Tom Levers

The Science of Sales

the Future of Sales Management 

The amount of data in our world has been exploding, and analyzing large data sets or Big Data will become a key basis for new product development, competitive analysis, sales productivity growth, and sales / marketing innovation. This generates a shift that leaders in every sector will have to grapple with the implications of big data, not just a few managers that are data-oriented. The increasing volume and detail of information captured by sales CRM, marketing multimedia, social media, and the Internet will fuel exponential growth in sales analytics for the foreseeable future.

The use of big data will become a key basis of competition and growth for individual firms. From the standpoint of competitiveness and the potential capture of value, all companies need to take big data seriously. In most industries, established competitors and new entrants alike will leverage data-driven strategies to innovate, compete, and capture value from deep and up-to-real-time information and those who do not will be at a large disadvantage.

 

Sales Analytics is a New Discipline that in 3 Years Will Be Better Understood

Compared to other business functions such as marketing or supply chain Big Data, the use of analytics (the analysis of Big Data) in sales is still in its infancy.  However, there is a new desire to inject more Big Data and Salesanalytics into the sales process. The increased availability and sophistication of this new capabilities and the simple necessity are driving new sales best practices that improve the quality of data and results in a higher quality of analytics adoption.

Once a company recognizes the potential of analytics to improve its sales performance, its first consideration is where and how to apply analytics capabilities across the end- to-end sales process, from customer segmentation and planning through to post-sales support. There are many variations of sales analytics that can be applied at different points along the sales process. As with most significant change initiatives, you have to start somewhere. This typically means focusing the introduction of analytics on one or two places in the sales process.

 

What is Your 2013 New Years “Go To Market Strategy”

Most sales organizations have a small set of New Year’s objectives to guide them into a Go to Market strategy.  If, for example, one of these objectives states “focus on our largest prospects” , you can look for analytical approaches that zoom in on this handful of top prospects to better understand them, their product interest, and how you can convert even more successfully. Analytics are often a way to take very specific action on what can be generic objectives.

 

Why is it so Important?

You may have an area that has caused a major problem in the recent past or that has been a nagging and well-known problem for a starting point.

You want to choose your starting point in those areas that are true levers for growth or that support your chosen strategy to pursue growth. If the company’s focus is mostly on cost, you might want to investigate your biggest cost pools such as the total cost of your sales force, or the money spent on trade promotions and channel programs or the money lost in poor sales qualification process.

 

Managing with Data… Its Not Managing 3 Wishes!

Big Data and SalesThe last thing you want to do is add to the sales problem by forcing your sales people to engage in number crunching and analysis about their territory, their accounts, and their product sales. In addition it puts an even greater, non-customer facing burden on the sales persons workweek, it also doesn’t play to their strengths. Most sales people do not have the appetite or the temperament to spend significant amounts of time generating analyses. However, they should have the capability and the willingness to act on the results and outputs of analytics-whether that means understanding and accepting that different prospects  should be approached differently from others, or numerical proof of a specific sales problem or objectives.

Selling with optimism is great, but it must be based on facts and insights. This is a crucial skill for successful sales professionals and will become dramatically more important over the next few decades as market complexities increase and analytics as a competitive advantage comes to full maturity. Just don’t ask them to chase those facts and insights themselves, which brings us to the importance of using a support function to do this for them.

Many companies have strong organizational cultures and sales organizations often have their own subculture as well. This culture may not be tuned in to the use of analytics and may experience it as somewhat alien.

If that is the case, sales leadership should take action to encourage the acceptance of analytics and foster a fact-based culture. Leadership can highlight and reinforce the importance of analytics to include:

Asking for Facts-Sales leaders can achieve significant culture change by simply asking for facts to back up assertions. If, in every key internal sales meeting or account planning meeting, sales leadership  asks for hard facts every time an assertion is made, the broader sales organization will quickly understand that leadership is serious about this and will seek out the right facts and insights in preparation for the next meeting.

Rewarding Use of Analytics-By visibly rewarding, even promoting, sales people who have a passion and a knack for seeking out and using analytics in prospect and sales meetings, sales leadership will demonstrate to the broader sales organization that analytics use is a capability important to their own success.

While it is crucial to find the right starting point for analytics it is also very important to start developing a future vision of sales analytics to communicate and work toward. This will ensure that the analytics journey has direction and is understood by the organization.

 

Your Analytics vision could include a number of areas, such as:

Product Bundling, Prospecting toOpportunity Analytics, Channel Optimization, Talent Management, Predictive Selling, Customer Retention, Pricing/ Profitability/ Cost-to-Service Analytics, Sales Incentive Compensation, customer value, close rate, pipeline process, Cross-Sell/ Up-Sell Analytics and Customer Retention.

 

Analytic Sensing is an even more strategic long term use of Big Data Trends

It could also include a vision for a decision-making framework on how to incorporate analytical insights into the day-to-day running of the business. Furthermore, there are different types of analytics such as “Market Sensing Analytics”. Most of the sales analytical areas described involve some form of optimization based on current or historical data and the killer of the Big Data Analytics… is “Bad Data from inconsistent definitions and practices. Market sensing analytics are designed to monitor and provide insights on business volatility by processing large amounts of unstructured or non- traditional data and spotting patterns in the data. These patterns allow a company to get a competitive edge by spotting market developments earlier than other firms.

 

Big Data Analytics builds a new culture that drives to the Science of Sales

By applying analytics to key areas across the sales process, an organization can provide the objective data that can help sales people make more informed, fact-based decisions, use their time more effectively andBurroughsPortable-1293-IMG_4943-5 boost the overall contribution of the sales organization. But the process for applying analytics to sales can be daunting and filled with missteps. Adhering to these principles when bringing a scientific approach to selling will help assure that new analytical insights result in meaningful perfocs-wh-234x16rmance gains, furthering the organizations movement toward high performance.

 

 

by Tom Levers

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