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How a Shared Knowledge Base Can Help You Survive the Vendor Shuffle

2014-01-May-Onboarding.jpgProbably the only thing that will change more than the version of the software or hardware you’re using at work is the sales representative who sold it to you, and sometimes the service team that supports you. Corporate layoffs, mergers and acquisitions, reorganizations and retirements create new challenges for businesses that require relationships and ongoing communications with their vendors and account managers.

Each new account team member needs to be educated on your business, products, processes, contracts and the people responsible for them. Such a transition at the end of a critical quarter or technology rollout can sabotage success and set you back for months.

One way to ease the onboarding of your next account manager is to organize a shared knowledge base in a way that can help them hit the ground running.

A shared knowledge base can answer an easy question in place of an inconvenient phone call or email. It can prevent common mistakes that take time to correct. And it can nurture an environment where the account manager feels at ease to propose new ideas for greater efficiencies and results.

Here are five ways to design a shared knowledge base that facilitates an ongoing relationship with your vendor by quickly onboarding new managers as if they were your own employees.

Determine what information to place and prioritize in your knowledge base

Possibly the most annoying and time consuming aspect of adjusting to a new account team member is answering questions on topics you’ve spent months training their predecessor.

Start off by identifying information that is critical to both sides, such as current contracts, buying cycles and ongoing projects. This will give the new account manager a baseline on which to build out the relationship and establish what’s important to both sides.

Also include the context of these topics. CRM and ERP programs that provide dates and snapshots of recent transactions and interactions sometimes fail to provide a complete picture of what’s really going on. By understanding the history of your engagement with the vendor, the new account manager won’t waste your time or theirs asking unnecessary questions or trying to sell you things that you don’t need.

Provide easy access to general information, but secure access to critical stuff

You’ll want to provide easy and obvious access to relevant and general data for your new account manager. However, you can separate the more sensitive data like pricing, product roadmaps and legal documents by creating a private sub community with stricter access, alerts and reporting. This can be developed in layers – the more sensitive the data, the more narrow the permissions.

Train your new account team member with 'how to' videos and tough love

When introducing a knowledge base to a new team member, you’ll want to help them ramp up quickly with training and easy search tools. A knowledge base can be developed to include videos on how to search for information and provide updates like emails or new documents. If done properly, you can onboard the new member in 30 minutes or less.

But this process won’t be successful if you don’t direct new employees back to the knowledge base when they call or email with questions. While it would seem easy to simply answer the question, you’ll benefit more by increasing their comfort in finding information on their own. In the process, by tracking what they access, you can determine their diligence and level of awareness about your business.

Rate your account team member’s performance by their interaction

Tracking the new employee’s use of the knowledge base shows how hard he or she is working to understand your business. You can also see what information they’ve accessed and how long they were there. This includes alerts that let you know when they’re accessing information. If you give them instructions or request services on a project, you can go in at the end of the month or quarter to gauge their progress. You might also notice that new team members will be more engaged with your business and more comfortable offering up new ideas and suggestions.

Keep the information fresh and ready for the next new team member

Require updates by your staff throughout the life cycle of the knowledge base. If done properly, you can provide a complete historical view of your engagement with the vendor. So when an employee gets a promotion or leaves the organization, you simply start the process all over again.

A change in vendor account leads is something that no one has time for. By giving them a complete account of your business needs and operations through a comprehensive and well managed knowledge base, you can ease the transition no matter how often it occurs.

Title image by Quinn Dombrowski (Flickr) via a CC BY-SA 2.0 license

About the Author

Trey has deep experience in enterprise sales management on both a national and global level for perpetual license, subscription and SaaS model software. With more than 15 years of experience in software sales and sales management, he is currently president of Bloomfire, an enterprise knowledge and collaboration software platform.

 
 
 
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