It’s no secret that turnover in sales teams is high — as high as 34%, which is more than twice the rate of the overall labor force. It’s also no secret that turnover in sales teams is expensive. With the average tenure of a sales rep lasting only 1.5 years, hiring managers can find themselves back to square one in no time, spending upwards of $115k to replace a sales rep.
There are many factors that lead to sales rep turnover that may feel out of your control, like reps leaving to pursue higher-paying opportunities, but there are more still that are firmly in your control. And luckily for you, those factors all involve a common thread that is easily treatable: knowledge. For example:
71% of companies take 6 months or longer to onboard new sales reps
The average sales rep spends 19% of their day searching for information
85% of employees are not engaged or actively disengaged in their job
Difficulty accessing knowledge slows ramp time, increases the time your reps spend on non-sales-related activities, leads to frustration and disengagement — just to name a few pitfalls. Each of these factors on their own may not seem like enough to cause a sales rep to leave, but if you have a knowledge problem, chances are that your reps are feeling all of the above and then some. To prioritize your sales rep experience, you have to prioritize knowledge.
At Guru we've done some research into what it means to have a company culture that is knowledge-driven, and here we’ll show you why having such a culture benefits sales teams in particular.
The role of knowledge in an organization
Let’s start by explaining what we mean by “knowledge” and “knowledge-driven culture.” We define knowledge as “information someone can act upon.” When put in such plain terms, you’d be hard pressed to come up with a team, process, or project that doesn’t rely on the sharing of knowledge. HR and operations teams share process knowledge with employees so they know how to do their jobs; product and engineering teams share product knowledge with revenue teams so they know how to speak to prospects and customers. The flow of knowledge is crucial to any organization: It’s the lifeblood of your daily operations and the connective tissue between departments in your organization.
A culture that is knowledge-driven — as exhibited in our guide, The Knowledge-Driven Culture Opportunity — is one that:
Encodes the creation and maintenance of knowledge into its values and behaviors in a way that supports continuous improvement and learning, along with supportive notions of people, processes, and measurements.
Let’s unpack that a bit: “encoding the creation and maintenance of knowledge into values and behaviors in a way that supports continuous improvement” simply means prioritizing org-wide knowledge sharing to benefit the greater good. When there is a company-wide expectation to prioritize learning and collaboration, we see a number of benefits. According to our research:
94% of companies that self-describe as having knowledge-driven cultures achieved or exceeded their 2019 growth expectations
84% of companies that self-describe as having knowledge-driven cultures are satisfied with their level of employee engagement
52% of high-performing businesses rate knowledge management objectives as “very important” to achieving business objectives
And which team has the greatest opportunity to impact metrics like growth expectations and business objectives? You guessed it: the sales team. 79% of leaders rate the contribution of knowledge management as important or very important to sales teams.
What does a knowledge-driven culture look like for your sales team?
It might be easier to start by describing what the absence of a knowledge-driven culture looks like. Without a knowledge-driven culture, there is no emphasis on creating, maintaining, or sharing knowledge. There is no focus on learning or collaboration. There is no easy means of discovering information and no single source of truth for knowledge. When a sales rep needs help answering a question, they bounce between SaaS applications, searching aimlessly before shouting into the void on Slack because there is no other documentation process to rely on.
53% of surveyed sales teams report that newly-hired reps struggled the most with finding the right information in various different systems.
In the absence of a knowledge-driven culture, a sales team’s access to knowledge may only come from traditionally supportive teams, like marketing and sales enablement. However, we know that in today’s world of highly technical solutions, rapid product development, and highly-educated buyers, sales teams need knowledge from a broader audience. In a recent Guru customer survey, we found that:
70% of sales teams rely on knowledge from four or more teams
76% of sales teams use knowledge from the Product team
71% of sales teams use knowledge from the Customer Support/Success teams
If a sales rep gets a technical product question from a prospect, do you think the answer will be in a marketing one sheet? Probably not. But it certainly will be in the product or support team’s documentation. When knowledge is prioritized and shared across an entire organization, individual teams are able to access and learn from their peers in a way that slows neither of them down. If your sales team can help themselves directly to relevant knowledge, they feel more empowered and confident, your SMEs don’t have to stop what they’re doing to answer repeat questions, and sales cycles won’t stall while prospects wait for answers to questions that your competitors were able to provide instantly.
How can you make your culture knowledge-driven?
You understand what it means to have a knowledge-driven culture, you understand how your sales team would benefit from such a culture, so how do you go about creating one? There are a few must-haves:
1. Re-examine your definition of sales knowledge
Is the “knowledge” you provide your sales team still limited to assets like one-sheets and case studies? That won’t cut it. We’ve just proven that most sales teams need knowledge from four or more teams, and process how-to’s or product FAQs don’t fit neatly into PDFs and slide decks. Expand your scope of what “knowledge” means – remember, it’s “information someone can act upon” – and make sure to give your sales team access to all of it.
2. Get your whole company involved
To implement any sort of culture shift, it has to happen at an organizational level. That means that every department in your company needs equal access to your knowledge base, in addition to understanding the value of sharing their own area of expertise. If your sales team needs information from teams outside of marketing and sales enablement (they do), then you’d better make sure that every team feels ownership over your knowledge base.
According to our knowledge-driven culture survey, 84% of respondents strongly agree that everyone who does knowledge work or who interacts with knowledge has something to contribute, and 85% strongly agree that the best people to create and maintain knowledge are the people who use it every day. All this to say that all of your employees, across every team, have knowledge worth documenting that others’ can learn from, and therefore should be empowered to create and share it.
3. Make knowledge sharing easily available within existing workflows
To propagate the creation and sharing of knowledge, you have to make it as easy as possible for your teammates to both document and access knowledge wherever they’re already working. If your knowledge base lives in a siloed application that requires reps and SMEs to navigate away from whatever they’re currently doing to add or reference knowledge, chances are that they won’t feel like doing it. It’s unfair to ask your employees to prioritize knowledge and then make it cumbersome for them to do so. To make knowledge sharing both useful and painless, you need a solution that embeds itself into your existing workflows.
4. Commit to maintaining your knowledge
Fostering a knowledge-driven culture is not a one-and-done activity. You can’t just do a brain dump of all your existing, scattered knowledge into a knowledge management solution and call it a day. Your employees need to understand that your knowledge base will always be a work in progress that is constantly being added to, audited, and updated.
An important part of this work is committing to maintaining the freshness and accuracy of your knowledge base. Your sales team has to be able to trust that the knowledge they use is up-to-date and correct, not stale and dated. If they don’t trust the knowledge base, they won’t use it, and your knowledge-driven culture will deteriorate.
A powerful knowledge management solution that works everywhere you do.
An investment in knowledge is an investment in your future customers
When knowledge is placed at the forefront of company culture, you foster a sense of collaboration, incentivize learning, and invest in your employees’ engagement and happiness. No sales rep wants to spend a chunk of their day on non-sales-related activities like searching for information, just like no SME wants to spend a chunk of their day answering repeat questions, just like no prospect wants to wait around for the answer to their questions.
Invest in your sales team’s engagement by giving them all the knowledge they need to be confident and successful in their roles, rather than frustrated and burnt out. Invest in your future customers by supporting your sales team today; according to Accenture, companies that organize around the customer experience outperform their competitors by 182%. And if you need a little help getting started, check out how a collaborative knowledge management solution like Guru empowers sales teams.