Author: <span class="vcard">Cien</span>

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Sales Leadership When The Future Is Unclear

00Blog: The Science of Sales, FeaturedTags: , , , , , , , May, 20

[ 2 -3 min read ]

Without A Clear And Adaptive Sales Strategy, Customer Acquisition Efforts Fail

We have heard paraphrased versions of this again and again. Despite this, sales leaders frequently find themselves managing in situations of strategic ambiguity. As the pace of change continues to accelerate, sales leaders are quickly learning management agility and strategic adaptability are the new prerequisites for successful sales management. Yet, indecisiveness remains – Why?

Customers today are faced with an abundance of choice. Market conditions are changing rapidly. Budgets are tightening or restricted. The reasons for why indecision remains could go on. Approaching strategic uncertainty can feel a lot like driving with a blindfold, under a heavy fog, in the middle of the night. Often, this pushes leaders to avoid sound investments, defer decision making, and reduce or freeze resource allocation. As a result, anxiety, doubt, and uncertainty creeps into the thought process thus leading to poor decision making. Everyone feels this way from time to time.

Even so, whether a sales organization succeeds or fails, is largely based on their leader’s ability to move the team forward at the critical moment when the direction ahead is unclear. The best sales leaders are able bring a balance of realistic expectations, lead by example, and communicate with empathy.

A Sales Leader’s Core Function Is To Exercise Judgement

That is, to form views and interpret ambiguous evidence in a way that will lead to a good decision. When the path forward is unclear, the best sales leaders acknowledge what’s unknown – but also look ahead to what’s known.

This can be demonstrated by adopting the following 3 disciplines into daily practice:

  1. Take Action (a decision must be made, indecision is costly).
  2. Maintain Emotional Control (act “as-if” to inspire confidence in others).
  3. Leverage Data and Domain Expertise (learn more, see more – knowledge is power).

Effective sales leaders are proponents of practicality when dealing with uncertainty. The adage “you can’t improve what you can’t measure” holds absolutely true here. At CIEN.AI, we put to practice a data-informed culture by measuring every data point and outcome within our own CRM (Salesforce). This helps our sales and marketing team mitigate forecast unpredictability and improve future outcomes. Predicting the future with absolute certainty is impossible, but utilizing predictive analytics will expedite your ability to determine what’s likely and place intelligent bets.

The modern sales leader today must balance their acknowledgement of what’s unknown, with decision making based on informed likelihoods. They can accomplish this by determining which dynamics are impacting their company (that they’re aware of). They must continuously solicit feedback and ask other stakeholders their opinions of what will happen. As leaders they must act upon what can be done that day, to better prepare their teams and customers for change. In doing so, they position themselves advantageously to take decisive action, demonstrate confidence, and achieve sales success well above the norm – even when the market landscape remains out of focus.

Don’t allow lack of clarity to cast a shadow over your sales team’s confidence or performance. Cien can help you drive your sales organization forward faster.

 

Sales Leader Confidence

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Measuring Value To Succeed In Uncertainty

00Blog: The Science of Sales, Featured March, 20

[ 2-3 min read ]

According to research by McKinsey & Company, there are three scenarios of COVID-19 affecting the world economy.
Unpleasant as it is, let’s look at scenario #3 since they label it as ‘the most likely’.

Scenario Three & Most Likely:

  • The middle of Q2 sees some progress of the containment of the local outbreak, but COVID-19 manages to spread to other countries
  • Demand and customer confidence remain low due to uncertainty
  • The travel bans remain in place until the end of 2020, leaving aviation and tourism completely frozen
  • The economy is largely affected by the setback and lack of customer confidence

We can see all of the above unfolding already; A growing pandemic, long-term ban on tourism, new strict travel limitations, a drop in customer confidence — everything indicates that returning to any kind of normalcy won’t happen any time soon.

That means there’s little to no use in focusing on enduring the new conditions. Instead, your ability to adapt to them and help your business sail on is where your focus should be. 

Defensive moves are entirely understandable but they can easily become counterproductive. 

So, what can you do?

1. Act quickly and proactively to adjust your route to success and chart a new one while capitalizing on dislocations in the market.

Shortcut:

      • Cien does the heavy lifting for you with real-time tracking of all applicable data points adjusted to compensate for various CRM quality issues for a high-res image of the state of your current selling environment. 
      • It makes “acting quickly and proactively to adjust your route to success and chart a new one while capitalizing on dislocations in the market”  easy, effective and immediately impacting.

2. Build upon your capacity to be agile — align, identify, and prioritize critical improvement areas to respond to changing circumstances. 

Shortcut:

      • Align” – Cien gives leaders a common language for aligning sales and marketing on the expected dollar value of every lead, account, and opportunity created:

 

 

      • IdentifyCien allows you to dig into the intangible factors that impact sales performance and measure individual strengths and weaknesses.

Result: Your ability to rapidly “prioritize critical improvement areas to respond to changing circumstances.”


3. Evolve to become more resilient and bear up against unrelenting external forces, recover from hitches, and benefit from new opportunities. 

Shortcut: 

      • Cien gives you the data, tools, and methodology to “bear up against unrelenting external forces, recover from hitches, and benefit from new opportunities.

Take Care Of Your Team And Be Ready

Cien helps you build the agility and resilience that you, your employees, and your company needs now more than ever.

Rather than uncertainty being an excuse to detach or check out, uncertainty should be a spur to engage and build sustainable advantage.

Keep Calm

Nothing lasts forever, and we will emerge from this with more experience, more knowledge, and more ammo for whatever comes next.  So, our recommendation is to stay collected and focused on maintaining flexibility and discipline with a wise use of digital opportunity. It’s a sure-fire way to keep your sales intact and ready for a boost.

Stay safe and take care!

 

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Digital Selling: Transforming B2B Sales

00Blog: The Science of Sales, FeaturedTags: , , , , March, 20

 

Shifts in Consumer Behavior And Technology

Four years ago, Andy Hoar writing for Forrester Research, famously postulated that a million B2B sales representatives would be displaced by 2020. Andy asserted that the combination of digitally enabled self-service models and the retirement of previous generation buyers who are replaced by digital-native buyers would form new buyer loyalties. Early in 2019, Allen Bonde of Forrester wrote that B2B buyers are accelerating their shift to Self-Service and demanding higher-quality interactions with sales pros. Bonde goes on to foresee deep changes how B2B buyers buy, especially in low-consideration product categories. In high consideration product categories, Bode sees the role of the seller evolving to place greater weight “enlightening” buyers through the purchasing path.

This parallels the Gartner positioning of “Sense-Making” for B2B buyers. Mary Shea and Meredith Cain of Forrester expanded the view last December discussing The State of Digitized Selling. Shea and Cain paint a picture of B2B needing urgently to re-align their sales strategies to meet the demands and expectations of an increasing digitalized B2B buyer community. Again, the prediction is clear that the status quo of B2B selling is not in a stable state and rapid change is upon us.

These authors, and several others, all paint a picture of dramatic change in B2B selling. Fewer people employed as representatives, more reliance on digital selling and much greater demands on the skills of the sellers trying to influence digitally oriented buyers. Lions and tigers and bears for B2B sellers. The good news is that all this is perfectly normal. For as long as there has been innovation, there has been disruption caused by that innovation. Innovation in the B2B selling world is no surprise. A quick look at either Sales Mastery’s infographic on AI for Sales and Marketing or Chiefmartec’s Supergraphic on Sales and Marketing software to see indisputable evidence that innovation is flourishing in the B2B space. The result of all these innovations and their impact on B2B sales is just the most current iteration of creative destruction at work in our economy. They can not help but force change on the way B2B sales are conducted. Messy change is an inevitable byproduct of innovation.
 

 

An Act Of Creative Destruction

A little historical perspective is helpful. The term creative destruction was first used by the Austrian – American economist Joseph Schumpeter in his 1942 book Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy. Creative Destruction refers to the process by which old processes and technology are replaced by new technology. The new processes and technologies destroy the old through innovation. It is innovation, according to Schumpeter, that drives economic progress and growth. The theory of creative destruction stresses the fact that the replacement of old systems, processes, and technologies with newer, more innovative versions can be sudden and frequently is a, well, messy process.

“The same process of industrial mutation—if I may use that biological term—that revolutionizes the economic structure from within, destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of creative destruction is the essential fact about capitalism,” he said. Schumpeter also was the first economist to use the term Entrepreneurship to describe the leadership of innovative creators of new technology who are responsible for economic progress and growth. It is only through change that growth can be realized. Again, look at the speed at which new software offerings are entering the Sales and Marketing space and it is easy to understand why mature and formerly stable models like B2B sales are being disrupted.

 

The Winners And Losers Of B2B Sales

The critical questions are which individuals or institutions of B2B selling will be the winners and losers in this cycle of creative destruction and how can we in the profession best prepare ourselves to meet the wave of change? A critical concept is to understand that change does not happen at a single point in time, change happens as part of a business trajectory and change has momentum. It just so happens that the momentum behind the change in B2B selling has increased dramatically of late largely due to the plethora of information available to buyers through the internet. Like the prediction that one million B2B reps will be displaced over the next five years, the continuing changes anticipated in B2B selling will be gradual but dramatic.

The topics I discuss come from my conversations with dozens of customers and prospects, almost all of whom are Sales or Sales Enablement leaders. Here are some of the topics and questions I hear over and over. Several of these topics are interconnected and interdependent.

 

Prioritize Your Resources

The most common question I hear is about the prioritization of Seller resources. Although marketing resources include any number of lead scoring tools, Sales leaders struggle to understand whether their sellers are investing their time in the most valuable potential target accounts and how to determine whether the highest potential value opportunities passed from Marketing to Sales are receiving the appropriate level of attention and resources. This question manifests itself in several ways.

First, how does the marketing group determine which subset of accounts from all the accounts in their total addressable market are the best prospects? Second, once Marketing passes a lead over to Sales and it looks like a good lead, how do Sales prioritize the effort for that opportunity relative to all other opportunities? Third, how does a Sales leader measure and relate the effort being exerted by each seller relative to the value of the accounts or opportunities that each seller might be working on? Is each seller working on the right accounts and opportunities? This is prime territory for exploiting the power of Artificial Intelligence for sales management. The debate over the value and meaning of Artificial Intelligence is still raging but assuming a construct using a real self-learning, pattern finding, proactive True AI system, these questions are fertile ground for use of AI for sales.

Rob Kall, CEO of Cien, an application that uses AI to determine the objective value of leads, accounts, and opportunities, says that “AI is the key to understanding the contribution of value made at each step of the sales process from lead creation through a closed deal. This logic can be deployed to take the understanding of value creation out of the realm of gut feel and make hard dollar assessments on which to base business decisions.”
 

 

Allocate Time For Training, Not Just Selling

Another common question I hear is about optimizing Sales leaders’ time for coaching and training. Most sales managers agree that less than 10% of their time is spent helping their sellers be better, more effective sellers. The average tenure of a first-line sales manager today is less than 2 years. It’s closer to 18 months.With that short a tenure, the sales manager just barley starts to understand the role, the customers and the company before moving on. The pressure on sales managers to perform and deliver results is immense and their training is to sell, not to teach their seller teams how to be more productive. I draw two conclusions from this trend.

First, the role of the Sales Manager as a mentor will change. Second, that tools and processes will be introduced that automate the mentoring role that previously was the purview of the Sales Manager. Sellers, especially high-end enterprise sellers of high consideration products and services must be able to take control of their processes. Just as buyers are embracing self-service on the buy side, sellers will embrace self-service guidance to help optimize their performance.

Again, I see AI as being a potential source of hope in providing ongoing, detailed insight into the behaviors and skills that make sellers successful. Reporting systems can keep track of the activity statistics of pipeline management, but the intangible factors that control the likeliness of seller success, which have been the exclusive responsibility of the Sales Manager to monitor and develop can be made available to sellers as a self-service solution, taking or at least lessening the burden of skills development and monitoring off the shoulders of the Sales Manager.

 

Redefining Sales Territories

Another treasured artefact of B2B sales that I see as falling to the forces of creative destruction is the geographic territory. With all the tools available for digital presence with the customer, why do we constrain ourselves to have opportunities assigned to sellers based solely on geography? Other than for the rarified world of very large enterprise sellers, the digital technologies that surround B2B sales today obviate the traditional logic of geographic sales territories. Since face to face communication via conferencing can easily reside on every desktop, why not use more sophisticated models to determine the best fit between seller and customer?

Make the process of assigning accounts, leads or opportunities to sellers based on multiple variable factors such as level of engagement or vertical expertise. Give the next lead to the seller most capable of winning that opportunity for the company, not just the seller who happens to be assigned or live in a given geography. Breaking the chains of geographic assignment provides flexibility for management and more importantly provides an avenue to ensure that the buyer is matched with the seller who best will understand and positively impact his buying experience.

 

Get Sales And Marketing In Step

This paper has been focused on the impact of digitalization on sellers, but the impact on marketers can not be understated. Customers know more about a market place than ever before. Much has been written about the new role of the seller as a Consultant or provider of enlightenment or seller as sense maker. But before even the very best Challenger seller will not get his turn at bat unless Marketing provides the right level of accurate, credible and targeted background information to the prospective buyer at the earliest stages of the buying decision. This points out to be the absolute criticality of Marketing and B2B sales being in absolute partnership in understanding the prospects and customers delivering effective messaging.

Again, the industry has well-documented the extent to which prospects and customers are overwhelmed with information. Marketing must provide the presence and credibility to provide the seller with the opportunity to stand out as the consultant for the customer. I suggest that another presence we will see in this digital selling world will be a common metric of value delivered by Marketing so that all parties in the sales cycle will have a clear and accepted appraisal of the value of each lead passed from Marketing to Sales. Marketing and Sales bickering over the quality, quantity, and value of leads and opportunities is a luxury the evolving B2B marketplace can no longer afford.

 

Measure The Value Created At Each Stage

Whether an organization subscribes to the Challenger Sales methodology or Consultative Selling or MEDDIC or Strategic Selling or any of the other viable choices, the fact remains that pressure will increase on the seller to justify his existence. I believe that the extinction of the B2B seller is a premature prediction, but the job is changing. It will continue to change. One of the most important roles of salesmen in America for decades was their role in disseminating information on new products and best practices to their clients.

That role is changing, as the clients have access to more information than they absorb. The role of the successful and valuable seller is that of the trusted partner who helps the customer sort through all the frequently conflicting information presented to her and find the threads of reason on which she and her fellow stakeholders can base a sound decision. That ability to differentiate based on being an asset for the customer, presenting facts and perspectives that help form a clear vision of success becomes the value that the successful rep brings to the table.
 

 

The Difference Between A Software Salesman And A Car Salesman

This is not that different, at least in the world of high consideration sales cycles, then it has been since the days when IBM taught sellers to “upset the homeostasis” or consultative selling was first documented. The great difference in this age of digital selling is that the customer has volumes of well prepared and seemingly credible information in hand. Using the tools at hand to help the client find her way to a favorable decision becomes a more difficult challenge. Sellers must be better prepared to embrace the role of thought leaders and reliable experts. A Systems Engineer (pre-sales engineer) once told a joke at a customer meeting that the difference between a software salesman and a used car salesman was that the used car salesman knew when he was lying. It was a valid observation, but the evolving market of B2B sales has no room for anyone who is not an expert and an asset for the customer-buyer and the process.

The need for expertise is not limited to sellers who are selling high consideration products or services to enterprise accounts. Sales Development Representatives who are frequently the first line of contact between a prospect and the company will need increasingly sophisticated capabilities to understand business applications introduce value to the prospect. The digital selling universe affords too many options and alternate paths for prospects to have any step of the process become a speed-bump for the buyer. The SDR should be able to deliver valuable business-context sensitive guidance for the prospect, helping the buyer journey. Success measured by “getting the prospect to make an appointment” is not enough. Measure success by the degree to which the prospect feels he has made progress in his project to find a product or service. The buyer-centric mindset of the company can be exposed to the prospect right from the very earliest stages of the process, but that requires skill and desire and the right training and tools for the SDRs.

I would not be surprised to see more and more sales organizations moving away from the High-Velocity model leads going to SDRs who qualify the lead and turn it over to an Account Executive to get the deal. If we are dealing in a world of well-qualified leads, why not have the first contact of the buyer experience be the guide and partner for the entire experience? Again, there are high consideration opportunities or enterprise considerations that may suggest the need for a senior-level seller to take over the opportunity, why disrupt the buyer experience with multiple steps? Looking at it from the buyer perspective, wouldn’t it be an easier journey with a single, very well qualified guide? This model supports centralized seller activities that take advantage of the tools of content management and customer contact that are key to digital emersion.

 

Engagement And Trust

Engaging customers has never been more difficult. Customers know more and there are more stakeholders engaged in every decision than ever before. Customers have more options and face more opinions. It seems that with the dearth of information available, everyone’s an expert. Mary Shea of Forrester states that “78% of sellers say their biggest internal challenge is dealing in their internal decision process with multiple stakeholders with different agendas”. What this tells us is that B2B sales are getting more difficult. The skill of building consensus within a client organization has never been more critical.

Every stakeholder can research any topic in intimate detail. Each will form opinions and the inability to foster support among several stakeholders will kill any deal, large or small. The earlier discussion on the need for Marketing and Sales to be in complete lockstep is nowhere more demonstrated than an examination of the need to build consensus. Clear, the reliable messaging mist is available for each stakeholder in the manner of consumption each stakeholder prefers. This stage of consensus building is when the seller can add great value by being the provider of enlightenment or the maker of sense for each stakeholder. Even in the age of digital immersion of B2B sales, this role of adding value as the thought leader will remain indispensable.

This last discussion may be the most salient. While my career perspective leans towards the high consideration, high dollar enterprise sale, that is but one thread in the fabric of B2B selling. The concept of the remote representative who is far from the office and manages his territory as though it were his own business may be in jeopardy. The need for presence that justified having representatives located near their clients is waning. The stack of tools and technologies discussed in Forrester’s Continuum of Digitally Immersive Selling obviate the need for the constant physical presence of sellers. The vertical segmentation of accounts and opportunities from the lowest level lead to the highest level account, passing through SDR’s and AE’s and Customer Success Managers along the way can give way to a horizontal perspective in which the buyer enters a selection process and is met with a single resource who has all the expertise, tools and resources available to manage the customer’s buying experience from beginning to end.

It represents a much more efficient and perhaps more democratic process. The technology and capabilities of digital selling provide us with the ability to eliminate the need for layers of sellers and technical resources. It seems a logical next step in the evolution of B2B selling that is in keeping with the evolving needs and desires of the customers. The goal is to sustain a level of experience loyalty with the customer that meets or exceeds the level of brand loyalty that has been the hallmark metric of customer success. Some old models such as geographic territories and sales management roles will be destroyed, but the opportunity to be full-service digitally-enabled account partners will flourish.

 

This article was written by Joe Lupton, Cien’s Head of Sales and Customer Success. With Cien, all reps can make quota. We show you how.


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Does Quota Even Matter?

00Blog: The Science of Sales, FeaturedTags: , , , , February, 20

 

Several years ago, in my last position as a major account executive, my brand new first-line sales manager asked me to sit down with him so he could give me my new quota for the year. I told him that I did not care what quota number he assigned to me and that the quota assignment would not impact my performance. I thought his head would explode.

 

What I told that new manager was 100% true. The only thing that quota meant to me was it gated when my commission rate would go from 4% to 6% to 8 % to 10%. Other than that, the quota assignment was just an arbitrary number that came from HQ.  He was incredulous. “We are sales guys”, he exclaimed, “We live and die by quota performance!”

 

We live by commission check.

 

So I walked with him to his office and drew a turtle chart on the wall. The company, I explained, is counting on the top 20% of the reps to produce the most revenue and make or exceed their quota assignments. That 20% will also make the most money. The thought was that some reps would attain the quota numbers, about half would be somewhere between 60% and 90% attainment, and the rest would be below 60%.


I admit that I was cheating here. I had seen the chart on the VP of Sales Operations whiteboard a few weeks before. The quota assignment exercise then became a simple algebraic model to distribute revenue assignment plus over assignment such that a bell-curved performance result would have the company making its revenue goals with about 25% of the sales reps achieving quota and hitting their performance bonuses. This controls for both the cost of bonus commission exposure and the attainment of revenue plan exposure.

 

So, I concluded, it does not matter to me what assignment number you give me. All that matters is that I know I will be in the top 20% and the question becomes how will I optimize my earnings. “OK, Get out of here.” was his reply.

 

I took two lessons from that exchange which has stuck with me. The first is that it is a waste of time for the manager to worry about the guys in the top 20%. The second is that quota is a useful tool for understanding relative performance.

 

David Brock wrote a very thoughtful blog post about Does Quota Matter last year for Partners in Excellence. I agree with his conclusion that the point of Quota is to maximize performance and Quota is one way to measure if we are meeting our performance goals. David also references an amazing piece of research undertaken by CSO Insights. Their annual Sales Enablement Study for 2019 stated that among the firms they surveyed, the average revenue attainment was over 100% of plan while the average quota attainment of the sales teams was around 61%. I find that shocking.

 

Part of what shocks me is that we accept that pattern as acceptable. Sales leaders I speak with, and most of my customers and prospects are sales leaders, tell me that one of their three most pressing issues is how to get the 70% of the reps in the middle to improve their performance. The sales leader who can grow the performance of those reps in the middle of the bell curve breaks the bank. The company posts more bookings and the reps make more money.  Everyone is happy. If you go back to the bell-curve chart, it is clear that the top 20% are carrying the freight. How do we extend that performance?

 

 

The answer I read frequently is that the correct course of action is to identify the best rep and have everyone else emulate that rep. I disagree. I believe that no two reps, like no two opportunities, are created equal.  Different reps have different skills. The key is to understand what are the skills and needs of each rep and how do we optimize each rep’s performance.

 

That is not easy. It is a challenge for which few sales leaders are trained and for which there are few tools in the market. Most AI for Sales tools are focused on activities rather than behaviors. One of the great beauties of the Challenger Sales system is that it teaches best practices and processes while allowing room for individual skills. Understand and coach each individual and the performance of the team will rise.

This article was written by Joe Lupton, Cien’s Head of Sales and Customer Success.

With Cien, all reps can make quota. We show you how.


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End the Bickering Between Marketing and Sales

00Blog: The Science of Sales, FeaturedTags: , , , , , , , February, 20

Firms can earn big returns by effectively measuring each step in the sales and marketing process

Do you hear your Sales leaders complain to Marketing that their teams are not getting enough high-quality leads?  Are the Marketing folks pointing to the high volume of leads that fit the Ideal Customer Profile criteria and have shown sufficient intent to trigger a qualification as a Marketing Qualified Lead?

There is a rich bounty of published work telling us that Sales and Marketing must run in lockstep.  In an account-based world, a common language is clearly required to understand and account for the contribution of the sales and marketing teams to the revenue generation process.

 

Marketing Contribution Measures the Value Added by Marketing

They say Marketing is from Venus and Sales is from Mars. Whether you recognize it or not, the performance of a sales team depends in large part to the amount and quality of the leads sent to it by the marketing team. While measuring lead volume might be easy, assessing quality is not.

Typically, the value of leads generated by marketing is calculated based on average values such as average customer lifetime value, average lead conversion rate and the average cost per lead. As with total sales volume by sales professional, this simplistic measurement is done because more precise assessment is not easy.

This traditional way of measuring the value of a lead doesn’t provide any color on the quality of the lead, however. It fails to account for a lead’s propensity to close, the prospecting effort required to convert it, and the expected deal size for the lead. This simplistic accounting excludes important operational intelligence for optimizing sales performance.

The Cien Value Chain employs a complex set of AI models that derive a true value for each lead and opportunity.  Using hundreds of machine learning and natural language processing models, the Value Chain calculates what the real value of any given opportunity is TODAY. Think of it as calculating the expected value of a lead that may not close for weeks or months.  What the Cien Value Chain gives you is a starting point value that all parties; Marketing, Business Development, and Sales can agree on as representing the real dollar value of leads attributed to Marketing.

 

Sales Contribution Measures the Value Added by Sales

If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.

Why did Bob sell more than Sue last year? Was it due to the quality of the leads he received from marketing, the territory he was assigned, his work ethic, or simply a winning smile?

Historically, sales representatives were measured by the total revenue of sales signed. This is still a commonly used indicator of sales performance in many organizations.

Using total sales revenue as a measurement for sales performance can be misleading at best and counterproductive at worst.

This is because the total sales revenue per sales rep is a simplistic measurement that doesn’t reveal the underlying dynamics of where marketing and sales are strong or weak. Marketing may be handing weak leads to a strong sales professional, for instance, making the seller look worse than his skills allow. Or a rep might be closing sales and generating a high total sales volume, but half the cross-sell opportunities for his prospects go unrealized while another sales rep could better uncover these hidden opportunities.

Total sales revenue simply does not capture enough operational intelligence for sales performance optimization.

Many sales managers know this. The problem is that measurement beyond sales quota achievement is hard; firms must account for lead, pipeline, human and market factors that come into play. The data for this operational intelligence is there in CRM systems, but it often is incomplete, inaccurate or insufficiently structured. So sales teams tend to measure on a few key performance indicators, and CRM data is used primarily for forecasting purposes.

Getting beyond these simplistic metrics is important for the operational intelligence that businesses need for improved sales performance. This requires looking at both marketing output and sales performance.

 

 

Let’s take an example.

Imagine two sales reps Bob and Sue who work in the same team. At the end of the quarter, Bob has signed $1,000,000 worth of bookings, and Sue $800,000. Without a clear picture of the team’s effectiveness, Bob appears to be the highest performing seller.

When a firm is able to take into account the true dollar value generated by lead generation and sales development efforts, it is able to compare the lead value received by a sales professional with the added value the seller has contributed to it.

In Bob and Sue’s case, it’s possible to calculate the value of leads they received and compare them with the actual value they signed. And it turns out that Bob actually received $500,000 of leads and pipeline value from marketing, while Sue only received $200,000. Bob actually contributed less to the business than Sue, even though at a superficial level his numbers were higher.

As this example shows, the best seller on the team isn’t necessarily the one who has signed the most contracts, it is the ones who have added the most value to the leads and opportunities received by the marketing and sales development teams.

It may be that other sales professionals appear to sell more because they’ve received more valuable leads from marketing, or because they work a territory that has greater demand than another rep. External market factors such as a local competitor leaving the market might also distort the picture of the seller’s performance.

 

Artificial Intelligence Makes it All Possible

Improving sales performance requires better operational intelligence. The problem, as stated above, is that most firms cannot effectively analyze their business data comprehensively enough for this insight.

The good news is that advances in statistical science, machine learning, natural language processing, and AI allow businesses to exploit sales data and CRM records for new levels of understanding previously not possible.

With AI, companies are now able to measure and account for the exact value created by marketing campaigns, the value generated by a sales development team’s prospecting, and the qualification efforts, distinguishing them from the value created by the sales professional who converted those qualified opportunities into signed contracts.

By looking at the multiple factors that make up a sale, artificial intelligence allows firms to break out the individual performance of every seller in the organization. From this, companies can immediately generate more revenue by allocating higher value leads to the most effective sales reps and train those reps who are underperforming.

Cien delivers the intelligence needed for this more sophisticated analysis. The first step to measuring sales and marketing’s contribution is to request a Hidden Revenue Assessment.

 


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