The vitality of the global economy depends on sales organizations selling their products and services efficiently, each striving to reach its customer, profitability and revenue No matter what size the sales organization is, the team has special needs for accomplishing its objectives. Unfortunately, the process and technology steps involved in a complex process like sales are not always coordinated as well as needed to ensure success.
Our understanding of the management of the sales process and sales performance has matured significantly, I’m happy to note, to the point where we know what steps to take to help make sales operations smarter and more efficient as I pointed out is a top priority (See: “Sales and Marketing Operations and Management in 2010”). But this understanding has advanced somewhat unevenly; the rise of sales performance management has helped in many activities, but is just starting to address the issue of what information is needed to understand the status of the sales pipeline and guide its improvement.
As products and services proliferate it becomes more challenging to keep on top of the details of sales in the pipeline, the forecast, the interactions with customers, the compensation and incentive commitments and payouts. It’s easy to overlook details, resulting in time wasted not focusing on the right activities or perhaps even the loss of sales to competition because of not having brought the right knowledge and people to the opportunity. Doing it right requires having the right information – information that can be generated from underlying data from your SFA, CRM and accounting systems and even spreadsheets. But getting the right information requires first understanding what the right information is, by applying analytics to the sales-related data to yield the needed measures and metrics. These can be used to develop performance indicators showing the status of sales processes and performance so your organization can reduce risk and reach its objectives.
Making all of this happen requires an understanding of the sales metrics needed to be successful, from bloating and leakage to the time duration of sales deals to the completion to quota and incentives. These analytics and metrics help sales and finance balance compensation and profitability as my colleague points out (See: “Balancing Customer Profitability and Sales Incentives”). The portfolio of sales metrics required dictates the analytics needed, which in turn establishes the priority and sourcing of data from which to generate them. Unfortunately, that data can be in a variety of systems that are located on-premise, outside the enterprise in hosted or on-demand applications or in the cloud, so integrating the data can be a task. Ensuring the consistency and quality of the data is another task, and one that could require some effort. Then there’s the fact that in many organizations a significant amount of data is housed in spreadsheets, which means it typically is not formalized into data structures that are easy to map and utilize in sales analytics.
For this all to work well, the tasks that convert data to information need to be automated and the analytics provided in forms appropriate to the users, including sales managers and executives. For sales cycle times to be optimal, metrics must not only be presented in the right form but be used for the collaboration and coaching that will make sales as effective as possible. Luckily, the maturity of these analytics is getting better, with presentations that go beyond traditional tables and charts into visualizations that are easy to understand and utilize. Whether or not the analytics are integrated back into specific sales-centered applications like SFA or presented in a special application or dashboard, their use can make the difference between hitting or missing the magic number for any level of sales professional in your organization.
If you are trying to optimize sales and elevate your organization, I encourage you to participate in our latest benchmark research on sales analytics. What you learn from the results can help drive improvement in your organization.
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Mark Smith – CEO & EVP Research