Thursday, 7 June 2012


Selling KM - making the emotional case


nowselling A couple of days ago I posted about making the business case for Knowledge Management, and I concentrated on the "logical case" - the case that balances investment against reward.

However, when making your case to management, you have to realise that nobody buys anything on Logic.

People buy on emotion, then convince themselves by logic that is was a Good Decision.

Knowledge Management is no different. You need to present your senior managers with an emotional case for Knowledge Management that they will buy, then a logical business case that shows it was a great decision. And as I said earlier, you don't have to sell KM all at once - sell it in small steps.

So how do you make the emotional case? Try some of these approaches


  1. All our competitors are doing KM already. The sale is based on Fear of being left out. "We had better catch up with the others".
  2. None of our competitors are doing KM yet - we can beat them to the draw. The sale is based on the lure of Exclusivity ("Be the first on your block to have Knowledge Management), but it is a risky sale, as senior management may wonder WHY none of the competitors are doing it. 
  3. All the Big Companies are doing KM. This sale is based on Envy and Aspiration - the reasons why people buy BMWs. You tell them great stories about the MAKE award winners, and how much value they get from KM. You tell them about TI's "free fabrication plant", or Shell's $200m pa from CoPs. Use some of our success stories as bait for the logical case, but the sell is "If so many Big Companies do it, it must be good. Let's copy the Big Boys".
  4. Clients are beginning to demand KM as "part of good business". This is another Fear-based sale - "If we don't have KM, we won't be able to compete". This works well if you are in, or supply to, an industry where KM is becoming an expectation, such as Oil and Gas, Nuclear, or any defence-based industry, where a requirement for KM is beginning to creep into contracts.
  5. We will look stupid if we can't manage knowledge. Tell them the story of the client with a good knowledge management framework, who could see their contractor (who had no KM) making the same expensive repeat mistake around the world. This is a Fear-based sale - nobody wants their client to discover repeat mistakes. 
  6. We are at real risk if we don't have have knowledge management. This is an effective sale for ageing industries, with age-loaded demographics, where you can show figures about projected expertise-loss. You show how the company will have lost 20% of its brainpower in the next 5 years (or whatever the figures are), and you talk about the risk that this poses to continued effective operation. Sell the idea that Doing Nothing is a Bad Choice.
  7. There's a massive advantage if we do have Knowledge Management. This is the Greed Sell, but it's hard to divorce this from the logical sell. The best way to present this to your senior management is to say "We have this Knowledge already. We have already paid for it. It's an underused asset. All we need to do it monetise it". That's a bit more subtle than a Greed Sell - it's a "Wasted Value" sell.
  8. It's cool. This is a risky sale, as KM has now lost the "Cool" cachet. It may have worked 10 years ago, but it's hard to make it work now.
Then once you have piloted knowledge management, and have a success story to tell, then the sell for further investment is easy.


9. We tried it, it worked, we really liked it. Make sure that this story, this sell, is told not by you, but by someone within the business. Get a real quote from them, or (even better) get them on video  giving their feedback. This is your "happy customer" endorsement, and the happy customer has to come from within your company, has to speak with emotion, and has to talk about the solving of a real business problem. 



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