Selling Power Blog

News & Insights for B2B Sales Leaders

July 18, 2022

Why Sales Leaders Need Increased Analytic Skills to Improve Opportunity Management

By Dr. Martin Fleming, Chief Revenue Scientist, Varicent
Various screens showing different graphs and charts

Successful sellers are skilled at creating satisfied customers by prioritizing relationship building, deepening successful connections, and focusing on winning opportunities. Meeting customer needs also requires client attention and focus. 

To achieve stardom and convert prospects to customers, sellers spend considerable time and effort on opportunity management: building relationships with prospects, capturing wants and needs, collaborating across departments, and delivering customer requirements. Sales effectiveness requires an ability to analyze opportunities, engage with prospects, and improve sales closing rates. Importantly, sellers span organizational boundaries. Successful collaboration requires gathering customer information and sharing requirements across sellers’ internal functions. 

However, with the increased volume of information and opportunities to which sellers have access, it has become more difficult to dedicate time to building relationships. Both technology and analytic skills can help create a culture that embraces customer focus.

In Varicent’s recent survey of 308 sales leaders, only 22% were satisfied with their opportunity management process. Among sales leaders in business-to-business (B2B) organizations, the satisfaction rate falls to 18%. However, among those in business-to-consumer (B2C) organizations, a much larger 34% are satisfied with opportunity management. In addition, nearly half of B2C organizations (48%) have high analytic skills while, among B2B organizations, only just over a third (35%) have high analytic skills. 

The limited use of sales analytics among B2B sales leaders is consistent with the much broader failure of technology adoption. Researchers in the academic community report extensive use of sales technology by less than half of those surveyed. In addition, academic researchers find the failure to adopt Salesforce automation is a result of the extensive organizational changes required for implementation. Change is resisted. Nostalgia for a bygone selling era reflects a sentimental longing for past practices, tied to happy personal associations.

Despite wistful affection for earlier accomplishments, there is a successful path forward. The use of revenue intelligence tools appears to be the key to success. The recent Varicent survey also shows that, among those using business intelligence tools, 43% are satisfied with their opportunity management process (21 percentage points above average) and 61% have high analytic skills (23 percentage points above average). 

The combination of high opportunity management satisfaction and high analytic skills is not surprising. Analytic skills appear to provide greater opportunity management satisfaction. Conversely, those not using business intelligence tools for opportunity management fall to a 16% opportunity management satisfaction rate, with only 32% having high analytic skills. Part of this could be due to the better data integration across different buyer information sources that comes with a revenue intelligence solution. This leads to an improved ability to use the information available and process it in a way that helps prioritize and act on it. 

What is more surprising is that B2B sales leaders have lagged far behind their B2C counterparts. Among sales leaders in the financial services, insurance, and manufacturing industries – which are more likely to be B2C industries – opportunity management satisfaction is 30%, with 47% having high analytic skills. Among sales leaders in the B2B industries – life sciences, media, telecommunications, and technology – the opportunity management satisfaction rate is 16%, and only 30% have analytic skills. These are gaps of 17 and 14 percentage points, respectively. 

Finally, as is well known, the use of social media has also improved customer orientation. Successful B2B organizations have implemented social media initiatives in addition to investing in technology and growing analytic skills. Integration of technology, analytics, and social media has led to improved customer orientation. The integration among all three has the potential to improve sales and marketing alignment, increase access to client decision makers, shorten sales cycles, and improve collaboration with customers.

Headshot of Martin Fleming

Dr. Martin Fleming is the chief revenue scientist of Varicent, and is skilled in data science, machine learning, AI, and go-to-market strategies. During his more than 20 years at IBM, he led the company’s data science function and served as IBM’s chief economist. Dr. Fleming has been published in several economic journals, as well as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.