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Tribal Knowledge and Campfires, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Borg

Every great salesperson is a great storyteller. What is the best way for a complex, mobile sales organization to capture and disseminate all the right knowledge to all customer-facing stakeholders?

This post is guest authored by Peter Ostrow, VP & Research Group Director of Customer Management and Sales Effectiveness at AberdeenGroup.

Do you remember how, some years ago, the new-fangled content and knowledge management platforms we invested in were going to single-handedly replace the office water cooler as the source of all corporate knowledge? How did that work out for you?

Actually, the spirit of these deployments was rock-solid.  I am not a Trekkie, but am familiar enough with the concept of The Borg to appreciate at least the more benign goal of that species, extrapolated to a Sales Effectiveness advantage: absorb the knowledge and expertise of the current team, so that future sellers can leverage the lessons already learned and paid for by today's sales ops practitioners. I don’t condone conquering entire species in the name of knowledge aggregation, but when it comes to beating out your competitors for a deal because you have better data and asset management, I’m all in.

Here’s a pop quiz: on a scale of 1 (can’t live without it) to 5 (complete abhorrence), how much do you enjoy “reply-all” sales email threads such as, “Has anyone ever dealt with situation X / sold to company Y / developed messaging or collateral or pricing for industry Z?” Your answer, surely a 5, is unfortunately all too common, and represents an enormous time suck that frustrates all parties involved and can result in sub-optimal customer deliverables.  Not to mention the soft costs of frustrating your front-line sellers, adding to the risk of sales turnover and the immense costs accrued by that friction-building set of inefficiencies.

Let’s say you have a large team of experienced sales reps in the Orange County company headquarters, a couple of new ones in the Philadelphia and Boston branch offices, contract sellers working from home offices, and channel partners abroad.   How can you ensure they are each telling the most compelling story when selling, are cognizant of full customer histories when servicing, and updated in real-time the moment Marketing releases a new set of sales enablement customer testimonials?

First things first: Best-in-Class companies lead under-performers with deployments of the key building blocks of 21st century-quality customer management: cloud-based, mobile-friendly CRM, marketing automation and service platforms, none of which stand alone, but are continuously updated, integrated, and data-cleansed to ensure they follow the lessons of Grab the Low-Hanging Fruit: How Best-in-Class Companies Leverage a 360-Degree Customer View. These elemental platforms are table stakes for collecting, storing, updating, and distributing the kind of tribal knowledge your sales team needs.  The one common technology area where Aberdeen research shows heavy Best-in-Class utilization (69%), but even higher investment rates among Industry Average and Laggard firms (83%), is in email marketing.  Think of it as a necessary evil, but not the single basket for your eggs, until content marketing fully matures as the go-to source for inbound leads.

When deploying these core customer management basics, make sure everyone is kept in the knowledge loop by following the leaders’ best practices:

Here’s a way to trial-run how effectively you’re replicating Best-in-Class core competencies, to which everyone can relate.  While admittedly a First World Problem, think about when you call your cable or wireless provider or bank, and have to provide your identifying data repeatedly because…wait for it…they don’t have a single view of the customer in place.  Not a life-altering inconvenience, but we’ve come to expect better.  Now, transmogrify yourself as a consumer, into your sales team, as your customers. Can you risk their not having a seamless experience, or their choosing to consider making quota for your competitor?

Interested in learning more? Watch our On-Demand Webcast Aberdeen Group research reveals how best-in-class organizations enable Sales here.

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