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Search: Specialized strategies yield results

This article appears in the issue April 2015 [Volume 24, Issue 4]
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Search as a standalone application for locating documents throughout the enterprise is still going strong, but many search engines are now embedded in applications that people use as their primary work environment. Search solutions are also used on more complex tasks such as locating relevant information found in either databases or diverse document repositories. New tools are emerging too for searching geospatial data, for example, which has been an underserved market in the search space, and processing it with other types of information to provide an enriched and informative blend.

Welch Allyn, a medical device manufacturer that has been in business more than 100 years, takes an integrated view of the sales process and the software that supports it. “We want all aspects of the sales process to work together,” says Paul Liberatore, senior manager of sales enablement for the Americas, Welch Allyn. “Our strategy is to combine competencies, processes and tools.” Wanting a total solution to improve its sales process on a number of levels, Liberatore selected the Sales Enablement Platform from SAVO.

SAVO focuses on driving greater sales productivity, and one way of doing this is providing the content that is needed by sales reps in context. “Like many companies, we have a variety of methods of storing content where people can access it either locally or remotely,” Liberatore explains. “There is no shortage of ways to share information. But we wanted to be sure in every case that we were providing our employees with the latest information, whether it was a brochure, ROI calculator or testimonial, and that it was the content they needed at that moment.”

The SAVO platform provides search capabilities in its repository, which contains approved information designed to support salespeople as they do their jobs. The search function is configured with a profile for each salesperson to push out the information that will be most useful to each individual. “By using profiles, we can reinforce our overall selling methodology and model,” Liberatore says. “It is as much a change tool as a source of information.” The information pushed out might include a “playlist” of documents for a client meeting, a video clip, information by product line or a summary of facts about a competitor.

“When I think about what it takes to be successful in sales today, it is evident that effective sales requires a very different skill set from the one that worked in the past,” Liberatore adds. “Purchasers no longer need basic product information—they acquire that before talking to the salesperson, both about our products and those of competitors. Instead, we coach our reps to challenge the customer’s way of thinking, to get them to a place they needed to go but could not get to on their own.”

Referred to as insight-led selling, the approach focuses on framing a set of questions that guides a buyer through the purchase process, mapping it against his or her own priorities. “For example, hospital-acquired infections are a big concern in the medical community,” Liberatore says. “Many hospitals know that reusing blood pressure cuffs is a vector for transmitting infections, but it takes more than that knowledge to get them to change to a single-patient cuff.” To support the sales reps’ conversations, SAVO provides context-relevant information.

A must-have

Although content for different phases of the sales cycle is predefined, if unexpected questions arise, sales reps need to have the right information at their fingertips, literally. “We don’t expect the sales reps to have all the information top of mind,” Liberatore says, “but when they are in front of a customer with their iPad, they should be able to find the right case study, white paper or ROI calculator.”

By setting up rules for tagging and reviewing information as it is added to the repository, Welch Allyn is able to keep the right information in front of the sales rep. “All the information they need to execute is in the backend, and we have a group that we work closely with to tag and upload it,” Liberatore says. “Our strategy is not to present the rep with a blank search box. Instead, at the frontend, we ask the rep a series of questions such as what product they are dealing with, what type of document they want, whether it’s a customer-facing presentation or a brochure. In two or three clicks, they have reduced a potential list of 60 documents to about five.”

Also searchable on the SAVO platform is previously tacit knowledge that has been captured in forums or in comments made by Welch Allyn employees. Referred to as “tribal knowledge” by SAVO, the content is generated by employees who post questions and answers on a subject matter expert moderated forum within SAVO. That content can be sought on a proactive basis by the sales reps when they have a specific question. Between the profiled information and the responses to ad hoc queries, the sales reps are able to respond with accurate and timely information.

“Search is a must-have for enterprise applications,” says Scott Stokke, senior director of product management for SAVO. “Our customers have all used Google, and they expect search to be there and to work.” The search function is enabled on mobile devices as well as the desktop. Because sales is both a global and regional activity, SAVO supports multiple languages, including ideographic languages such as Japanese and Chinese, and the search function is available for all the foreign language versions of the product.

The search capability provided by SAVO is useful not only for salespeople in the field but also in onboarding. “This software helps new employees who are learning the ropes, because they can access instructional material, reference material and conversations posted by more experienced sales reps,” adds Stokke.

Tackling complexity

Contegra Systems is a software integrator that specializes in search solutions. The company does not have its own search engine, but implements search applications using a variety of engines. “We start with our customers’ needs and collaborate so that we understand how the system needs to work to accomplish their goals,” says Rob Wiesenberg, CEO of Contegra.

One of the search engines the company often uses in its applications is dtSearch. “DtSearch is effective because it is a mature product with a very stable API,” says Wiesenberg. “We know we can do the integration without running into bugs, hidden limitations or the need to create workarounds. Last-minute surprises can kill a budget.”

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