Sales analytics are supposed to make everything about your sales system more effective. Companies that market sales analytics technologies love to tout its benefits, from providing greater “insights” to promoting “optimization” of the pipeline.
We do it too. We use words like “insights” and “leveraging metrics” to describe the benefits you’re supposed to gain from using our data analysis technologies.
But what if amid all the big talk, your analytics are actually missing the whole point?
The reality is that, despite massive advances in available technologies, most sales teams continue to lag in performance. We, as an industry, just keep falling behind.
This chart from Tamara Schenk’s latest CSO Insights Paper, The Growing Buyer-Seller Gap demonstrates just how badly we’re failing to make progress, and for how long:
Here’s why analytics are failing us
Here at Membrain, we often talk about the importance of aligning strategy, methodology, and technology, and how if you don’t have a good strategy, the rest is pointless. I won’t bore you with yet another blog on the topic. Instead, let’s look at what happens when you do align strategy and process, but the analytics still don’t give you what you need.
One: They show only a snapshot in time
Most sales analytics focus on pie charts and speedometers with KPIs like pipeline size, number of new deals, and activity metrics. While these analytics can be useful in identifying problem areas, they represent snapshots in time, and therefore fail to show progress or stagnation over time.
Two: They make comparisons difficult
Most sales reports fail to provide opportunities to compare against base lines, against other individuals in the organization, or against averages. Without a simple basis for comparison, it can be hard to identify which areas of improvement are most needed, or to identify the cause of problems, and to coach accordingly.
Three: They focus on lagging indicators
Data like win rates and sales cycles are important indicators of the effectiveness of a salesperson’s efforts, but they only show a problem after the problem has already resulted in poor performance. Most sales analytics don’t provide enough functionality to look at leading indicators such as progress through the sales process, the quality of leads in the pipeline, and other factors that can be predictive of success and therefore guide coaching efforts more proactively.
Prescription: Analytics to actually support sales effectiveness
The wide availability of business analytics tools ought to be making our sales teams more effective. The fact that they’re not means we’re doing it wrong. Some of that is the fact that we aren’t getting the basics right–strategy, process, methodology, and coaching.
Some of it is the fact that our analytics aren’t showing what they should be showing for sales managers to do a better job at coaching. This latter fact is something we’ve worked hard at Membrain to address. Our analytics interface provides several critical concepts and capabilities that makes lives easier for sales managers and helps sales leaders to improve their strategy, process & methodology.
One: Show trend lines over time
Our analytics interface makes it easy to view trends over time for each salesperson, and for each metric that is tracked.
Screenshot from inside Membrain of a performance timeline for a salesperson, showing sales amounts from Jan 2017 to December 2017 as a trend line, compared to another salesperson who was hired at the same time.
Trend lines allow coaches to very quickly see whether an individual’s performance is improving, declining, or remaining stagnant over time. Any metric that is tracked can be viewed as a trend line, making it possible to easily drill down to the causes and impacts of each salesperson’s trend.
Screenshot from inside Membrain of several analytics timelines for two salespeople, including win rate, average deal size, sales cycle, appointments, phone calls, and proposals, from January through December 2017, shown as trend lines. The dotted line represents the goal (when set) for the respective KPI.
In these examples, a coach can quickly see that most of the salesperson’s activities and performance indicators have been improving over time, while sales cycles have remained flat and proposal activity has varied. It also becomes clear that one salesperson is outperforming the other because of a higher average deal size - despite lower activity levels. These insights make it possible for the coach to zero in on who to coach about what.
Two: Make it easy to compare trends
In addition to watching trends for an individual rep, our interface makes it simple to compare trend lines among salespeople, or against an average, base line, or goal.
This allows a coach to quickly evaluate how an individual is performing on key metrics against other individuals, or against the average or goal. Because the trend lines can be established for any metric that is measured, this makes it possible to see where the rep most needs improvement against their peers or goals, and makes coaching more effective.
Three: Focus on both leading and lagging indicators
We wanted Membrain to support proactive coaching, so we built it to provide insights into leading indicators, in addition to the lagging indicators that most analytics engines track.
Depending on your strategy, process, and methodology, our fully customizable analytics allow you to track specific activities, lead quality, progress through the process, and many other KPIs that impact your team’s effectiveness.
All tracked indicators can be viewed as trend lines and in comparison with others, making it possible for coaches to easily identify core issues and obstacles, and to coach each salesperson effectively and proactively. Everything is automatically generated out of the box, with no configuration needed.
If your analytics aren’t making it easy for your coaches to lead their teams more effectively, and for your salespeople to improve performance, then they’re missing the point.
Check out our coaches corner feature to see how real coaches are using our trend lines and other analytic capabilities to diagnose problems and actually improve performance on their teams.
I’d also be glad to walk you through a personal demonstration to see how it might help your team. Book a time with me here.