBook reader.  The format works well for content that’s too long for a blog post and too detailed for a web page or powerpoint.

I’m probably missing a couple of other things. The point is that there’s never been a better time for marketers to get compelling content out to the market in engaging ways.

Some further reading:

Whitepapers/eBooks: Search Engine People has a great post on how to Write White Papers Like an Expert with These 10 Simple Steps. If you want to publish on the Kindle, everything you need is on Amazon’s page. You can also host your eBook on Scribd (often described as YouTube for eBooks).

Video: Hubspot guest poster Catie Foertsch has 6 tips for making a business marketing video. VideoMaker has a treasure trove of information for shooting better video for YouTube including tips on what to look for when buying cameras, microphones and tripods.

Presentations: I use Slideshare for presentations and screencasts but there are loads of tools out there.

Screencasting: WebResources Depo’s 10 free screencasting tools, Mashable’s list of screencasting tools. I’d Rather Be Writing gives a couple of examples of Perfect Screencasts and discusses what makes them great.”

Subscribe to April’s blog or follow her on Twitter

The cost of running a sales enablement solution: Is there a need for editorial staff to help create and edit content?

In ‘Is Sales Enablement just Lipstick on a Knowledge Management Pig?’ Gerhard Gschwandtner (@gerhard20) asked:

“What’s the real cost of running a Sales Enablement solution? Is there a need for editorial staff to help create and edit content, to set up template standards and apply them?”

The following job posting gives a bit of a hint what kind of tasks around a Sales Enablement Web Portal need to be performed manually:

Job Title: Sales Enablement Intern

Company: Initiate Systems

Job Location(s): Chicago, IL, US

Sales Enablement: Sales Enablement Web Portal– Maintain the sales portal by:
o Naming, dating, tagging and approving submitted assets on a daily basis
o Building or creating custom pages when needed
o Special projects

Sales Enablement: Sales Methodology (RADAR) Opportunity Sessions
o Scheduling monthly RADAR sessions for AEs
o Researching submitted RADAR opportunities to find additional materials

  • Hoovers
  • LinkedIn
  • Google
  • Spoke

Sales Enablement: Weekly Reports
o Sales Portal weekly reports

o RADAR monthly reports

As time permits:
Lead Generation: Lead Processing
o Research incoming leads verify in Salesforce.com and add if necessary

Lead Generation: Telesales Tagging
o Add campaigns in Salesforce.com
o Add tasks for AEs in Healthcare and Enterprise

Lead Generation: Assist with Tradeshows
o Assemble collateral

Lead Generation: Mailings
o Tag campaigns
o Mail merge letters

Having been working with the cutting edge Sales Enablement solution BizSphere at the large b2b company Nortel since 2007, I can comment on the extend to which the tasks above can be automated:

o The submission process (for assets or pieces of information like contact details) can be shortened.

  • Empower both – providers of official content (Product Marketing, MarComm, CI/MI, Training Department, Event Planning Team, etc.) and users who want to contribute (Sales, Customer Service, rest of work force, Channel Partners, etc.) – with an easy way to submit from within the context of the specific combination of geography, product/service/solution and type of information they are looking at. That takes care of the tagging. If they want to tag things further they should be allowed to.
  • Implement a Content Governance model that automates notifications regarding content that needs to be approved, that reached the end of its Life Cycle, or that is meant for a limited audience only.

document generation

  • For most companies cutting down the number of ways to submit content and even unifying the process so that one form allows to upload a single instance (Single Sourcing) and to publish it to multiple locations (facing the public, channel partners or only sales people) would be the wildest dream.
    BizSphere goes further than Single Sourcing of assets. It does Single Sourcing for the fragments (nuggets) your assets consist of. When you only have one instance of a photo, a logo, the number of employees you have or lets say a value proposition, then it will be updated in all your assets the moment you update this instance. Your assets are being auto-generated! The moment you click the ‘Generate’ button, hundreds of nuggets come together to form an asset that is customized for the context you chose. You want to pitch an offering to a customer in Spain? Then the auto-generation means that only the customer references from Spain are being pulled and put together in a polished way according to the chosen template. (See Do we really want people who earn $150 an hour creating PowerPoint presentations from scratch? and Do you want your sales people to spend their time customizing slide decks?)

o The task of building pages can be reduced to typing the name of a new offering (product/service/solution) and clicking ‘Publish’.

  • When you have established a context, your assets or their nuggets live in, then your sales portal’s pages can be dynamic and just list everything that is applicable for the given combination of geography, offering and type of information. A manually built page would be a silo that would be pretty much outdated the moment the intern from the job posting above has finished it. In BizSphere adding the name of a new offering automatically extends the number of possible combinations of geography, offering and type of information. For each of these combinations BizSphere lists what has a good standing with regards to its life cycle, therefore everything you see is fresh.

o Reports should be in real-time and not weekly.

  • Having a dash board overview of both your inventory of assets and their usage lets you track whether a certain region or offering has no assets available or whether they are not being looked at. You will see which type of assets your sales people love (Ratings might not tell you a lot but usage data will). This ability is crucial in becoming better and better in focusing your marketing efforts on what will actually help sales to close deals. “IDC research shows that over 40% of all marketing assets handed over to sales are not in use today.” (IDC’s Best Practices in Sales Enablement – Content and Marketing, July 2009) Why pay someone to create reports every week when you and everybody else, who is interested, could have the kind of dash board BizSphere calls ‘Content Landscape’ as well as even more detailed usage metrics of the Sales Enablement solution; all of it in real-time and sliced and diced as you wish. For presentations to executives just create a deep link to how you sliced and diced the data and they will get to see the current – as opposed to last week’s – data.

BizSphere was the Sales Enablement solution Jeanne Hellman looks at in her case study of “implementing Sales Enablement in a complex, global company”.

Content Landscape

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