What's the key to winning the complex sales cycle? In a new sales-management world dominated by metrics and measurement, the answer is no longer selling skills or raw talent – it's data.
Data is critical to a sales manager's ability to lift overall performance, says Giles House, VP of marketing, communications and products, at CallidusCloud
"Success takes more than just a driven, confident sales force," says House. "It takes technology, science, data, metrics, analytics, and the ability to synthesize everything in a way that's simple, fast, and actionable."
Unfortunately, many sales organizations suffer from at least one of two problems when it comes to data. Problem #1: Your organization is not capturing any data at all.
If this is the case, you're probably experiencing high turnover and are "likely scrambling to make your number every month or quarter," says House. He advises taking a step back. Sales managers should start capturing data related to what is and isn't working in your organization. For example, do you know what's helping your top performers win more deals? Are they getting out quotes earlier in the sales cycle? Are they using social networks to research prospects and start more compelling conversations?
Also, consider the level of detail your reps are expected to know about products and price structures. For the sales rep, the complex sales cycle can be overwhelming. Not only do reps have to be responsible for a universe of product knowledge, value sheets, and information about reseller relationships, they're often operating in an environment with very little support or clear structure.
Automation not only makes reps more productive, it also benefits the organization, providing another set of data points to unlock the all important success factors of a top performer. A rep who wins more deals because he or she consistently turns out excellent proposals could be a learning lesson for your entire organization. Unless you're capturing that knowledge, however, you won't know how to develop your bottom performers into better salespeople. Problem #2: Your organization is capturing data, but it's so disorganized that no one is looking at it.
When data exists in too many silos and spreadsheets, it becomes very difficult to incorporate it into the sales-management process.
"Sales managers and executives don't want to get involved doing pivot charts and summarizing ten different spreadsheets," says House. "They will often struggle to accurately capture the all-important soft skills. It's all very well to capture raw data from systems like CRM, but to build a true picture of a successful sales organization, it is imperative to capture ratings on people's performance and skills. This data does not exist in a system and requires manager input.
"Once you start capturing and tracking this combination of data using dashboards," says House, "you can uncover the common success factors and provide specific development programs and activities to improve in the weak areas. For example, perhaps there's a training course that the top performers have all taken or a particular skill at which they excel. Identifying these traits will allow you to set tailored development plans for individuals and will yield a lift in performance. Even if it's just a couple of percentage points for each rep, if you multiply that across your entire sales force, the results can be huge."