When most sales leaders think about analytics, they usually think of their CRM platform. In reality, your CRM is a means to an end—to be successful, you need to apply insights discovered from CRM analytics to improve the performance of your team.

At their core, analytics change the conversation between a salesperson and a sales leader. It’s normal during a review of key opportunities in a sales pipeline for sales leaders to ask sellers for their opinion about an opportunity’s likelihood to close. As much as you count on your best salespeople to give well-formed opinions, they are just that: opinions. What you really want is an accurate assessment of an opportunity in the pipeline based on facts, not opinions—even if they are from your best salespeople.

All organizations can benefit from a more in-depth understanding of how to apply facts and data to implement systematic changes to selling behaviors. Once your opportunity reviews align to data, the link between seller behavior and successful outcomes becomes more dependable. A sales effectiveness framework with an analytics dashboard helps sales leaders ask specific questions about each prospect in the pipeline, such as:

  • Have all the buying influences been identified?
  • How have we differentiated ourselves and our solution?
  • Why has this opportunity not moved in the past 90 days?

The key question that follows is, “How do you know?” But when the answer is based on facts and data, conversations with salespeople grow more efficient. Instead of covering old ground during meetings with reps, conversations can focus on identifying and coaching specific issues, such as techniques to eliminate red flags in opportunities.

Understanding these sales effectiveness metrics also helps sellers better understand the demands that buyers place on them. More than 70 percent of B2B buyers say they engage with sales reps only after they’ve defined their needs, according to CSO Insights’ 2018 Buyer Preferences Study; nearly half have already identified a specific solution by the time they reach out.  As sales reps now sell to a more sophisticated buyer, applying analytics to more rapidly understand where a buyer is in their path to purchase can save valuable time.

Thus, it’s critical that sales leaders use the insights from sales analytics to coach reps during each stage of the customer’s buying process. Let’s explore three types of performance indicators that sales leaders can analyze to improve their team’s results.

  1. Lagging Indicators

Sales leaders often review the past performance of each rep, evaluating whether a seller attained quota in the last quarter. When a seller fails to meet quota, sales leaders often drill into lagging metrics like activities. They may even discuss the impact specific circumstances had, such as how the hiring of a new CFO postponed a winnable deal. Next, many sales leaders move to general discussion on the status of current opportunities in the pipeline and a review of new prospects. However, as a sales leader, your focus should be much more specific. Your dashboard can reveal specific actions a rep took or didn’t take at different stages of the sales process. While reviewing lagging indicators, analyze how the rep’s actions impacted the outcome and compare them to other reps, looking at actions other sellers took at the same point to see which strategy was more effective.

Your goal is to coach your sales reps to understand that they cannot rely on intuition alone to drive the selling process. Instead, they must treat selling as a science that involves dissecting every opportunity in multiple ways, including tracking the age of the deal, type of customer, all buying influences and relationships, among others, in your CRM. When sales reps truly understand the relationship of these attributes to driving positive outcomes, they can use these lagging indicators to identify patterns to follow during future deals.

  1. Leading Business Indicators

Leading business indicators help you analyze mid-flight opportunities to understand which ones are most likely to result in successful outcomes. This data reveals where your team should focus their energy.  This allows leaders and sellers to focus on predictive business indicators that truly relate to successful outcomes.

For instance, if an opportunity hasn’t moved in the past 90 days you can have very specific conversations with your rep based on known or unknown facts about the prospect. Maybe this opportunity was scored wrong and needs to be moved back because it’s not ready for the current stage. The goal is to accurately score the winnability of every opportunity in your pipeline. If leading indicators reveal an opportunity is winnable and desirable, you can investigate why it isn’t on the path to closing. Then, you can analyze the data to see what helped previous deals in similar stages move forward along the path to closed-won.

  1. Leading Behavioral Indicators

Leading behavioral indicators focus on the state of an opportunity from your customer’s point of view, predicting the trajectory of your opportunities based on specific feedback from your prospect.

Work with your sales reps to document all relevant customer behaviors and statements, such as:

  • What did the economic buying influence say about the decision criteria they will use?
  • What is the business value that the customer asked you to bring to the table?
  • Who are the relevant decision-makers?

At every buyer stage, ask these questions as quick, high-quality points of inspection. The answers can lead to powerful in-the-moment coaching to help the seller become more self-sufficient in driving opportunities.

One example: use a minimum action commitment at the end of a call, such as ensuring the economic buying influence will attend the next meeting. Discuss other leading behavioral indicators with your rep to learn if the seller moved the opportunity through the pipeline too quickly.


To create effective selling processes, sales leaders need to learn how to apply sales analytics to coach the performance of each member of the team. This coaching process consists of reviewing lagging indicators, analyzing leading business indicators to parse and score mid-flight opportunities, and dissecting leading behavioral indicators to predict the trajectory of opportunities.

In the 2018 Sales Talent Study, CSO Insights found that 62.3% of sales organizations rely on lagging indicators to evaluate sales performance. By using all three of these indicators, sales leaders guide conversations with reps about every deal in the pipeline with more clarity. This lets reps focus on a deal’s current status, where it’s headed and what techniques worked in the past with similar opportunities to move prospects closer to closed won. By applying analytics, the time you invest in pipeline reviews will be more accurate, more dependable and more impactful.

Do the insights from your sales analytics improve your selling process in a systematic, reliable manner? Miller Heiman Group’s Sales Process Improvement consulting is here to guide you on your journey to sales process improvement.

Contact us to learn more about how Miller Heiman Group can help your organization.

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