Sales managers have a tough job. Their success is tied directly to the amount of new business their team closes. So, they typically spend a significant amount of time with reps and in CRM systems trying to determine where deals stand and how they are flowing through the pipeline.
But, getting that clear picture is harder than it first appears. Most sales managers today create forecasts based on data in their CRM — which is usually of poor quality, from Sunday night calls with their reps, and from forced data entry by sales ops. And to make matters worse, this results in activity known as "shadow-CRM" — sending numerous spreadsheets back and forth over email. Unfortunately, this process is much more art than science and that's the reason why most sales forecasts are off.
There are bigger questions we should be asking ourselves. Is this really the most effective way for managers and reps to spend their time? More importantly, is the tried-and-true process to forecast and close deals really working?
Sales Reps Just Want to Sell
Sales reps want to do one thing — sell. Anything that slows them down is just another obstacle in the way of getting a signed contract and deposited commission check. One of the most time-consuming distractions for reps is keeping the status of each deal current in the CRM system, which pulls them away from selling. After being on the road all week, some reps return to the office only to spend an entire day plugging away at entering the data. That’s 20% of their week. I’ve heard them call it their “Sales Prevention Day.” Not only that, because reps hate entering data into CRM systems, the result is that the information that goes in is often inconsistent, incomplete, or inaccurate.
If the process — and the data used to plan and forecast — is flawed, then how can managers get the information that they vitally need to accurately forecast and guide teams? There is an answer, and it’s found in new advancements in data collection and business analytics.
Introducing Data Exhaust
As reps sell, they generate a staggering amount of data — if we just choose to capture it. Their emails, phone calls, meeting notes, calendar events, and even their travel through their territory can deliver powerful insight. This is just like what Amazon captures about our browsing as we shop or Google captures as we use their search, mail, or calendar tools. This is "data exhaust," literally data that is the natural result of simply living our lives.
Turning Fumes into Fuel
If we can capture this data exhaust and combine it with other information, like CRM or sales history, we get a more complete and realistic picture of exactly what is happening in the field. Because data exhaust is based on real human activity, and not someone’s report of their activity, it is automatically current and unbiased. Additionally, executives don’t need to rely on reports of how the meeting went and what the next step is; data exhaust creates an instant view into progress and next steps.
But, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the size and complexity of that data streaming out of a rep’s daily activities. That’s why data science and advanced analytics are required to help surface the right insights so that a sales manager can see in real time what’s going on in the field. It requires finding the right signals from many disparate sources of data, and connecting the dots across all of those signals. Analyzing the exhaust can shine a light on the deals that are most likely to close or bring into focus those that might be in trouble. It can highlight where deals can be optimized to close and which ones aren’t worth going after. And, more importantly, it gives sales reps more time to focus on the deals that are most likely close. Which is what both sales managers and sales reps want most.
Schedule a demo to see how our data science can help you close business. Then bookmark this blog for additional details about how we’re using data science to create competitive advantage for sales teams.