Increase your Sales Data IQ with these 5 hacks – Predictive Sales
I remember clearly what we used to consider sales intelligence.
This was way before tools allowed us to create data driven sales forces and add predictable sales outcomes.
When I had first entered sales as an inside rep for a software reseller a few (ahem) years ago business intelligence was a completely different field and one that was rapidly developing. Back then we used to “pull lists” that marketing had come up, which was really just a compiled list of who we thought were top companies, along with a name, title, and the main telephone number. Rarely did we get an email or a direct number and back in those days the switchboard operator could be your best friend or your nightmare.
Depending on the list type (just purchased or old) my intelligence would typically come in the form of whether the prospect was an active company, and whatever information another rep typed into the system, which was typical and as detailed as CLVM. I would smile and dial away, hoping that someone, anyone, would pick up the phone and list to my pitch, all the while shivering with an intense fear and anxiety in the back of my mind that they would actually answer, because, what would I say? I had no idea who they were.
The was when Hoovers was new and the only game in town when it came to intelligence and most companies didn’t have them deployed, so we used scripts and freely available public information on the internet. Scripts where the magic resource that could sell anything to any customer, but they rarely worked as written and were constantly modified because they were generic and did not target the specific customer or their needs. And most companies web presence needed improvement so it was down to guessing and seeing if our German clunker of an ERP system or if you could squeeze out a few details from the receptionist.
The anxiety I felt then and couldn’t describe was from not having enough data to feel comfortable with my conversation. Not knowing who the company was and having limited information on them only added to the anxiety of cold calling someone who may or may not be an actual person I needed and was completely terrifying.
The closest I can describe this would be to pick a random name out of a telephone book, spin the wheel on a product that you would want to pitch them and then do your best. But this is what we had to work with so we soldiered on and sold some software along the way by seemingly pure grit.
Sales have come a long way.
We are now flooded with data, immense amounts of data at our fingertips. Sales CRM’s, Social Data, Industry data, email tracking, marketing automation, and Professional Profiles, the list goes on and on. As a sales rep, we now have access to some of the most massive amounts of data from a very long list of services that make up the modern day “sales stack”. A group of sales information tools sales reps utilize to add enlightenment to their prospecting and sales efforts.
This is great right?
Not Always. Let me explain.
Back when software was still sold in boxes, we may not have had the data, but most sales reps times were spent actually selling. I would estimate that ⅔ of our time was spent on the phones, talking to customers, and selling our product. This massive amount of time we spent actually selling forced us to know the product inside and out, and in extension forced us to know our clients so we could get them to stay on the line past the first five seconds. The rest of the time was typically administrative, which consisted of reports, meetings, strategy on what we would cover on our onsite meetings with them.
Now that we are in the age of massive information overload studies are coming out about how much times sales actually spend selling, and amazingly it’s not very much. Proudfoot consulting via selling power estimates 10%, and Docurated pegs that sales typically spend ⅓ of their time selling.
What are they doing with the rest of their time? If you take the examples at face value you can just imagine a group of lazy internet surfing sales reps occasionally picking up the phone or visiting a client and think that the massive investment you have put into these people has been a complete waste of time.
Between administrative (reports, forecasting, team calls, deal calls, blue sheet reviews, Vito letters), travel, and trying use the sales stack to get deeper insights into their prospects, sales reps time becomes so administrative they have little time for actual selling. With a revenue number hanging over them and an increasing pressure to perform they may just give up and go into the market blind and start selling with whatever tools they have easily available, which is typically email.
The dirty little secret is most sales reps are not the best data analysts and only use the tools that they can quickly extract value from quickly as they try to understand where their next deal is going to come from and predictive sales is something dreamed about. The most effective and widely used sales tools are typically front loaded “glance tools”, where a rep can extract quick value and insights about a customer or prospect as they prepare for their next call or next visit.
So what happens to all of the tools and reporting system that your company spends so much investment on? They go widely unused. This means that most of your $2,280 investment in technology spend per rep is not being fully utilized.
This also means your massive investment in other tools like marketing automation, business intelligence, and other major investments are being underutilized because sales reps are not using this data in their sales process.
So what do you do?
Increase your data IQ with these 5 hacks and get your sales people back to selling.
1. Remove the barriers.
you hired your sales team to educate your potential prospects on the value your software or service and what value this brings. You asked them to be competent on your offering, know their customers and prospects and understand the market dynamics of their vertical or customer base.
We have to remove the barriers that are restricting selling, and a huge barrier is data analysis. Sales reps have more than enough tools to utilize, but these tools should be glance tools to add insightful data after they already have their good to great targets and customer intelligence readily available to them. A dedicated analyst can act as your front-line data aggregation specialist arming the sales team with relevant sales information.
2. Use what you have.
Instead of looking outside for the latest shiny tool, use the data that you have in-house first. Sales is a data hungry business, and without the right data, you get salespeople that will use intuition and guesswork to isolate who they think will be their best prospect. If sales is supplied with timely and relevant data it will free them up to form analysis paralysis and let them focus on educating your new prospects on the value of your tools.
The sales stack should be used in a way that a sales organization can get near instant value at any point in the sales cycle, and tools should be in place to add that data value at each step along the way. Research tools are great but we should also add importance to mid and late cycle sales intelligence to make sure that we are utilizing the data we have at the right spots.
3. Increase your Sales Data IQ with Metrics.
It’s time to start peeking under the covers for data you may not be using and rethinking what sales metrics are. Most sales organization are awesome at metrics, but this falls into the data-in category and is rarely used to add value to the sales team outbound efforts.
If you are a metrics driven organization there should always be a comprehensive understanding of why metrics are important based on fact so you can educate the sales team on value, and use metrics in a way to help sales teams. After all, 6 calls to good quality prospects are better than 100 outbound calls to poor quality prospects.
Metrics can help you understand your business and when applied correctly can start to add predictability into the sales cycle. If you know that a certain type of client or deal size has a greater percentage of not closing based on your previous metric data, you should put them into a higher touch category so you can foster that business.
4. Look at your sales process.
You’ve invested in the tools and the training, but is your sales process data ready? Most sales teams focus heavily on pipeline and business development efforts and rely on the same process they originally developed with very little change to the recipe. The new over educated buyer along with ever changing buying patterns and new competition should have you looking at your sales process and seeing where you can apply data at each step along the cycle.
We also want to remove data as a barrier. As I mentioned most sales reps are using information as a front loaded information source about prospects which means the rest of the process may not be as data friendly as you need it to be. Sales may not like tracking how many calls they make or adding more and more details to Salesforce but they are absolutely open to having relevant data delivered that will help them close their opportunity.
Adding data to your sales process is not something you can forget any longer, it is a crucial element to maximizing your sales organization’s potential and required to fully understand what’s happening in your sales ecosystem.
5. Move toward Predictive Sales
You’ve got lots of data from marketing, sales, support, product, CRM, social sources amongst others. All of this data has amazing insights that are ready to be of value when combined and presented intelligently, so why aren’t you using an aggregated view and the data you already have to predict your sales outcomes?.
The simple truth is that we have layered our sales organization with tool after tool, and after time we have so many tools that different levels of insight it becomes overwhelming to get a consistent view of intelligence. It’s now time to look at aggregating intelligence in a way that can combine relevant data sets to produce predictive views into our business as well as prescribe actions that help our sales organization succeed.
This multi-source customer intelligence data can lead you down a road where you remove the guesswork from your sales process and have a data-backed prescription on who you should be targeting and what the data says the best outcomes are.
Sales is a data-hungry business and one which has been underserved in most sales organizations and sorely needing updating. More tools or training are typically not the correct answer when we have the resources to turn our sales teams into predictable sales and data-driven sales force by using the massively data-rich environments we have created over the last few decades.
If you polled every fortune 500 company, you know the ones with 10’s of thousands of sales resources, and the ones who spend billions of dollars on sales tools and process improvements how many data scientist are dedicated to their sales teams can you imagine what the number would be? I’m guessing the answer would be fairly low which is amazing considering the data-rich environment we are now selling into. It is crucial we get more data-driven in sales.
Omniom is a data-driven sales and process improvement consulting services company located in Phoenix Arizona who specializes in increasing new revenue streams by utilizing data science tools and methodologies.
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