So it is true. We, as consumers, may know more about the competitive landscape for a product we want than the companies that sell that product. And all because we spend a lot of our time on the Internet using a little known thing called social networking.Alas, it appears that product vendors may have caught on to our evaluation methods because they, too, are now starting to use social media technologies to improve knowledge management and, as a result, their sales figures.The Aberdeen Group provides research on various business and technology topics that interest organizations today. One of their latest research reports, called Sales 2.0 -- Social Media for Knowledge Management and Sales Collaboration, discusses how social media solutions help improve knowledge management within an company and thus improves sales. The research included surveys with over 210 companies during the August and September time period. The focus was on how these companies used social media solutions to shorten sales cycles and increase productivity among sales teams.Some key findings of best-in-class companies in the report include:* 66% have a centralized repository for account, contact and opportunity information* 73% plan to increase budgets in 2009 for the use of social media solutions* 59% consider the use of social media within the sales department as a priority* 55% have the support of senior management for the use of internal social media solutionsBest in class companies are defined in the report as those companies with year-over-year increases/decreases in things like sales-cycle length, conversion rates, time spent on administrative tasks, etc...When you think of it, this is really not ground-breaking news. The explosive growth of consumers using the Internet and social networking sites to gather information on products and their companies has been happening for awhile now. However, until recently it appears that companies have reserved the use of social media solutions to marketing departments and internal "project-type" collaboration. Sales departments should have been taking advantage of these technologies long ago. As a matter of fact, Sales and Marketing should be sharing these internal solutions and collaborating much more. Marketers tend to spend a lot of their time on external social network sites listening to what's being said about their products and services and the competition's. And if they aren't, they should be. According to the research, only 43% of the best in class companies use both internal and external solutions. In terms of specific technology used by these best in class companies, the list is standard: 79% CRM, 71% blogs, 64% wikis and 46% social tagging tools. The companies not best in class really weren't that much different. It seems important to note that only 20% of the companies surveyed were considered best in class, with 50% being average and the rest laggards. What this tells us is that companies still have a long way to go when it comes to using social media to improve knowledge management and sales in the sales department.The report also provides a number of steps for each category of respondents noted above to take advantage of social media. The 32 page report is free to download. Have a read and see where your company fits in the mix.