Sales Management Digest

Six Ways to Use Analytics to Boost Sales
Heather Baldwin
These days, savvy sales organizations use analytics to see exactly what's working, what's not, and where there are opportunities to grow. Not sure where to start with analytics? Here are five tips from Paul Staelin, cofounder of Birst.

1) Evaluate your pipeline.
How quickly are deals moving through your pipeline? Which types of prospects have the highest closing rates? This kind of information is just as important as deal size when evaluating a pipeline. Sure, everyone loves the $10 million deal, but you might be able to get there faster by closing a lot of the little deals that move more quickly and surely through the pipeline.

"There's less glamour and glory in reproducible business, but that's where your money is," says Staelin.

2) Focus on the cross-sell first, new customers second.
Do a white-space analysis to determine which products your current customers are using and which additional products are being used by similar customers. This helps you create a cross-selling plan.

"If you've got twenty accounts, I guarantee you're not getting the most out of them all," says Staelin. For instance, a financial advisor with 200 clients in his book was talking to his top 20 on a regular basis, but the rest were mostly being ignored. The advisor put a plan in place to proactively engage the remaining 180 clients, and his business grew twice as fast as it had in the past.

3) Give yourself checkpoints.
Looking back at the end of last quarter to figure out what went wrong won't help you make your numbers this quarter. Instead, keep your sights focused ahead by giving yourself checkpoints, or milestones, you need to reach throughout the quarter in order to make your numbers.

The best checkpoints to use are pipeline and closed business. For instance, if you expect to close X for the quarter, and you know that by week three of the quarter you need 8X in your pipeline to get there, then when that third week arrives, you already know if you're on track or whether you need to make some changes. This technique "radically alters predictability," says Staelin.

4) Evaluate marketing and sales together.
Having solid data and good insight on leads and campaigns can help close the chasm that typically exists between marketing and sales–with good data and no finger-pointing and he said/she said. Instead, the departments together can look at which campaigns produced the best quality leads, which lists had a high close rate, and which were duds, with the goal of improving lead quality in the future. Marketing, sales, and finance should meet at least monthly–at a minimum quarterly–to evaluate campaign/lead data.

5) Look at your metrics.
Success is not random. Every company has strengths and weaknesses, and the only way to really know where yours are is to understand your metrics. Which industries, company sizes, and titles have faster and more successful sales cycles? Know these numbers across regions and product lines so you know exactly where you’re doing really well. "There are pockets of excellence in every organization," says Staelin. The ability to slice and dice the data to discover the reason behind that excellence is ultimately what lets you reproduce it.

Along with the pockets of excellence, you'll find areas of weakness–industries that never seem to close or always demand steep discounts, for instance. Know where these are and deprioritize these areas. One note of caution: don't assume that just because an industry makes up only a small percentage of your business it's not successful. You might do only 10 percent of your business in high tech, but when you dive into the numbers, it may turn out your win rate is high, the sales cycle is fast, and the discount is low. If that's the case, you need to put more emphasis here, not less.
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