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Sales Data, Insights, and the New Science of Selling


Originally posted by Conrad Bayer on LinkedIn Pulse.

Sales and marketing are rapidly changing. Marketing is automating many areas of upper funnel activities developing suspects into prospects, adapting to buyer personas and using multiple channels to guide potential buyers into the sales funnel.  Sales is also rapidly changing.  The influence of the marketing discipline is growing in importance for sales because of its focus on data, repeatable processes and analysis.  The discipline is also backed by a selection of tools that makes collecting sales data and analyzing it easier.  These tools improve the efficiencies of the sales team and significantly reduces the burden of recording sales data.  The result is a new generation of sales data hungry sales teams that want to understand what messaging is resonating with their buyers and being more responsive with those buyers.  These sellers are dynamically changing their processes based on real time data informing where to best invest their efforts.  This is not a new trend and its accelerating making it time for all sales professionals to take note and learn a few new things related to sales data.

A key difference for the sales discipline today is the use of engagement data to track the viability of every prospect.

Marketing tends to do this now as a matter of habit.  Every email campaign, social campaign, landing page performance and many other marketing actions are tracked and analyzed, often creating a lead score associated with the interactions suspects are having with your content.  They are analyzed at two levels.  How did the overall campaign perform in terms of the messaging and conversion rate and how did it impact the engagement of specific prospects?  This allows organizations to get smarter on their messaging with continual testing and also produce a list of prospects that are prioritized based on interest in your product or service.  It is a living and evolving system that further qualifies prospects while refining the precision of the communication process.  Amazing stuff.

Sales professionals need to embrace engagement tracking as a core element of their sales process.  They also need to extend engagement tracking to capture other channels like instant messaging (chat), voice calls, voicemails and live presentations. Essentially A|B test every communication element and channel. Today most organizations still focus on seller activity as a key determinant of success for their funnel.  This needs to change.  Engagement with your messaging and content whether it be presentations, or videos, or proposals, application interactions, conversations with your sales team define the likelihood that someone has come into their buying window.  The greater the engagement, the higher probability for a sale.  Also once the buyer enters that window it is critical for your sales team to be able to move quickly and also deliver a great experience to that buyer.

While the science and product support for these techniques is increasing, awareness and education within the sales discipline is still a challenge.  There are many sellers that are still flying blind in their daily activities.  We talk to many talented sales people every day that still think raw determination and activity are the biggest factors for success.  Gut feel and instincts dominate with a lack of real understanding on what emails are being read, whether they are being forwarded within the organization, how many calls or minutes are spent with a prospect or when the last time a real conversation happened. Conversion rates, average response times, lead scoring and even deal velocity are not well understood. Let alone the fact that certain words perform differently than others in creating a response from prospects. All sales professionals from junior inside sales reps to seasoned professionals need to understand these metrics, what and how to measure and improve on them.  We call it the Science of Sales.  It’s the most exciting thing to happen to the sales industry in decades.

So given you might be a sales professionals and you like the idea, how do you start to better capture and understand your prospect data?  This is the foundation for understanding the key factors that indicate a prospect is serious or whether they indicate that are still just browsing or not interested at all. There are many skills required to be a successful sales professional but being sales data driven and analytical is growing fast.  Here are a few things you can start doing now. 

  1. Start tracking everything – Data gathering is a critical element of learning and starts with tracking all of your communications.  Most sellers don’t like manually adding this information to CRM so you need to find ways to automate it.  It is simple to do and will pay many dividends.  Focus on not only tracking what you do,  what your prospects are doing and what words whether in email, voicemails or chat are getting them to interact. That is engagement tracking and it leads to prioritizing your pipeline.
  2. Structured messaging and processes – Creating finely tuned messaging and processes means you need to create some structure for both. Sending random messaging in random processes is not going to help you measure, iterate and improve your results.  This doesn’t need to be complicated.  Create a small number of email templates, voice mail templates, chat templates, opening scripts, powerpoint and demo videos. Base them on the task at hand and use them daily and track everything. Next create a workflow for each prospect profile.  How many emails, how many calls are you going to make? Focus on efficient call blocks. This workflow will make you more efficient but will also give you something to measure and evolve.
  3. Analyze your results and compare – Collecting sales data is the just the beginning.  Once you have it – you need to embrace it, analyze it and learn from it.  It will improve your results.  You will ask questions you have never asked before and you will be surprised by the answers.  Have fun with it.  We have customers that run internal contests to produce great messaging that rewards the winner with dinner or some reward but the whole organization wins because you start to use the most successful messaging. Other things to figure out include things like the times when you get most of conversations with prospects, what voicemails help get you email replies or call backs and tune how to get people to interact once they get into your content.  There are answers to these questions and they make a big difference.

Tracking your daily interactions with your prospects is the start.  Analyzing the sales data will inform you on interesting subtleties that can drive incremental improvements in your sales process that will increase conversations and shorten sales cycles. Your new insight that will pay many rewards through the life of your sales career.  Selling has moved from almost exclusively an art to something that is much more measurable and understandable.  Sellers that grasp these concepts and become great analysts of their sales data will develop into industry leaders in the not too distant future.

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