“Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.”* For most people, such a belief may seem overly restrictive, even extreme. Not so for sales professionals. The motto, in my experience, is one they live by – words that spur their performance to the next level and help them reach their potential. It’s this goal-oriented mindset that accounts for why committed salespeople survive and thrive in such a highly competitive field.
Ten years ago, a sales representative interviewing for a job probably wouldn’t have dared to say that he aimed to make winning a constant. Surely the HR rep would have thought he was overly optimistic, possibly even delusional, while the sales leader would have called his objective impossible.
Over the past decade, however, technology has made the impossible a reality. Closing deals constantly is no longer a utopian dream, but the distinctive mark of a successful sales team. Sound too good to be true? It’s not. Four core capabilities can transform your salespeople into peak performers.
1. Data science
You can’t talk about great sales performance without mentioning data – “the world’s most valuable resource.”** Add the strength of science and you get one of the most powerful engines driving sales success today: data science. Considered the future of sales intelligence, data science is a complex capability that enables the cleaning, maintenance, analysis and immediate availability of good data from a multitude of sources.
When you have hundreds of sales reps working every day on tens of sales activities, you end up with massive amounts of new data stored in various formats across the organization. What do you do with it? Is all this data accurate and complete? Is it useful? What can you learn from it?
At Optymyze, we’ve embedded data science into our Sales Performance Management (SPM) solution to help you answer these questions.
Here’s one way the capability works. Imagine forecasting sales based on data from your CRM. The same CRM that your sales team rarely updates. What would be at the center of your process, determining the outcome? Inaccurate and incomplete data. Even the most sophisticated analytics tool wouldn’t be able to save your credibility and the company’s revenue.
Unfortunately, forecasting that’s way off the mark is a common problem in many sales organizations. In a study by Aberdeen Group, 42% of sales organizations surveyed reported unreliable sales forecasts due specifically to inaccurate and insufficient data.
When data is missing or has been haphazardly entered into a system, you can’t count on data science to deliver quality information. It comes in to clean up repetition and inaccuracies in the data, streamline formatting, and ensure completeness. All of which helps your sales performance processes, which would otherwise be prone to errors, run smoothly.
Moreover, data science centralizes all the data you’ve collected, from every source, in a repository that functions as the one source of truth for all your sales performance information. You can quickly retrieve the information you need and form connections. And business analysts can easily automate data processing and transform the volumes of data you’ve collected into actionable insights – enabling salespeople and leaders to uncover opportunities for improvement in most any area: sales compensation, quota attainment, territory management, forecasting, and lead prioritization.
With real-time access to accurate and meaningful data, sales teams are constantly informed about new sales opportunities, customer behaviors, and their own sales performance. Other benefits include increased productivity, more efficiency among reps, improved funnel conversion rates, and higher revenue.
2. Advanced analytics
Now, let’s go even further. Imagine being able to see into the minds of your customers and instantly know their specific needs. You’d know which messages would win them over and how long it would take to close a deal. You’d know which accounts to prioritize and which to let go. You’d even know who’s performing at the top of their game, what’s driving their success, and how to replicate their results among the whole team.
Part of data science, advanced analytics – including predictive, prescriptive, and machine learning – make the above possible. Analytics give you an accurate glimpse into the future so that you can manage sales performance more effectively today and make better-informed choices for tomorrow.
For example, when preparing a sales forecast, you can tap into predictive analytics to learn what to expect to book this month or this quarter. By taking historical performance into account (your team’s conversion rates in the past) and your current sales pipeline (the number of opportunities your team is working on within this time window), and adding in other variables such as average deal size, time, and engagement, a “predictive” sales forecast will give you highly accurate foresight into sales results.
Advanced analytics can also help you answer critical questions: What changes will optimize the performance within the organization? How can I minimize risk and ensure regulatory compliance? What compensation plan changes will improve quota achievement?
This final question is pivotal if you want to optimize compensation to avoid deep discounts and increase profitability. And doing so hinges on advanced analytics. The capability enables you to predict pay-for-performance outcomes based on plan changes, and reveals the exact choices you need to make to achieve desired results.
3. Process automation
Armed with insights, you can now start closing deal after deal. Right? Not quite. While data science and advanced analytics will pump you up to close more deals faster and boost sales performance, salespeople need more time to focus on selling. Automated, error-free processes give you that time.
After all, selling is not only client interactions. Behind the curtain, hundreds of processes are in motion, working to transform every client meeting into a closed deal. Until recently, it was necessary for salespeople or managers to perform most of these activities. They were prevented from performing their most important tasks, such as selling, building relationships with customers, setting sales targets for the sales team, and assigning territories and accounts.
With process automation, technology takes over manual, time-consuming tasks and performs them faster and more reliably. And process automation also allows you to quickly grow your business and your sales results. Any new process you add can be easily automated and tailored to fit your specific industry and organization. Ultimately, the entire organization becomes more flexible, prepared to tackle changes that come its way.
4. Enterprise planning
When you’re able to plan all aspects of sales and model different scenarios, increasing sales and sales performance gets even easier and change turns from foe to friend. This is what enterprise planning is all about. Whether you’re dealing with quotas, territories, budgets, or compensation, you can draw on the capability to model hypothetical scenarios. Change a variable and the scenario renews accordingly.
For instance, if your company plans to launch new products next year and you decide to increase quota, the enterprise planning capability will help you model various scenarios, down to the account level. It will also reveal the implications of these changes, not only for salespeople, but for the entire sales organization. You can test as many scenarios as you like until you find the one that works best. Combined with other analytical and modeling tools, this capability enables managers and executives to engage in deeply informed discussions about sales plans and to reach sound decisions based on company objectives.
Data science, advanced analytics, process automation and enterprise planning have the power to make winning an inevitable result. When embedded in a Sales Performance Management solution, they allow sales organizations to leverage all the power of data. The end results? Wise decisions. Agility. Better sales performance. And higher revenue.
* Henry Russell (“Red”) Sanders,1950 (Source)
** The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data, The Economist, May 6th, 2017
Gartner Critical Capabilities report – SPM providers comparative analysis
Optymyze scored higher than the other Leaders in eight out of ten Gartner Critical Capabilities and ranked in the top three in all SPM use cases.