Joe Galvin’s recent post about the ineffectiveness of in-company knowledge sources for sales professionals got me thinking. Joe’s basic premise – based on research – is that sales professionals are more likely to ask their peers or other personally trusted sources within an organization, when they need information on how to, for example, best respond to an RFP, deal with a competitive situation, or just design the best way to present a product. (Joe, please forgive – and correct me – if I’ve misrepresented this.)
In the off-line world – information and knowledge is passed around at the water-cooler. Scuttlebutt – the term originally coined from scuttle (to sink a ship), and butt (a cask of water around which sailors congregated to drink and pass rumor) – is the currency is which we all trade.
In the on-line world, it’s different – and in certain segments very effective. For general information, people will in many cases turn to Google rather than their friends. To keep in touch with their friends they check into Facebook. And ‘tweets’ are the currency they will spend with Twitter to update their contacts on what they are doing – in 140 characters or less.
So, why is it that Google and Facebook work online – but sales professionals revert to scuttlebutt to uncover information that, in all likelihood has been stored on an in-company portal for their benefit? I’d suggest a few possible reasons.
Sales professionals are by their nature very sceptical – it’s an inherent requirement of the job. Unless the ‘knowledge’ is recommended by a trusted source (and sorry – in most cases Marketing doesn’t scale that threshold); if it’s not something that’s worked before – then the ‘knowledge store’ is unlikely to get the respect it deserves. I’m not saying this is right or fair – but in many cases it is true.
Secondly, many systems provided to the sales team, are just not designed for the sales team. Exhibit A: CRM. Frequently it’s too hard to get what’s needed without inordinate effort.
And finally – in many cases the content is just not good enough. ‘Standard’ Sales proposals deal with the usual case – but don’t deal with the specific of the deal I’m working on. In other areas the 80 slides in Powerpoint designed to deal with ‘every situation you will come across’ – is just too hard to use.
Solving this problem is important. It’s something The TAS Group has invested a lot in trying to address with out TAS:Pedia product. We don’t think we’re all the way there yet – but, based on our customer’s feedback, we think we’re making decent progress.
The complete solution requires collaborative features – a la Facebook, ease of use – think Google, ability for the community to participate, contribute and rate – think YouTube), and needs to be intelligent enough to provide the right information at the right time based on the context of the sales cycle – think … well that’s the problem we’re trying to solve – more news soon.