Despite our industry’s growing obsession with sales analytics, most data still can’t address the question that bedevils every sales executive: do my managers and reps have what it takes to achieve their revenue goals? By quantifying sales capabilities, and applying data-driven coaching insights to the activity metrics they use everyday, sales leaders are finding the answer – before it’s too late.
As 2016 rolls on, the focus of many B2B sales leaders no doubt turns to a single thought: does my sales team have what it takes to make goal? With the proliferation of sales technology, you’d think that with a few strategic, data-driven software purchases, the sales executive might sit back and rest easy. The technology will drive every sales rep’s quota attainment to 120%, teams will effortlessly meet pipeline milestones, and entire territories will rack up impressive quarters.
Of course that’s an illusion. Outstanding sales performance remains a fundamentally human endeavor, enhanced by thoughtful sales development and a commitment to great coaching. Yet, increasing revenue expectations place an enormous burden on front-line managers charged with growing successful teams. They are largely time-constrained, lack the tools to be successful, and are often incapable of knowing who and what to coach on.
With only limited opportunity to observe reps “in the wild”, it’s difficult for managers to know for sure if their reps are prepared to add value in client interactions. This forces sales leaders to rely on other sources, such as CRM reporting, to get the full picture of an individual team member’s capabilities. Yet what CRM activity data is telling them is frequently not aligned with results.
Do Your Reps Have What It Takes to Win?
As it turns out, the single most important metric impacting top-line revenue growth is not tracked by any CRM available today, but it does exist thanks to an emerging class of data-driven mobile technologies designed to capture and correlate ‘sales capabilities’ data. Having a pulse on reps’ knowledge, skills and understanding of processes is essential to good coaching, and provides powerful data-driven insight on where the sales executive can make maximum impact with each specific rep, in areas such as:
- Product Proficiency– many B2B sales reps represent multiple products, or a larger solution platform with multiple applications. Reps must master a tremendous amount of feature and function information as well as ultimate benefits to customers.
- Competitive Positioning– It’s imperative that reps go beyond product understanding to differentiate their products against alternatives, even when new competitive entrants arise without warning.
- Discovery, Negotiation and Closing Skills– Different phases of the sales cycle require different skills and behaviors. Some reps have the personality and temperament to be great openers, yet struggle when it comes to asking for the deal – and vice versa.
Moreover, today’s buyers want a sales rep who can act as a “trusted advisor,” not just an information-source. Reps must plan, act fast, think on their feet to make every available moment count. This requires not only a thorough understanding of market knowledge, competitive nuances and core messages that pertain to the prospect’s industry, but also situational fluency and confidence.
The Rise of Data-Driven Coaching
A data-driven coaching approach that unites CRM and measured sales force capabilities is a particularly powerful solution. For a $3 billion global Internet company in the Bay Area, data-driven coaching was the only way to go. Despite a wealth of data on hand from sales acceleration solutions, it was missing insight into the skills and capabilities of its 3,000 reps. To improve their coaching culture at scale, they sought to use data to synthesize individualized coaching actions into a system that could prescribe to sales executives to save them time and target individual and team needs at a glance.
The firm framed three key performance indicators (KPI’s) for each sales rep from three sources:
- 1) Metrics from its CRM system, such as individual quota attainment and win rate;
- 2) Selling skill-set metrics as observed and documented by the sales coach; and
- 3) Sales rep proficiency and engagement metrics from Qstream, a sales capabilities platform that analyzes data from thousands of sales rep responses to scenario-based challenges. The company leveraged an online dashboard which tracked their reps’ strengths (and skill gaps) relative to prospecting, countering objections, addressing questions while following regulatory guidelines of various industries, and closing.
Using the dashboard, sales coaches could more quickly target and prioritize 1:1 coaching plans and identify team-wide gaps in required knowledge or behavior so they could address them faster – at scale. Having a quantified metric on these critical capabilities sent a clear message that more was expected of reps than just their pipeline, and that manager 1:1s were something more than just pipeline reviews.
Next-Generation Sales Analytics
Too often, sales analytics focuses on activity trends and rear-view metrics, but fails to provide a full picture of the insights required to actually change them. Knowing the limitations, and the possibilities of this reporting, can make all the difference.
In an era where most everything in our business lives can be measured, a data-driven approach to sales management makes intuitive sense. The ability to monitor and manage the ‘human side’ of sales acceleration through objective, quantifiable data is transforming sales managers into more effective coaches, and helping them to ignite their reps’ skills and capabilities in a way that pays dividends to the bottom line – before it’s too late.