November 24, 2011

How Sales Managers Can Use Moneyball Analytics to Coach for Success

By John Cousineau

If you’ve seen Moneyball, you’re familiar with the way Oakland A’s manager Billy Beane hired statisticians to find undervalued players – and you’ve seen how well it worked. Beane proved his theory that the stats typically used to gauge talent were relics of an earlier era. He used new predictors of player performance to successfully compete with teams with much higher payrolls. Today, virtually all major league teams have adopted a similar approach to evaluating players.

In addition to using analytics, professional sports teams are using fast feedback to improve coaching during games. Back in the 1960s, a quarterback would throw an interception, walk to the sidelines, and brood while waiting for the next offensive series. Today, by the time the quarterback reaches the sidelines, there’s a photo of the defensive coverage and a coach reviewing what happened. The coach analyzes the mistake, and he and others agree on adjustments they’ll make in the next offensive series.

When mistakes happen, there’s a focus on learning and adjusting. Today’s players crave it. As a recent article in the Globe and Mail recently noted, athletes have been taught “on structured practices and learning systems from a young age and, when it comes to the pros, they want a coach who explains what they’re doing and why instead of simply telling them to ‘do this.'”

Savvy sales organizations are mimicking the performance tactics of pro sports teams. They’re using new analytics to improve sales performance. Buyer reactions to sales conversations reveal the equivalent of a salesperson’s “on-base percentage” with buyers. This enables sales organizations to identify best practices by seeing the results produced, as well as the efforts required to produce them.

As with pro sports teams, savvy sales organizations are also using fast feedback to improve results. They’re coaching with impact by spotting and fixing mistakes quickly. When done during sales cycles, it amounts to holding loss reviews after microsteps in the buying process. It enables adjustments that can bring an opportunity back onto the right track.

This is the future of B2B sales. Analytics that make clear – quickly – the impact of sales behaviors on sales results. Our research shows that these types of new sales analytics

  • foster greater personal accountability and preparation;
  • accelerate feedback on what’s just happened as a result of what has just been done;
  • help create a culture of being prepared, practicing hard, and improving continuously.

This future is going to be a blast for everyone involved, as early adopters now know. The value of sales performance will be amplified. Success will be more predictable. Sales organizations will have the players and coaches they need to achieve success. They’ll have the systems to enable success. They’ll have the stats to prove the approach works, just as Billy Beane did.