For certain sales managers the waning fiscal calendar brings to light the obvious potential that revenue targets will go unmet this year. And, it’s unclear which anticipation is worse: knowing that you have a shortfall but desperately hoping that your best reps and customers will come through for you – or having rosy forecasts that instill bullish confidence, only to discover too late that your reps’ knowledge and skills in key aspects of your sales process are inadequate – casting your entire forecast into doubt.
Most sales executives would agree that typical methods of tracking meaningful sales forecasts are both a science and an art, but certainly no guarantee of performance. Only by knowing deeply what your reps know, and are prepared to bring to every customer interaction, can you create new levels of confidence in your organisation’s ability to achieve (and exceed) forecast.
There’s no doubt that widespread adoption of CRM and Big Data approaches to business intelligence have changed the B2B sales function for the better, and it’s hard to imagine professional selling without them. Unfortunately, most sales innovation today is focused on automating and measuring activity, content or processes. It solves problems for sales and marketing organisations, but not necessarily for sales people, sales coaches -- or the customer. At the end of the day, we know CRM systems don’t close deals – your people do. Sales people remain the key to developing opportunities with the level of confidence and skill that today's savvy enterprise buyers demand.
The reality is that for enterprise sales managers, especially those with highly distributed teams, it’s effectively impossible to know what your reps really say and do when addressing a prospect. In 2015, we’ll see data-driven approaches emerging to address this. Solutions such as Qstream that provide insights on exactly what reps know and don’t know will become essential to understanding the likelihood that forecasts will be met, by region, product line, rep or any other way the organisation wants to assess key performance indicators for revenue growth.
Using aggregate data from scenario-based challenges delivered at regular intervals, these next-generation capabilities not only shore up rep knowledge, but have the capacity to instantly and continuously synthesize rep responses into sales fluency "heat maps.” These snapshots provide powerful, proactive insights into rep capabilities across a range of necessary skillsets, and help sales managers target and align the behaviors of their sales people to execute critical growth initiatives – before it’s too late.
Predictive analytics such as these can deliver three significant insights helpful in determining your ability to achieve forecast:
- Engagement and proficiency comparisons that provide continuous real-time management updates, comparisons and trends on sales force capabilities, within and across groups, as well as drill-down reports by rep, topic, territory, etc. These graphical snapshots may also offer prescriptive insights such as targeted coaching opportunities with integrated communication tools that let first-line managers take action instantly – and anticipate gaps that can compromise forecasts and revenue streams, or create other risks.
- Trending reports that can be tagged in any number of ways – by location, business unit, job title, expertise, training, tenure and more. Reports can be easily sorted on multiple dimensions by adding or updating tags on the fly to track relative changes in performance over time.
- Integration with existing corporate data for an impactful, high-level view that correlates proficiency data with other third-party data sources such as sales performance data from third-party systems for unique insights into the capabilities of your sales team.
Organisations that address the human side of sales performance to predict and advance sales team performance have the best of all worlds – the ability to spot trends proactively as made possible by technology, and to enhance the capabilities and behaviors of their most important business asset – sales people. For those certain sales managers, this could make this time next year so much brighter.
By Lisa Clark, Vice President of Marketing at Qstream. She has 20 years of experience building high-value software companies, brands and market share, including at Avid Technology and Centra Software. Connect with us via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+.