Where Traditional Sales Business Intelligence Falls Short in Creating Change
Reporting dashboards. They’re everywhere. They paint the walls of executive board rooms, they’re at the center of forecasting and budgeting discussions, and they sit persistently on the computer monitors of most managers.
They say, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” And trust us, there aren’t many who would disagree with that in our 21st century, data-driven world. But this obsession with sales metrics, and the visibility into those metrics, has led us to neglect the very reason we set out for that visibility: Improvement.
Take this scenario for example:
Jane, the Chief Revenue Officer of a global company, is responsible for 25% growth in new sales this coming year. She communicates this goal down the chain of command, from her national sales directors, to her frontline sales reps.
To improve visibility into this goal’s progress at each level, the company established a policy to make data entry mandatory: Enter everything you did into the CRM or you don’t get paid.
Each quarter, sales leadership reviews these metrics, so the managers continue with their weekly reviews of each rep’s pipeline in order to report from the field. The national directors advise their managers to focus on selling the new product line, and the managers try to steer their reps in that direction. Due to this structure, the recommendations for course corrections trickle down from the top.
Sounds logical, right? Well, let’s check back in.
Most of the reps seemed receptive to the course correction ideas, but when it came time to engage with a prospect, they found themselves reverting to what is comfortable and easy to talk about: the old product. As the second quarter ends, sales managers realize they’ve become broken records. Each pipeline review is an uphill battle as they try to persuade their reps to focus on the new product line.
So, where did Jane go wrong? Nowhere, she just fell a little short.
Top down management and hierarchical reporting are fundamental in the business world, but are simply not enough in today’s hyper competitive landscape that all businesses face. It takes weeks, sometimes months, for these course corrections to be communicated effectively. With agility at such a premium in today’s world, that just doesn’t cut it
Now, no one is telling you to get rid of those dashboards—almost all of them are necessary. But they should only be used for strategic planning and direction. In addition, sales reps need a firm level of tactical support to execute this strategy. In other words, if Jane is looking for 25% revenue growth and relying on new product initiatives to get her there, relying on managers to bludgeon their reps over the head until the new product is sold is an archaic way to approach the problem.
To truly effect change on an organizational scale, each individual sales rep (who we all know is a creature of habit) must feel equipped to change him or herself. And with the modern workforce slowly adopting the millennial mindset, we must offer this equipment with a quick, easy, and consumable flavor.
What does this equipment entail and how should we deliver it?
If you want your existing reps to sell a new product or focus on a new vertical, they need to know how. If you want new reps to sell an older product or focus on an existing vertical, they need to know how. But in the world of instant gratification and shortening attention spans, they need to be served this information in bite sized chunks, in the rep’s moment of need. They need just-in-time pieces, rather than 6-month-long fire hoses of information and training. Also, the information must find the rep, because the reality is that most reps don’t want to change what they’re doing— never mind go look for that change.
- Real-time guidance.
Retrospective course corrections are great, and they can happen every Friday at those pipeline reviews. But real-time guidance to steer the ship proactively is a true game changer. In context coaching, suggested next steps, and hyper-relevant training reinforcement materials can help the rep move the deal forward on Monday, making that Friday pipeline review, and those quarterly reviews, a lot more productive for everyone.
- Buyer Relationship Intelligence.
We’re constantly searching for objective visibility into what our reps are up to, but wouldn’t it be nice if your rep had that same visibility into how their buyers were engaging. For a moment, think of your rep as a sales manager, and think of that rep’s champion buyers across the pipeline as their sales team. Painting a clear, objective, and comprehensive picture about each of these buyers is critically important for reps to maintain their pipeline. Because at the end of the day, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.
In sum, the argument regarding sales strategy implementation methods should never be “top-down vs. bottom-up.” Instead, it should ask what tools and information can be implemented from the bottom-up to support initiatives that come from the top-down.