The Crawl, Walk, Run Approach To Improving Sales Analytics

Let’s assume for a moment that you are a head of sales or sales operations for your company.  You just spent months researching, buying, configuring and implementing an awesome sales analytics solution.  You have rolled it out to the team and have skilled up everyone on how to use it.  Everyone has dashboards galore and gosh are the dashboards really great looking.  Management is totally pumped that now they will have the insight they need to really make sound business decisions. You expect a big impact on performance in terms of reps closing more deals faster.  You are on your way.

Fast forward now 4-6 months.  Management is getting a bit frustrated.  They have not seen the near-term improvement they expected.  More deals are not closing faster.  In fact, management is asking for even more data to understand why, as the data they have does not seem right.  You have pushed your reps as far as you can in terms of forcing them to use the tools and leverage the analytics, but they too are frustrated.  They don’t have the time to use the fancy tool, look at the good-looking dashboards or even understand what the dashboards are telling them.  They barely have enough time to use their CRM system and the other 15 tools they have been given.

Sound familiar?  It should.  In CSO Insights’ 2015 Sales Performance Optimization Study, CSO states that “this year’s figure reflects the lowest level of CRM adoption in ten years.”  With all of the apps, the data, the fancy dashboards, how can this possibly happen?  If your sales performance data is coming from your CRM and CRM adoption is low, can you really make accurate business decisions from that data?  Simple answer is no.  

Think back 10 years when everyone was touting the three keys to successful sales performance – people, process and technology. Well, in these past few years, the people and the process took a back seat to the technology. Getting an app will fix everything we were told. Well, what about making sure the people have the right skills, they follow a successful process and they have the overall knowledge to do their jobs well?

Selling requires people. In most cases, selling takes at least two people – a buyer and a seller. Every human is unique and can’t be expected to do everything the same, know everything and be predictive. If that was the case, we would all be robots. So here is the ugly truth:

  1. Before you can trust any analytics you have to get your CRM adoption improved. You have to make sure reps are working on the right opportunities, those opportunities are in the right stages, and they have the right deal values and accurate close dates. These are the 4-rights to accurate pipeline and forecast management.
  2. Reps have to follow a process. Sales processes still matter. Just try tossing your process out the window for a few weeks, use nothing and see what happens. There has to be a standard in your company by which analysis and insights can be derived. The process has to take into consideration buyer and seller activities. It has to be flexible enough to change with change. Because change happens fast and frequently.
  3. People have to be accountable. In order to be accountable they need knowledge and the understanding of why they need to do things by standards. They need more knowledge about how to be successful in your company, selling your products and services. Managers have to be held accountable for holding their people accountable for running your business the right way.

Tackling these challenges is totally doable. But everything can’t be solved in one shot. Take a crawl, walk, run approach and focus first on your process and people. Don’t just buy technology and think that all will be right with the world. Technology is part of this solution, but not the first step.

Crawl: Start with understanding your sales and forecast process, how your people use the process, what data needs to be recorded, how your customers purchasing process impacts your sales team and what behaviors will impact the process. Involve your sales people, managers and customers in this step. They have the answers. Listen to them and tweak or re-build your process so that it works for your people and your customers. Integrate the process into your CRM in a very simple way that requires the least amount of data entry possible by the sales rep. Find out the data/insights reps and frontline managers need in order be successful. Build the necessary reports in your CRM system or get the necessary BI tool based on the requirements from your sales team. It’s critical to look at the BI or reporting tool AFTER you have updated your sales and forecast process and know your requirements for reporting.

Walk: Roll the solution you developed in the Crawl stage out to a larger group. Follow the same monitor and tweaking steps you used in Crawl. Train, measure and tweak again. Focus on front-line managers to ensure they hold the line on accountability. The managers are the key to accountability.

Run: Open it up to all groups. Train, measure, tweak and sustain. Again, focus on front-line managers to sustain accountability. Always be measuring and monitoring at each stage in the process and be on the lookout for behaviors that degrade process and data quality. Remember that change happens and happens fast and frequently. It’s a constant battle that requires consistent measurement and management.

Don’t attempt to take any short cuts. Make sure you get help and surround yourself with people who have successfully done this before. They will help you to step over the hidden land mines and help you to keep your project on course. Going it alone without an advisor or consultant will dramatically increase your risk of failure. So remember to crawl, then walk, then run. Something we have all done before.