Sales management has been a data- and performance-driven profession for decades, but only recently has technology caught up to the real needs of sales managers. Today, true data collection and performance analytics can become a core part of the sales management process. Thanks to powerful CRM data capture technologies and sales dashboards, sales leaders have incredible visibility into the health of their sales pipeline, opportunity drivers, and individual performance. This allows them to assemble a sales management system that scales their abilities, makes opportunity creation easier and ultimately leads to goal achievement.
For a leader who is looking to optimize their data-driven decision making, or just getting started with analytics-powered sales management, where should they start?
Before we get into the different management process metrics, we should define a sales management process:
A sales management process is a series of steps that a sales leader follows and maintains to manage their sales team. These steps include hiring new salespeople, overseeing the sales pipeline, monitoring sales activity, sales coaching and more. Innovative sales leaders find ways for many of these steps to be scalable and empowered with at-a-glance metrics that free up their mental focus for high-value deals.
A sales management system can be assembled from a collection of processes that recur on an annual, monthly, and weekly basis. Annually, a sales leader needs to set and plan for quota goals, staffing, and sales enablement. Monthly, leaders should be focusing on monitoring opportunity growth and pipeline health leading to quarterly goals, and weekly they need to invest in their team with regular coaching and 1:1 to drive skill growth and regular learning.
A data-driven sales management process folds in three sources of data on the sales team – activity metrics, opportunity performance metrics, and conversation metrics. Truly innovative sales teams are finding ways for artificial intelligence to draw on all three of these sources to empower their decision-making.
Each of these sources of sales team data is absolutely crucial to informed sales management. While they are each powerful on their own, managers can truly maximize their impact when drawing on their combined insights.
One of the most informative leading indicators of sales pipeline health are the sales team’s activity metrics. This can include the raw numbers of how many dials and emails a sales development rep has made in a day, or how many demos an account executive has given over the course of a week.
Managing strictly on activity metrics alone would be a mistake, as just telling reps to “do more!” without the other parts of a healthy sales management process generally gives diminishing returns. Including coaching and opportunity results in the mix is a great start towards driving more success long-term.
Opportunity metrics are the oldest sales key performance indicator, and answers pivotal questions for sales rep performance, such as how many opportunities are generated over time, how many are in the pipeline at any given moment, and revenue resulting from close rate.
These opportunity performance metrics are the heart of all other data sources that a sales team tracks. Conversation metrics and activity metrics are only meaningful when tied back to revenue performance.
Conversation intelligence and AI-powered sales coaching are some of the most innovative and cutting-edge technologies available to sales teams today. These solutions transcribe sales conversations into data, allowing sales teams to monitor etiquette metrics such as talk-to-listen ratio, average monologue length, and more.
Traditionally, sales conversations have been a black box for businesses, meaning that leaders had very little or no insight whatsoever into what about sales conversations tied back to revenue or opportunities. Now, with the advent of these toolsets, management can truly uncover what makes closers successful and use that to guide their team.
Sales leaders are best served to incorporate analytics at any step in the process, but there are best practices for rolling these metrics out with a sales team.
Sales performance metrics can quickly become meaningless if the data they are based on is incomplete. When some calls are logged in Salesforce, but not all of them, or some emails make it into the CRM, but not records of meetings or demos, it is not only difficult for team members to have a true view of the customer, it is nearly impossible for managers to know what activities are generating pipeline or where underperformers are falling short.
Employing robust sales solutions with tight Salesforce integrations and CRM data capture such as a great sales dialer and sales sequence platform are pivotal to ensuring 100% of your sales activity makes it into the CRM, leading to rock-solid activity reports from day one.
Once you have the fundamental tools in place for accurate sales activity reports, you can naturally set metrics that tie back to the key KPI for sales performance: revenue. As you identify what activities, activity levels, and channels are most effective at filling your sales pipeline, you can set the mandatory minimums team members need to hit to ensure your goals are reachable.
Once you have set up your minimum metric performance benchmarks, it is extremely important to have them at the tip of your fingers to monitor your pipeline and prioritize your time. Your sales dashboards should show you how your reps perform against their metrics on a daily basis, as well as run key calculations that you need for executive conversations, such as call-to-opportunity ratio, activity to win ratio, and pipeline forecasts based on these activities.
Any healthy sales management process involves regular coaching sessions in a structured, meaningful way that steps beyond pipeline reviews and becomes something much more valuable. As time goes on, more and more of these coaching sessions are going to incorporate data-backed insights that drive results.
Your high performers probably need the least amount of coaching, and the middle performers on your team represent the most opportunity. Here, your conversation intelligence insights into what makes your closers tick can inform how you guide middle-of-the-road salespeople to become stars.
As your team executes on the mission you have given them, it is helpful to feed them with insights that make their lives easier and help drive performance. These insights can come from many sources – the Salesforce State of Sales Report, the annual TOPO Sales Development Benchmark, or Revenue.io’s own 2020 Sales Prospecting Performance report. These third-party sources can give your team insights on the best time of day to call, when to send an email, and how to adjust their conversation tactics based on real metrics.
No matter how advanced or new your sales management process is, there is no shortage of opportunities for incorporating data into the mix. Sales management decisions are only going to become more data-driven and more streamlined as time goes on, allowing managers to focus on what matters most: leading the team, powering pipeline growth and helping individual sellers become as successful as they can be.
Alex Lamascus is the Sales Content Manager at RingDNA. He has previously scaled and managed an inside sales team and has supported B2B sales in various industries for the past 5 years. When not writing or buried in the latest sales book, he can be found repairing vintage turntables in his garage or honing his grilling skills.