A Need to Improve Sales Enablement through Social Learning

As I continue to work on my dissertation, it is becoming more clear to me that there is a need to improve sales enablement activities in organizations, and I believe social learning through the application of communities of practice on enterprise social networks, can be a powerful means to improving the performance of sales forces, especially newly hired sales professionals.

Purpose of My Research

The purpose of my dissertation, an original research project, is to test a social theory of learning (Wenger, 1998) through the use of a community of practice of new sales people in an organization to further understand the relationship between participation in the community of practice and sales results, and to explore how new sales people, participating in a community of practice, on an enterprise social network, can learn the skills necessary to achieve sales goals.

The Need for My Research

My study will inform organizations how to facilitate the social nature of communities of practice on enterprise social networks, in order to on-board new sales people more effectively and to improve sales results. By studying how participation of new sales people in a community of practice relates to sales results, organizations will better understand how to leverage a more natural process for how people learn rather than rely primarily on formal new hire training programs that dominate organizational on-boarding programs.

Communities of practice are an organizational form that has been developing steadily (Corso, Giacobbe, & Martini, 2009) within many organizations to meet the managerial challenge of sharing and creating new knowledge (Borzillo, 2009). The problem is that original research in communities of practice has focused on communities in which members are collocated and used face-to-face communication as the form for interaction (Brown & Duguid, 1991; Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998; Zhang, & Watts, 2008). However, as organizations become increasingly geographically distributed, the demands to expand the scope of collocated communities of practice to include distant members grow (Zhang, & Watts, 2008).

Enterprise social networking technologies, based on the concepts of enterprise 2.0 (McAfee, (2006) are emerging technologies that enable employees in organizations to more easily connect with one another. As more organizations evaluate whether enterprise social networks offer enough value to make them viable technology solutions, if organizations understood how new sales people could participate in communities of practice, supported by enterprise social networking technologies to improve sales results, it could provide further evidence that the emerging technology would add value to the organization.  

Don't you want your sales teams to kick around ideas for what works, what doesn't, and collaborate on new ways to reaching customers? This is what my study is about...studying how sales people learn their jobs informally and how that learning translates into sales results.


Borzillo, S. (2009). Top management sponsorship to guide communities of practice. Journal of Knowledge Management, 13(3), 60-72.

Brown, J.S. and Duguid, P. (1991), "Organizational learning and communities of practice: toward a unified view of working, learning, and innovation", Organization Science, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 40-57.

Corso, M., Giacobbe, A., & Martini, A. (2009). Designing and managing business communities of practice.  Journal of Knowledge Management,  13(3), 73-89. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/13673270910962888

Lave, J. and Wenger, E. (1991), Situated learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

McAfee, A. (2006). Enterprise 2.0: The Dawn of Emergent Collaboration. MIT sloan management review. Vol. 47, No. 3, p. 21–28.

Wenger, E. (1998).  Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge, U.K: Cambridge University Press.

Zhang, W., & Watts, S. (2008). Online communities as communities of practice: A case study.  Journal of Knowledge Management,  12(4), 55-71. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/13673270810884255