Sales analytics is becoming increasingly in vogue, a competitive necessity for companies looking to run their businesses better, using data. Unfortunately, many of these same organizations also adopt a plug-and-play, spray-and-pray mentality. Because of that strategy, very few sales teams actually maximize the value of their sales analytics efforts.
In order to get the full benefits of using sales analytics to help run your business in a way that produces an actual return on investment (ROI), companies must be smarter and more strategic from the very beginning of their data journey. How can they do so?
By following these six step-by-step keys to maximizing the value of sales analytics.
1) Identify the business pain you need to solve
Sales analytics should never be a luxury or a curiosity – if reduced to that, your sales analytics efforts will quickly become a cost center that is a bonus, rather than a business function that has real, tangible economic value. To avoid that, start by identifying the business pain or obstacles that you want sales analytics to help you solve.
If you struggle to manage your sales pipeline, perhaps you want to use sales analytics to track, in real-time, the progression of opportunities down the sales funnel. Then you can help your sales reps better prioritize which opportunities to actively work on. Or maybe you need analytics to tell you which reps are more productive than others, so you can devote more sales coaching effort to those less efficient and effective reps.
Whatever the business pain might be, make sure that they are critical challenges that, if solved using sales analytics, will lead directly to increased revenues or reduced costs. Prescribing sales analytics to solve a handful of very specific challenges will produce a greater and more obvious ROI.
2) Have a plan for how you want to implement sales analytics
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. That business-speak cliche might make you cringe, but it is incredibly apt when implementing sales analytics. Without a full-scale plan for implementation that covers all your bases, you will not get near the value you desire. Your implementation plan should include:
The process for getting the data in the first place. If your sales analytics will be pulling from various data sources – such as Salesforce.com, Quickbooks, ZenDesk, etc. – you need to make sure that all that data is clean. This means having a clear-cut process for all your employees to enter that data correctly and consistently.
How internal users plan to leverage that data information. Is there a dashboard they have access to that displays this information? Will there be a nightly or weekly email sent out with sales reports?
What type of training will be provided. You can’t expect your employees to just jump right into your sales analytics product and be well-versed immediately. Provide them the training and support they need.
What the goals are for getting involved with sales analytics. This might be the most important part of implementation. Each user should clearly understand the goals of using sales analytics. They should be able to tie in each direct process or report to contribute toward the end goal. Demonstrate how the individual use cases of sales analytics at all levels of the company will affect the company’s bottom line – not just individual outcomes.
3) Gain insights from data
It’s not nearly enough to just present the raw data that you got from your sales analytics software – you need to turn that data into a compelling narrative that tells a story about your goals, your business challenges and how you solve those pains. A lot of this can be positioned around a concept called statistical storytelling – data should tell you what happened, why it happened and what’s going to happen in the future, based on these historical precedents.
Your data should unveil actionable insights – information that guides your actions, which then drive a more efficient business process. To do so, there are three keys:
Make sure you understand what the data is saying. Misinterpreting your data will lead you down a rabbit hole of compounding bad decisions.
Make the whole process easy. If you have to jump through a million hoops (also known as exporting data to Excel for further analysis), sales analytics will have failed its purpose.
Make it contextual. Context is everything. Knowing that your sales pipeline count is at X this month doesn’t mean a thing until you take into consideration your sales pipeline efforts, the division of pipeline generating activities between your outbound prospecting and your marketing team, the quality of the opportunities being generated or the amount of pipeline you need to hit your quota. Provide a context for every bit of sales analytics that you report.
4) Measure everything
If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.
- Peter Drucker
Without measuring every aspect of your sales analytics efforts, you will not have the faintest clue whether its working or not in helping drive better business decisions. This means that everything should be measured against baselines and end goals – what it was when we started, what we hope it will be when we finish.
In measuring various parts of your sales process, you will be better positioned to figure out what works and what doesn’t. You can identify specific aspects that positively impact your bottom line and others that might be hurting it. You will have a much better idea of how to best allocate future resources.
5) Share that knowledge
We believe that sales analytics work best when it is totally democratized and transparent – every employee, from the CEO to entry-level sales reps, has access to the exact same data and sales reports. Knowledge gained should be knowledge shared.
Sales VPs, in particular, are at an interesting crossroads when it comes to working with sales analytics. The C-level executives and board members above them on the corporate hierarchy will want high-level reports that effectively portray the health of the company, in revenue and growth terms. Meanwhile, the Sales VP’s direct reports are the ones who will benefit most from sales analytics. From the data, they can learn which opportunities to prioritize, where bottlenecks need to be unlocked, and generally how to be a more productive sales team.
Again, context is hugely critical. Don’t just report raw numbers – provide helpful baselines and progress toward team or company goals.
6) Never stop innovating
Adopting sales analytics is already an innovative step that will put you ahead of your competitors…but don’t stop there! Once you have successfully implemented sales analytics, it’s time to dive in full-bore with an experimental and innovative mindset.
Make hypotheses and test them. Test the new results with new sets of variables. Give employees the freedom to innovate and experiment on their own – what, about their own specific sales process, can be improved with the actionable insights derived from data? Challenge your employees to think critically about how things can be done better. Ban the phrase, “This is how we’ve always done it,” from your employees’ vernacular. You now have all this powerful data right at your fingertips – it’s time to use that data to drive better business decisions.
Adopting and implementing sales analytics can really make your business stand out over its competitors…provided you use it correctly. Follow these six step-by-step keys to truly maximize the value of your sales analytics.