Managing Sales Knowledge

By Heather Baldwin

Your organization has just spent millions of dollars on the latest sales force automation system or CRM technology. But if you’re like most sales organizations, that doesn’t mean your reps have access to the right insights with the right prospect at the right time. Those skills require great Sales Knowledge Management, or SKM, and a new CSO Insights study has found that firms which excel in this area achieve a 25.1% increase in the number of their sales reps meeting or exceeding quota.

The study, a follow-on to CSO Insights’ 2004 Sales Effectiveness Report, aimed to uncover emerging trends and best practices in Sales Knowledge Management. “Through close examination of the data, it became abundantly clear that to optimize sales performance, sales organizations need to ensure their sales representatives have access to the full spectrum of sales information, such as product update information and company profiles,” says Jim Dickie, a CSO Insights partner. “This requires not just improving the way they retrieve data sheets, price lists, product specs, brochures, etc., but also how sales representatives can tap into a corporate knowledge base and leverage the information in a way that supports their unique prospecting needs.”

Take HP, for instance. Barry Trailer, CSO Insights partner, says the technology company has begun standardizing the information it puts onto its sales portal, keeping SKM in mind throughout the process. One example: Product features can no longer be entered unless they are accompanied by the corresponding benefits to various user groups. The portal also includes ROI tools so sales reps can calculate a prospect’s return on investment with a few clicks of the mouse. It’s all about putting the right information at the sales rep’s fingertips so he’s got it when he needs it.

As CSO’s study revealed, more companies need to be doing the same thing. More than half of the study participants (52%) indicated that in order to be successful, they need processes in place to make it easier for representatives to access information in their systems. In addition, 77% of participants cited that changes in each customer’s marketplace were increasing significantly, but only 37% said they have the appropriate tools in place to keep pace with those changes. And 79% of participants felt that knowledge of customer objectives was extremely important, but 65% felt the data they had was inaccurate or outdated. “SKM is about getting information out of people’s heads and into the right hands at the right time,” says Trailer.

For more information on SKM and the 31-page report, visit