Analytics can be broadly defined as the gathering, analysis and interpretation of meaningful patterns in data and it has become an increasingly important part of the sales industry. Crucially, the use of analytics can help to shape a sales training and coaching strategy, improving the overall effectiveness of a sales team.

In this article, we will take a more in-depth look at the various ways that analytics can be utilised in order to improve sales performance. In particular, we will look at how analytics can help sales leaders to pinpoint traits that predict success, use that information to shape their coaching, and provide reps with valuable insights.

1. Identify Traits of Top Performers

The first and perhaps most obvious way that sales organisations can make use of analytics to actually improve overall sales effectiveness is to take an in-depth look at those salespeople in the organisation who are already effective at their job and try to ascertain the common traits they share.

“Predictive analytics can be applied to the workforce to identify traits/patterns that account for bad or good performance on an individual and team basis,” says Archana Jerath, writing for the Society For Human Resource Management. “Since analytics is an amalgamation of powerful mathematical algorithms, it also gives objective insight into their work preferences and the factors that drive their performance.”

For example, it may be that you discover that the salespeople who make the best use of CRM software achieve the best results, or those who are best at quantifying value are the reps with the highest win rates. Using analytics to understand your sales force and what makes them successful then provides you with a base to build on.

2. Use Analytics to Plug Skills Gaps

Once you have identified the specific traits and characteristics that go furthest towards determining sales success within your particular industry and organisation, you can use this information to identify the most critical skills gaps that need to be plugged in your sales force, and work towards doing this through sales coaching.

“Best-in-class sales organizations place an enormous emphasis on building frontline capabilities during a transformation,” Bertil Chappuis, et al. write in an article for McKinsey. “These sales leaders use analytics to get very specific on what skills to teach and to whom in order to re-engineer the very DNA of the sales organisation.”

For sales managers, the trick is to work with salespeople on an individual basis, focusing on the specific skills they most need to strengthen. Through analytics, sales managers can be armed with information about which are the most important traits, characteristics, behaviours and metrics, and then prioritise those.

Sales coaching also needs to become formalised, rather than simply being left up to individual managers. This means having a defined coaching process, which is aligned to a wider sales enablement function. When this occurs, both win rates and quota attainment are improved by double digits, according to research from CSO Insights

3. Analyse Data to Provide Insights

Finally, aside from assisting with the actual development of sales staff and their skills and behaviours, the collection and analysis of data can also be used to provide salespeople with important information, which can assist them in their actual day-to-day sales activities as well, maximising their chances of success.

With that being said, 89 percent of salespeople state that they feel they have missed sales opportunities due to an ‘information overload’, which highlights the key challenge. It is not enough to simply collect data and feed it to sales people en masse. The data must be analysed to provide more specific, actionable insights.

In terms of actually improving sales processes and, as a consequence, sales effectiveness, analytics can be used to provide a number of specific insights, which can be useful to sales staff, without overwhelming them. For example, it can help to identify customers with the highest potential value.

Aside from this, analytics can also be used to help salespeople to identify cross-selling opportunities, as well as the sales approaches that are currently generating the highest level of success across the sales team.

Conclusion

The use of analytics within sales organisations is becoming more prevalent, because the information gathered can be used to identify the skills and traits that predict success, help sales managers to plug skills gaps through sales coaching, and improve overall effectiveness by providing sales reps with valuable insights.

Analytics and other examples of data and technology used within sales organisations are among the topics that will be discussed at the upcoming Miller Heiman Group Sales & Service Summit, which will be held near Munich in Germany this June. To learn more about the event, and to register your attendance, click here.

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