Five new ways of thinking about sales performance in 2016
It’s easy to point to data and say with hand on heart that it has the potential to embolden any sales team, but the reality is that data often reveals the need for teams to stick to fundamentals and focus on ensuring that every step of the sales process is being done effectively.
Before the days of big data, the only metric salespeople were managed around was how much business was closed. It was only at the end of the month sales meeting where analysis was provided, but by then it was too late. Thanks to useful real-time data, KPIs, and sales pipelines that can be easily course corrected, the dreaded end-of-the-month dress-down can be a thing of the past.
Going into 2016, the modern sales leader is armed with an unprecedented level of tools for success. While closed sales will remain one of the most important end results for all sales people, today companies look to a variety of sales metrics and activities to hold salespeople accountable. Even though closed business will still define how a person gets paid, these five themes will bring new levels of insight and performance for teams in 2016.
• Smarter reliance on CRMs: CRM systems are the underlying database for customer interactions. However, when you can report on anything, you try to report on everything and nobody knows what to do. Starting in 2016, you’ll see CRM systems bring prescriptive recommendations to salespeople, sales managers, marketing leaders, and executives. If sales are on track this quarter, but the sales team hasn’t been prospecting enough, your CRM system will alert you proactively that next quarter’s sales target is in jeopardy. No more pulling a CRM report of what happened last month and discovering data points that leave you feeling, “I wish I would have known that three weeks ago when I could have done something about it!”
• Better sales performance CRM layers: CRM systems like Salesforce.com were initially designed to focus on being a solution for sales team. Years went by without a lot of innovation to help salespeople and sales managers be more effective. Much of the innovation happened in marketing with the creation of marketing automation systems like Marketo, Eloquoa, Pardot and HubSpot. We’re moving into an era where innovation is now helping sales organizations; companies like Yesware, InsideSales, SalesLoft, Tinderbox, and LevelEleven are the new standard add-ons to a sales CRM system. Expect to see more consolidation here.
• Understanding what a modern sales leader should look like: In years past, a sales leader was all about steak dinners, closing meetings, and a big Rolodex of contacts. They were high on energy, high on optimism, and everybody’s friend. One-on-ones with salespeople were squarely focused on reviewing what’s closing this month and then the meeting was over. In 2016, a sales leader will know that input (e.g., client meetings, web demos, proposals sent) drive the output (closed business). They see marketing and sales as a process where each step needs constant review and optimization, and CRM is the underlying infrastructure. As a result, you’ll start see more sales leaders coming from unexpected backgrounds in engineering, finance, and operations.
• Knowing that creating a prize fighter takes more than one person: It’s easy to remember the lead character in the movie Rocky: It was Rocky Balboa. Rocky wasn’t Rocky without Mickey Goldmill. Who’s Mickey Goldmill? That was Rocky’s trainer. Sales is like preparing for a fight. To be in good physical shape you need goals, you need discipline, and you need to make the right choices throughout the training process. Without a good trainer, or a good training plan, it’s hard to stay on track. This is very similar to being in sales. That you need to have goals, discipline, and make the right choices about where and how you spend your time; all of which will lead towards closing more business. The more sales leaders think like Mickey Goldmill, the more often the sales team will succeed. A great trainer won’t just keep asking you to get on the scale and report how much you weigh. A great trainer will help you figure out a plan to achieving your goals. They’ll break it down to teach you the specific exercises you need to do, how you can modify your diet, encourage you to try things that are uncomfortable, and help hold yourself accountable week-after-week.
• Simplicity yields surprising results: We’re inclined to believe that with more data around us, we know more and can do more. That’s only partially true. In reality, we can do more by refining our focus and utilizing data to do better in driving sales. We’re going to see a return to doing a few things well, and that includes providing sales teams with a smaller, more manageable list of KPIs that will reduce confusion, increase performance, and gel with a team’s collective goals.
We’re entering a vibrant new area of well-armed, well-informed sales teams, in part due to better prepared sales leaders relying on a mix of data, practical experience, and the ability to provide guidance and leadership as they go.