Sales Analytics: The Path to Better, Faster Forecasting

Sales Analytics: The Path to Better, Faster Forecasting

A new Aberdeen report shows how sales analytics create more accurate and actionable sales forecasts. The bane of many sales professionals’ routine is often the dreaded sales forecast. At the individual rep or channel partner’s level, by taking time away from active selling in order to, in their perception, help the bureaucrats above them crunch numbers, forecasting can appear fruitless, if not annoying. In managerial circles, the pressure from those same bean-counters to confidently predict revenue flow has reached the point where 32% of companies in Aberdeen’s research now indicate that “some portion of sales manager compensation is impacted by the accuracy of their team’s forecast.” Among top-performing firms, this percentage rises to 43%, with 29% even penalizing individual contributors for forecast inaccuracies. What do these successful sales leaders know, that the rest of us should be considering? Making Better Decisions with Better Data These trends have not evolved in a vacuum; no salesperson or manager should be expected to read tea leaves without some technical assistance, especially if their incentive compensation is to be held hostage to forecast accuracy. Hence the rise of sales analytics solutions in the business-to-business (B2B) arena, which, according to research published in Sales Effectiveness 2015: How in the World Are We Going to Hit Our Number?, are now deployed by a majority (56%) of Best-in-Class companies, and even 42% of under-performing firms. Such applications are increasingly utilized by line-of-business leaders such as VPs of Sales and Sales Operations to better leverage the power of “big data” and predictive analytics to more efficiently run their portion of an enterprise’s business. Typically designed as a stand-alone software solution, but generally integrated with the...
Could Jordan Belfort Have Been Right?…And Other Uncomfortable Sales Management Realities

Could Jordan Belfort Have Been Right?…And Other Uncomfortable Sales Management Realities

In “The Wolf of Wall Street,” the protagonist runs a classic, boiler-room sales floor. Take away the questionable morals and illegal trades, and we’re left with a valid B2B sales management lesson: the power of managing to a proven standard of selling activity. “The telephone is dead. Long live phone-based selling!” The reality of many modern sales organizations is that, while cold-calling has clearly been subjugated by contemporary omni-channel marketing and selling technologies, these very same integrated communications strategies represent new and innovative ways to incorporate phone activities into successful business development results. The difference between 20th century “dialing for dollars” and today’s complex sales cadences, however, lies in new analytics-driven capabilities to capture, measure, and coach sales professionals with real-time, field-friendly, tools. Swinging the Sales Oversight Pendulum Back to Neutral Once upon a time, the telephone was the best and only sales tool for developing both B2B and higher-end business-to-consumer (B2C – think financial services, insurance) pipeline opportunities. The most successful companies deployed huge, centralized sales floors with almost factory-style efficiencies.  These environments allowed for extremely hands-on management interactions that often allowed supervisors to “plug in” to silently listen to reps’ conversations; to physically oversee and demand minimum levels of call activity; and to provide instant feedback around best practices and sales tactics. While in-your-face floors such as those in “The Wolf of Wall Street” lay on the more extreme end of the intensity spectrum, these “old days” provided clarity and visibility that enabled sales leaders to quickly detour reps away from poor practices, and coach them toward activities that were proven to drive desired results. With the...
Customer Engagement Has Evolved. Can Your Sales Team Keep Up?

Customer Engagement Has Evolved. Can Your Sales Team Keep Up?

Few market watchers today will deny that the revolution in customer empowerment is in full swing, and is rapidly spreading from consumer to business environments. In an age when a single tweet can bring down years of brand-building labor, how is a modern seller best provided with an opportunity to restore equilibrium to the buyer / seller dynamic? There is little doubt that the digital-era customer experience has changed everything we once knew about the trading of goods and services. Think about the generations-old experience of purchasing a car: before the mid-1990’s, the seller held all the power, and did a remarkable and frustrating job of confusing customers about the most elemental fact involved: the actual price of the vehicle. As Consumers Reports, Kelley Blue Book, Yelp and ultimately social media rose in popularity, the pendulum of knowledge and influence swung dramatically toward the buyer. Today, we mostly explore and price out cars online, and then sometimes drop by a dealership to handle the paperwork. Much as this democratic, user-generated content revolution has spelled trouble for the classic car salesman, so too are enterprise B2B sellers challenged by the well-documented “hidden sales cycle” that allows their prospects to do significant homework before facing off in a 1:1 conversation. With better-informed and savvier buyers, enterprises and their front-line reps need to re-think the sales information engine that drives continuous revenue. Strategy One: Establishing an Integrated Sales Data Path Fortunately, enterprise sales leaders and operational managers recognize this situation. New Aberdeen research published in The 21st Century Buying Experience: Say Farewell to the Sales Cycle highlights “customers are demanding better service...
Sales Analytics: Data-Driven Forecasting for Better Quota Attainment

Sales Analytics: Data-Driven Forecasting for Better Quota Attainment

“A sales rep, an accountant, and a data scientist walk into a bar…” Is there really a joke in here somewhere? A recent Research Report will search for common ground in the world of business analytics, and explore how both B2B sales professionals and their operational counterparts can benefit from the adoption of best practices that support the use of sales analytics solutions. Traditionally, B2B organizations have regularly pressured their front-line sellers to report, up the food chain, on all of their current and pending deals, particularly regarding the size and timing of each anticipated closed opportunity. Unfortunately, all too often, reps tell their superiors what they think the bosses want to hear. They also tend to overly rely on their gut instincts, “happy ears,” and “sandbagging” when communicating such information. Influenced by pending commissions, spiffs, and President’s Club vacations, reps and managers alike unfortunately let their emotions dictate the contents of the sales forecast. Sales Forecasting is No Laughing Matter   The problem with this scenario is that, to paraphrase Star Trek, it involves too much Capt. Kirk, and too little Mr. Spock. A sales forecast based on gut feelings – “I’ve got a really good feeling about this deal, so I’m moving it to 90% likely to close” – is far more likely to yield an ineffective estimate of near-term sales results compared with a data-centric forecast that is devoid of emotion. Aberdeen’s Big Data for Sales: Are We Ready?, highlights the fact that more accurate sales forecasting is directly associated with better business results such as higher quota attainment by teams and individuals, annualized growth in revenue, and...
Superheroes, Drones, and Battery Life: If All the World’s a Stage, the Giants Must Have a Secret Owner

Superheroes, Drones, and Battery Life: If All the World’s a Stage, the Giants Must Have a Secret Owner

I think it just may be possible that Charles Johnson doesn’t exist.  Candidly, I know little about the San Francisco Giants, so I had to look it up, and someone by that name is apparently the principal owner. But after my most intense Dreamforce in six years (one speaking engagement, 35 meetings, two painful feet), I’m convinced that Marc Benioff is most likely the behind-the-scenes maestro, if not lead investor, in the World Series-bound ball club. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but did the pitch-perfect stage management that we’ve all come to associate with this annual event just happen to culminate with fireworks over the Bay last night?  Too much of a coincidence. You can read elsewhere about the celebrities, philanthropy, parties, and the pending tallest building west of the Mississippi. These are the noise surrounding the signal: the love of pure data has finally evolved from the cubes of sun-starved developers and industry analysts to a 21st-century landscape of sun-soaked, coolest-kid-on-the-block, mainstream line-of-business center stage.  Everyone in San Francisco this week now gets it: the host company, trading partners, developers, and sales operations practitioners are all over the fact that achieving customer success is most efficiently supported by the collection, analysis, and distribution of “big data” – this term was nearly invisible, so let’s stop throwing around once and for all – or analytics that help us make better decisions in managing the entire customer management lifecycle.  In the context of my little slice of the world, just about everything around Sales Effectiveness is impacted by analytics: Sales Coaching:  In my snarkily titled Sheldon Cooper, Sales Whisperer: Applying...