Most principles used in B2B selling today have been in place since the late nineteenth century and coincide with the rise of large mass manufacturing firms. National Cash Register, Westinghouse Electric and others created large, organised sales forces and with them, standardised sales and sales management techniques. It was innovation in technology that drove innovation in sales.
History is now repeating itself. Predictive analytics technology is driving genuine innovation in the form of predictive sales analytics – a move that is shifting the new normal of what the B2B sales process looks like.
Predictive analytics is an estimated $5 billion market that has seen $1.2 billion in VC funding specific to sales analytics. Startups are sprouting like mushrooms after a fresh rain with “why didn’t I think of that?” applications. The reason? There’s a strong economic case for deploying predictive sales analytics.
Indeed, companies that don’t get with data-driven sales and sales management will in effect be sending their sales reps naked into sales calls (and managers naked into board meetings).
Here are 5 new areas where sales analytics can clothe you in data insight and propel the industry in the 21st century.
1. Predictive Forecasting. Forecasts are what drive business planning yet forecast accuracy is a persistent problem. Even with a CRM in place, companies lose significant time creating and rolling-up company-wide sales forecasts. Compounding the problem is that forecasts are based on human judgment—instead of what the data tells us is predictable—resulting in inaccuracies. You can’t optimize operational results if you’re basing decisions on naked assumptions. Aviso applies predictive analysis to sales data making it possible to roll-up sales forecasts across an entire organisation in minutes. Executives and front-line sales can make better decisions based on hard data.
2. Sales Enablement One benefit of sales analytics technology is that it can facilitate the alignment of sales and marketing (another age-old problem) and fulfill the promise of Sales Enablement. For example, Highspot offers what they call Content Genomics™ a proprietary technology that analyses the DNA of sales content across the organisation, tracking how it has evolved and making it possible to accurately measure its performance. The end result is that marketing has the insight needed to produce content that drives engagement and revenue.
3. Customer Lifecycle Intelligence SalesPredict offers predictive scoring solutions for B2B sellers to uncover insights about prospects that wouldn’t be possible without data analytics. The system shows sales managers who will buy, who will buy more, and who will churn. Using that information, teams can uncover hot prospects hidden in a CRM system, fine-tune pitches, prioritise sales calls, see which leads are most likely to close, get the details needed to close them and ultimately improve conversion rates throughout the customer lifecycle.
4. Sales Performance Monitoring Having had a 25 year career in sales, I know that moment all too well when sales projections are submitted and the question is asked, “Are you confident you can get it done?” Of course managers respond with a resolved "YES” even while wondering if they can really make it happen.
Qstream has an interesting approach to the issue of “keeping it real” when assessing true sales capabilities. The company does this by engaging salespeople in fun, scenario-based challenges delivered to their mobile devices. A sophisticated analytics engine takes it from there, providing insights that are specifically actionable, and in turn, helping managers identify knowledge gaps and respond before revenue forecasts are negatively impacted. Gaps in knowledge are closed with tailored coaching and by the system pushing out new challenges fast and efficiently. The platform helps managers proactively identify and adapt to changing market conditions, competitive threats and opportunities.
5. Pricing What if you can lose fewer deals due to uncompetitive pricing and win more deals at profitable pricing; you’d get bigger revenue and bigger profits. If you have thousands (or millions) of products and as many customers, it’s tough to consistently win more profitable deals. Predictive data and pricing analytics like the one from PROS provide pricing guidance for every deal and reduce the need for “exception approvals” which slow deal momentum.
The bottom-line is that sales managers need to strip away outdated processes and welcome analytics technology as a way to achieve efficiencies and performance gains. The good news is the sales tech industry is providing a wide range of innovative options. Be warned, once you deploy and benefit from predictive sales analytics, you’ll feel naked without them.
By Nancy Nardin, President of Smart Selling Tools and expert on increasing sales productivity through the use of tools. She consults with many of the top sales productivity software vendors as well as end-user organizations looking to select the right tools.