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January 26, 2017
Reinventing Opportunity to Close (Part 3): Making Pipeline Investigation Easy for Sales Managers
Artificial intelligence is the key to pipeline management and reclaiming the 1:1.
[Editor’s note: This post is the third in our “Reinventing Opportunity to Close” series for sales leaders.]
We kicked off our series two weeks ago introducing the premise that the opportunity-to-close (OTC) process is a lot like the movie Groundhog Day — sales people feel like they live the same day over and over again. In each post, we show you how emerging technology is helping different members of the sales team to get a better handle on OTC and break the Groundhog Day cycle once and for all.
Last week we examined how AI-driven solutions are simplifying OTC for sales reps. This week, we explore how those same solutions are creating better pipeline visibility for managers and fueling more productive 1:1s.
Until recently, sales managers have squandered much of their limited 1:1 time getting a handle on what’s going on in their team’s opportunities rather than on coaching and closing support. That’s because data collection remains a tedious, manual process for many sales organizations. Time-strapped reps fail to log their activity, CRMs are seldom up to date, and managers have little if any visibility into the true status of deals.
Unfortunately, the job description for most sales managers starts to sound more like that of a private investigator than a leader or coach. They make phone calls, question people of interest, retrace the steps of reps, and often have to weigh the veracity of highly subjective eyewitness accounts. They even engage in what Gartner calls "stare and compare" analysis of stale data to uncover the truth about which opportunities are likely to close and which belong on the back burner. All of this evidence gathering can make 1:1s seem like an interrogation instead of a strategy session. It also wastes a ton of time.
Data Science Delivers the Deal Progress Data that Sales Managers Crave
New platforms powered by artificial intelligence enable today’s sales managers to forego the fact-finding missions and focus their time and energy where it’s better spent: on pipeline strategy and the right opportunities. In previous posts, we’ve touched on how algorithm-driven guided selling and sales acceleration tools are automating data collection for sales organizations and that’s a big part of the equation, but it’s only one part.
Because the latest sales technology can automatically harvest data points from myriad sources, including CRM, calendar, email, and more, managers have more facts at their fingertips — real-time prospect engagement data that’s reliable and accessible 24-7. That means managers no longer have to spend their days chasing reps for deal updates or manually splicing together cumbersome spreadsheets. The platform does it for them. And it does more than simply collect data points, it applies machine learning to evaluate historical deal performance and provide predictive insights so managers can better identify risk and make informed decisions about where to focus and invest their time.
Making the Most of Valuable 1:1 Coaching Sessions
The manager/sales rep relationship remains the cornerstone of a successful OTC process and productive 1:1s are a critical component. Guided selling and sales acceleration tools provide sales managers with instant insight into which deals are moving, stalled, or at-risk, so limited 1:1 coaching time can be spent on key opportunities.
Now, instead of grilling reps on every single deal, managers can focus on the opportunities with the greatest potential — the largest, the at-risk, and the upside deals that data science says can be brought in early. And, because managers don’t have to waste 1:1 time filling in the missing data gaps, they can skip the play-by-play rehash and go straight to strategy.
The ability to get sales reps and managers on the same page is the key to killing quotas and closing business faster. Next week, we’ll examine how predictive analytics solutions are improving forecast accuracy and enabling execs to call their numbers with confidence.