Long before Robert Wahbe left Microsoft as its chief marketing executive of the company's server and tools division to form a startup called Highspot, the television drama Criminal Minds was focused on sales enablement.
In fact, the TV show envisioned the technology that would solve what Wahbe later described as the sales enablement industry's sorest pain points: the fact that an astounding 65 percent of all marketing and sales content is not used by the sales team, according to a variety of industry statistics.
Of course, this is television and the resident IT genius of the show, Penelope Garcia, makes even the most complex task seem suspiciously easy.
But bear with me because I want to highlight an episode that not only describes how Highspot and its eponymously named product is approaching sales enablement but also suggests that the aforementioned statistic may have been grossly undershooting its target.
To Catch a Killer
The background story is a scammer posing as a wealth manager, wooing moneyed women. He has a psychological break and begins killing his marks.
Per the Criminal Minds formula, the team gets a lead on one of the identities the man is using and then, via Garcia's wizardry, is able to find all of his other identities. Basically she searched the entire Internet and using one of her algorithms, was able to identify sites that had content similar in appearance or words or images to that initial web page.
Garcia, Wahbe tells me, is really good at her job. Unfortunately, real life doesn’t work like that. But then, sometimes it does.
This Is Sales Enablement In Real Life
In his earlier — and real — life, Wahbe spent 13 years at Microsoft, the last three in the CMO position.
"What struck me the most as CMO was that the sales team had a wealth of content and materials it could tap for sales. There were at least a couple of hundred of pieces of content on the sales portal aimed directly at the sale and thousands for marketing in general."
"The thing was," he continued, "I had no visibility into any of that content, if it was being used, and how it was performing."
The Beginnings of an Idea
That gave Wahbe his foundational idea for Highspot and no; he didn't get it from the aforementioned Criminal Minds episode.
He thought, "if only management could actually track the content through all its permutations."
See, it is a rare sales presentation that will use content without some kind of modification or alteration. However — and this is key — once the content is modified, it becomes difficult to track.
Slides, for example, can and often are modified almost beyond recognition by sales as they prepare for a pitch, Wahbe said. At the bare minimum the sales rep will add his or her name to the slides for easy reference.
"Before I would ask the analytics team if a particular deck had been effective, and they would have no idea — because no matter how many times a deck had been modified it still would look like an independent or new deck."
Then, assuming that piece is solved, the sales enablement system would be able to use its analytics to truly determine what is working, what is not and tweak the content accordingly.
Highspot is in the process of rolling out a new feature that can do just this.
Called Content Genomics, it is able to identify content that has been duplicated by the sales team and trace it back to the original based on any number of indicators, even very small ones. Anything can serve as indicator, from language, graphics, images to words — just like Garcia used to find the murderous wealth manager (and yes I am going to drop that analogy now).
"It assesses the 'genetic code' of the original content and then searches for similarities using machine learning to understand how a piece of content is similar to another piece," Wahbe said.
It is akin to facial recognition making a match between two photos based on the distance of the eyes and the height and width of the cheekbones of a particular face, he said.
Content genomics, he said, is like facial recognition for marketing content.
The Analytics Piece
Content Genomics is expected to enhance the rest of the Highspot application as it unearths more insights about the sales process, Wahbe continued.
For example, he told of one early adopter company that realized that one slide in particular was being altered a lot. It was a slide discussing the profits at the company in question and the reps were changing the slide to reflect a lower estimated profit because they felt it was more credible. The company revised downward its profit expectations on that slide and use of the slide increased even more.
"Based on our analysis of customer data, we've found that 80 percent of marketing and sales presentations are modified and remixed before they are delivered to the customer," Wahbe said. Which is fine — just so long as that remixed content can still stay on management's radar.