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Traditional Search is Dying as Sales Organizations Make Way for ‘Context’

If you haven't yet paid attention to contextual search, it's time you did. Contextual search is a form of web-based search whose results are based on their value to the user rather than their relevance to the query, as with traditional engines. And it's nothing new: Leading companies have been developing and investing in this functionality for years. 

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Clearly, those companies have no doubt that contextual search will eventually fundamentally change the way we search and locate information and content, both personally and professionally, especially for sales and marketing organizations. What's more, contextual search isn't some futuristic possibility. Companies today, right now, are using it to drastically increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their sales and marketing teams; and laggards will soon be far behind the curve.

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Indeed, three big names are trailblazing the road to contextual search, and their identities won’t surprise you:  have been working for years to offer search results based on signals from and recorded behaviors of users. (These efforts include past searches and oft-accessed web pages or apps.) Just how large is this new craze?

According to , leading search engine Google is “ready to disrupt itself” with its Google Now service. If Google is doing it, everyone else will be (or at least trying to) soon enough.

So far, contextual search is really only affecting consumers (e.g., mobile phone and Internet searchers). But what does this mean for businesses? More specifically, where does contextual search come into play for companies’ internal content?

This is where it gets exciting for sales and marketing teams. Right now, many sales enablement professionals, tasked with solving the “spending too much time trying to find the stuff we need” problem that sales reps experience, believe that the Google-style keyword search is the only way to navigate the mountains of content housed in SharePoint, Box or any other enterprise content management (ECM) system.

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But contextual search, unlike traditional search, eliminates some of the steps in the process: Examples include typing in a keyword that needs to be in a title, to be tagged or to show up in a document. In a contextual search, the materials that a sales rep requires in the context of his or her selling situation are just there, and the rep won't be bothered by seeing thousands of other documents show up.

Contextual search seems a bit like sci-fi — and, here, the spoon-bending scene in The Matrix comes to mind. Sales enablement professionals think that traditional search is the only way to solve the problem of serving up relevant materials to the field, like the unbendable spoon Neo confronts. Contextual search, however, is a mind-bending paradigm shift in the way that search occurs, because, to the sales rep or the person searching for a nearby restaurant on her phone, you don’t actually search at all — at least not by typing something into a search bar.

There is no spoon.

Whoa, as only Keanu Reeves could say.

The key to how contextual search delivers on its magic is the fact that the most advanced ECM systems are, like Google’s search algorithms, much more knowledgeable about the person searching than we care to admit. What you as a sales rep see is tailored to you because when you sign in, the system knows what types of products you sell and in what geographic areas.

Tie in customer data from your customer relationship management (CRM) system and now the ECM knows what buying stage and industry your prospect is in. Leveraging that data, you as a a rep shouldn’t then see a universe of content you have to manually sort through. Instead, according to , you should see just a handful of useful pieces you otherwise would have spent 30 hours a month searching for on your own, 

All this leads to a logical conclusion: The most forward-thinking sales-enablement professionals will latch on to the same trend that we’re seeing in the consumer market. That trend will entail using contextual search to solve the problem of sales reps finding what they need.

After all, a sales team full of Neo's can’t be all that bad.

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