Chief Revenue Regrets: Relying on Reps to Provide Forecasting Deal Data

Todd Abbott is on a personal mission to significantly increase the dreaded 16 month tenure of CROs today. Throughout his three decades of experience running revenue organizations, he has seen the good — and plenty of the bad. In this series, , he will share his experiences, providing  other CROs and revenue leaders insights from his lessons learned. This piece will focus on the importance of activity capture.

Fact: Your sales reps, regardless of how great they are, will never deliver the level of hygiene required to give you confidence in your CRM data. Neither the quantity nor the quality. Not the depth nor the breadth. I know your pain; I was once in your shoes.

For the better part of my career as a CRO, I was frustrated with the quality of my CRM data. That made it difficult to assess the health of my funnel and have confidence in the  forecast that I was accountable to deliver. 

I tried both carrot and stick strategies—with each approach failing to change sales rep behavior and motivate them to take accountability for their CRM data hygiene. It is now quite clear to me that was not my reps’ fault. There simply is not enough value or ROI for them to invest the time necessary to deliver the quantity of CRM opportunity updates over the life of an opportunity. It’s time we all accept the fact that, despite the massive investment, our CRM systems are not an effective territory management tool for sales reps.  

Top Reps are the Worst at Pipeline Activity Capture — But We Need Their Data the Most

This issue is even more challenging when it comes to our most effective sales reps. This group tends to be the most adverse to the administrative burden our CRM systems place on them. Time that can be much more effectively spent engaging customers to close business.  

Additionally, we as leaders tend to give our best reps the latitude of poor funnel management habits because we trust them, and more importantly, we need them focused on closing deals. Yet, we are failing the rest of our teams when we do not have access to the sales strategies and activities. 

By understanding how they interact throughout the sales process, we can clearly see what works in action. Their engagement strategies and tactics are exactly what the field enablement and onboarding strategies of new reps should be based on. 

We all know who our best sales reps are, but do we really know what they are doing to be so effective? Most often, the answer to this critical set of analytics is no.

Transforming the Activity Capture Approach

Most sales organizations rely on their ops team, field enablement functions or outside consultants to interview top reps and analyze how they drive the sales process.  

I have implemented these strategies many times over my career as a CRO, and they have never truly delivered the level of insights needed to replicate across development plans and improve execution from the broader sales team. 

InisghtSquared's Activity Capture

We need a better approach. Fortunately, there are technology advancements now available to get the data without burdening the sales reps. Not only do you get the basic data you’ve always hoped reps would log, but you can get a much deeper level—full text exchanges, actual time stamps, meeting strategies, sales process details and more. 

Automated Activity Capture is a relatively new technology that captures all the emails, meetings, new contacts, file shares, and meeting transcriptions and then automatically updates the opportunity record in your CRM with these activities. 

There are a variety of solutions available that provide this functionality, but like all solutions, not all are created equally. 

  • Sales sequencing technologies that are common in tech stacks do a good job of capturing outbound engagement, but it’s more important to capture the prospect or customer engagement back to your team. Accounting for the email is not enough—you will also want the full text of how prospects are responding to your team.  
  • Simple, point solutions capture digital engagement based on the customer web domain name, but this approach will also capture non-business-related communication with contacts in the account, which can create privacy issues.  
  • Additionally, some solutions will capture sales rep activity but fail to extend the capture to others who touch deals such as the SE, Sales Specialist, Product Management, Marketing Teams and Sales Management.  

As more and more advanced Auto Activity Capture solutions hit the market, revenue organizations can get a deeper understanding around the analytics of your sales process through the quantitative analytics made possible by the expanded data captured. 

This technology will be a standard element of every Tech Stack in the near future, helping successful organizations digitally transform their sales process. 

Getting Started with Activity Capture 

So, how do you get started? To guide your activity capture strategy, we suggest incorporating several key requirements into your assessment, including:

  1. Email-Specific, Not Domain: Activity Capture must be based on the email of the specific customer contact in the CRM account record vs the domain name. A good system will only capture digital engagement from and to the customer contact’s specific email address. This eliminates any personal engagements with friends or family members within the prospect or customer. 
  2. Automatic Contact Detection: The system must detect a new contact related to an account, whether they are added to an existing meeting, or a new engagement through email. The system should use techniques that validate the email so as not add erroneous contacts to the database. 
  3. Ability to Enrich Contact Data: Once a contact is detected and added, there is often additional data that a rep may have access to. Many systems can then prompt the rep to confirm auto-updates and even supplement data for specific fields in the CRM system (such as role, buyer profile, etc.). This then facilitates further analytics of the engagement level by key profiles and enables marketing to be more effective by developing more comprehensive contact lists. All updates must sync back to CRM. Pay attention to how easy it is for the rep to update the additional information into CRM. 
  4. Full Team Capture, Not Just the Sales Rep: Your Reps are not the only ones who touch a deal. In fact, engagement by other roles in your organization can often produce significant signals and improve your win rate on a deal. With that in mind, consider whether or not your activity capture system is able to capture all additional data brought in by the supporting members of the revenue team: SEs, Product Management, Account Management and Sales Management update CRM records, and yet their engagement activity should also be incorporated into the CRM data set.
  5. Historic Data Analysis: Look for systems that are able to quickly provide analytics on your sales history. Advanced Activity Capture tools should be able to capture and enrich the CRM database with details from opportunities closed, won and lost over the last four quarters, at a minimum. This allows you to get a deep analysis of your sales process with the initial deployment, to provide machine learning analytics against your current funnel. 

10X the Data, 100X the Analytics

A robust activity capture solution that fulfills these requirements will typically enrich the data in the CRM opportunity record by a factor of ten. With this level of data, you are now in a position to go much deeper and get rich analytics at the engagement level. Finally, you can understand what happens differently throughout the sales cycles when you win vs. lose. 

Be mindful that you will now be capturing an immense quantity of data. It is a treasure trove that can generate insights that will transform your revenue process. This amount of data is too large for spreadsheets and traditional sales cycle analytics. The most successful teams are feeding this data into a machine learning engine to identify the specific engagement activities and specific points in your sales process that have the greatest impact on win rates.  

Todd Abbott is CEO at InsightSquared. Here our mission is to enable Revenue Leaders to take control of every step of the revenue process.

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