• Sales asset management (SAM) solutions are gaining in popularity
  • With this growth has come a more difficult decision for companies evaluating these technologies
  • This blog post talks about key considerations for this market

It’s a classic struggle at B2B organizations: Sales reps need high-quality content to fuel their conversations with buyers and close deals. Marketing thinks there’s plenty of content available. But the reps can’t seem to find what they’re looking for when they need it – or they simply can’t use what they are able to find – so they give up and go rogue, assembling or creating their own content.

Enter the sales asset management (SAM) solution. Of course, applying technology can’t singlehandedly solve the problem – evaluating content and fixing ineffective processes are also critical. SAM solutions have recently enjoyed a surge in popularity, with several new entrants and compelling new features for better creation, organization, delivery and optimization of sales content. This content can be both internal and external – helping empower sales with the knowledge they need in each selling interaction and providing assets that can activate buyers to move forward in the selling cycle.

How can organizations make sense of this growing market? The SiriusDecisions Sales Asset Management SiriusView provides an evaluation of the capabilities of 12 SAM vendors, comparing available features and outlining the strengths and challenges of each provider.

I recently spoke with Heather Cole, director of SiriusDecisions’ Sales Enablement Strategies service and one of the report’s authors, on some of the SiriusView’s key takeaways and other observations on this expanding technology space:

Jessica Lillian: What is behind the increased demand for SAM solutions among B2B organizations today?

Heather Cole: One main factor is the proliferation of digital content. This trend has been going on for some time. Traditional content repositories are not specialized to meet sales reps’ needs and workflow, so reps are forced to go hunt down the content they need – often in multiple Web properties or applications. The findability and usability of content are fundamental business challenges driving the demand for SAM solutions. We know from our research that, on average, 65 percent of the sales content created by marketing is never used by sales. That number represents a lot of wasted time for sales reps and the marketing teams that created the content. SAM platforms allow the content to find the rep and also improve measurement of the true usage and impact of the content on selling deals. This insight informs better, more targeted content creation by marketing.

Jessica: Are there any compelling new features starting to appear in SAM solutions?

Heather: We’re seeing an ability to drive content not only within the sales force automation platform, but also in other spaces where reps work. The content follows the rep and is automatically pushed into applications where reps spend a lot of their time, such as email and PowerPoint. The platform then records activities automatically back to sales force automation systems without requiring the rep to manually enter them.

In addition, vendors are continuing to expand beyond buyer-facing sales content – the external buyer activation content. They’re also providing content that shows reps how to have better conversations with their buyers. This internal-facing seller empowerment content provides checklists and assistance on how to progress. We are seeing advanced capabilities supporting knowledge and skills, such as integrating video coaching capabilities that allow a rep to get asynchronous feedback from a manager by practicing actual planned customer conversations or role-play exercises via video that they shoot and upload.

Jessica: How about analytics – how are those capabilities evolving within SAM solutions?

Heather: It’s no longer enough to just know that reps are using a specific content asset – you need to know the impact of that usage and determine which reps are using which content at which point in the sales cycle.

For example, if a high-performing rep is using a certain piece of content repeatedly in winning deals, other reps should know about it and potentially replicate that usage. Some SAM systems leverage predictive analytics on successful content usage to drive what other reps see when they are looking for content in a similar situation. These insights can also assist content creators as they prioritize content creation efforts with the knowledge of what works best and what assets reps will use.

Jessica: Because of the large number of SAM vendors in the market, the vendor selection process can be overwhelming. How should an organization narrow the field?

Heather: The market is still in the process of defining itself. We are seeing a large number of vendors entering this space, and on the surface, many are matching each other capability for capability. This makes differentiation harder. The SiriusView provides a good comparison of the core capabilities, but each of the vendors has approached the challenges they are solving from a slightly different – or dramatically different – perspective. While understanding the possibilities and the end vision is important in this rapidly evolving space, prioritizing your must-have capabilities and learning to walk before you run is crucial.

Most importantly, no matter which SAM solution you select, the “garbage in, garbage out” motto applies. Taking the time to audit the content prior to adding any level of automation will give much better results and potentially increased ROI. Be wary of “plug and play” claims, which make the assumption your content is already in fine working order.

Jessica: What do you predict for the future of the SAM technology space?

Heather: The demand will continue to grow as more and more buyer organizations realize that effective sales asset management is a requirement for driving high levels of sales productivity. We expect that SAM vendors will continue to enter the space in the short term, which will drive rapid innovation in the race to differentiate. However, the market can’t absorb this increase in vendors forever, so we will see some consolidation as larger players within the space (or in complementary technology) make the decision to buy vs. build or neutralize competition through acquisition.