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Beyond Technology in Sales Operations: Balancing Tools and Talent

When it comes to sales, there’s no replacement for human insight. Yes, the automation of business processes and data analysis increases productivity and saves time and money, but to consistently maximize the effectiveness of your sales operations processes in the face of ever-changing market conditions, you need specialized knowledge, skills, and expertise.

Superman is reduced to Clark Kent without his cape, while the cape is nothing but a piece of cloth without Clark Kent. Superman comes to life only when the two work together. Each is enabled by the other. The same goes for technology and people, especially in sales operations.

A robust, flexible platform that brings together data from disparate sources is indispensable. But there’s no replacement for the human mind when it comes to gleaning meaning from facts: with the right people translating the data, you’ll be able to take appropriate actions, whether that means sticking with things as they are, making short-term course-corrections, or instituting more fundamental, long-term changes to the design of your sales ops processes.

In our highly competitive business world, the key to success is having the ability to recognize when and how to adapt your processes such that they stay in tune with your strategy and keep your organization moving forward.

Whether you choose to hire and train internal experts or you go for a highly-experienced service provider, keep these key areas in mind. In each, human insight is an essential addition to your technology solution:

1. Interpreting process effectiveness

Organizations are challenged to meet the sales objectives set at the beginning of the year as well as those triggered by unforeseeable changes. The effectiveness of your processes must constantly be measured. Are there any gaps between the initial objectives and the actual results? Where did the execution fail and why? And, most importantly, how can you improve?

Sales organizations need on-hand experts who can efficiently and reliably monitor performance data and proactively identify when, where and to what degree a change is needed.

2. Performing budget forecasting and modeling

Improved forecast accuracy equals improved business results. According to Aberdeen Group, best-in-class companies report “stronger results around the accuracy of their forecasting data” at every stage of the B2B sales cycle.

But how do you achieve accurate forecasting? Data is essential because it enables you to predict the future based on facts about the past and present. In fact, as Aberdeen has reported, best-in-class companies utilize data 49% more aggressively than under-performing sales organizations. So, choosing a Sales Performance Management (SPM) platform that has an integrated, powerful data analysis component is important.

But you can’t rely solely on data. The process of forecasting sales works well only when the right people contribute to its design; its value, according to Ventana Research, “depends on the competence of the individuals who participate in the process.” Forecasting must be treated as a cross-functional discipline, bringing together expertise and information from stakeholders across several departments. Insights from finance, marketing, product development, and sales are essential to a well-defined forecast.

3. Coaching and training

Given the important role that the sales force plays in any company’s success, supporting continuous sales talent coaching and training is critical.

For best-in-class sales organizations, sales education is not an event, but inherent to the work culture. Formal training must be augmented with ongoing reinforcement. 34% more first-year sales reps achieve quota at organizations with post-training reinforcement, as revealed by Aberdeen in a recent study.

Also, in organizations that successfully reinforce their initial training, 14% more sales reps achieve quota, team attainment of quota is 10% higher, and lead conversions rates are 8% better.

The case for a dedicated training effort is clear. But do you have the resources necessary to provide the right kind of coaching and training on an ongoing basis? For clients and prospects, salespeople are the face of your company. They interact directly with clients and are responsible for building the relationships and the trust you covet. A good salesperson knows that selling demands establishing connections with buyers while simultaneously drawing insights from the market and translating them into needs your company should focus on in the future. So make sure to arm yourself with the expertise required to interpret performance data and understand the areas where your sales force is experiencing the most success as well as the greatest struggle. Then go a step forward and apply the right coaching and training strategy.

A sales organization is like a living organism, always evolving and changing. An efficient SPM solution will provide ongoing analyses and support. But technology is only the tool people use to carve out a brighter future. Getting the right talent in place with the right level of innovative thinking, problem-solving skills and perspective is crucial for the success of any sales organization.

8 Critical Considerations for Selecting a Sales Performance Management Solution

SPM has evolved far beyond simply calculating commissions. How do you know what’s right for your company? Here are 8 critical questions to ask.

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