We think that there’s a simple mantra that should underlie sales performance coaching: “Data should lead to insight, insight should lead to action, action should lead to behavior change and ultimately, business results.”
But with all the noise around big data and analytics, how does a manager really get focused?
All this data flying around us can be a double-edged sword. Think about it. We now have the ability to capture scores of data in ways that we really weren’t able to before; but, then what happens? You can make action challenges.
Do sales managers really know what pieces of data are most valuable? Can managers use the data in a consistent way to identify actions to take? Can data be used to prove or disprove whether or not a required behavior change among the sellers is truly occurring?
To turn data into insights so that managers know what type of sales coach you need to provide, there first needs to be some company philosophy around the organization’s management cadence. In other words, how do sales managers approach pipeline and opportunity inspection? What reports do they write? Is there a cadence to when these events occur? How exactly do the sales managers provide direct coaching?
If you structure your CRM with the sales process – that is, define stages, activities, sales completion milestones, and sellers update your opportunities accordingly – then you might use data to help indicate several things.
Data, Insight, Action.
For example, let’s think about the health of a sales pipeline. Do you have enough revenue in your pipeline to hit your quarterly or annual sales targets? Remember – data, insight, action.
So, you might structure your data so that you can see how much total revenue exists at each stage in the process, apply a weighting based on win odds, and then derive a potential yield. With knowledge of your typical sale cycle length and all the data points, the data starts to provide… insight! The calculations hint at whether or not you are in a position to hit your periodic targets.
We have the data and the insight. Now, what about action?
Well, if you’re near the end of a target period and you’re sure about your goal, you may coach actions around your sellers needing to upsell or cross-sell in existing deals. You may coach actions around them trying to pull in deals that were expected to close the next quarter.
Now, what about using data to look at the health of an individual deal?
For example, data can help tell you the average number of days it normally takes for a standard opportunity to move through stages of your sales process. Then, you can track the exact number of days a deal lives at each stage. Again, the data starts to provide… You guessed it – insight. It could indicate if a deal has spent an excessive amount of time at one stage. That is, it might be stuck.
So, what about the action? Based on the stage of the stall, specific activities may need to be improved. You may need to reposition tangible value for the prospect, ensure that they even have a business problem uncovered, or get access to the decision-makers. You get the idea.
Furthermore, similar data might show you that one of your sellers who has had six deals over the last seven months, keeps getting stuck in the same stage. Let’s talk about the insight.
Here, it might actually be an overall skill deficiency. The action? Give them specific skills training. For example, if you’re constantly getting stuck near the needs definition stage, maybe they need consultative sales conversation training.
The point is, data is your friend. There’s a big “if” though. IF it’s structured in such a way that it provides you useful insight, then insight can lead you to specific coaching advice and action. Ultimately, the desired behavior occurs and of course, business results will follow.