Using Data to Drive Sales Performance

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Navigating enablement without analytics is like looking for a light switch in the dark. While one may eventually be able to illuminate the path to success, they are more likely to stumble or potentially become lost along the way. In a time of looming economic uncertainty, being proactive, not reactive, when it comes to leveraging data can help a company navigate through tough times with a clearer road map.

Effectively using data allows organizations to get ahead of the curve and make informed decisions that will impact outcomes, not address them. Developing data-based goals and tracking key metrics are important for any enablement team to develop programs that optimize business results.

Below, learn how defining and measuring key metrics allow enablement practitioners to coach reps to replicate winning strategies, increase proactivity, and demonstrate enablement’s value to the business, especially during times of uncertainty.

Defining Key Metrics and Goals

Enablement practitioners wear many hats in an organization, so closely partnering with the various teams within a sales organization to identify their top priorities and unique challenges can help enablement define the right metrics to drive impact. Forming lasting, collaborative relationships with teams like sales operations, demand generation, product marketing, and field marketing means enablement can help define what success looks like in the revenue organization, what metrics are the right ones to track, and where goals should be set.

“If you can work with someone very closely on your team to help you get the right metric or get in the right direction, then you can start developing dashboards and understanding those KPIs at the top level,” said Stephanie Jenkins, chief revenue officer at Sprig.

For example, sales operations are one of the closest functions to enablement and can be a key player in identifying the metrics that shape enablement strategy. While operations typically handle the logistics end of the sales organization, enablement works to use those logistics to drive actions. Aligning with operations can prevent overlap and potential conflict between the two teams, resulting in clearer, more unified processes.

Additionally, collaborating with marketing teams can help provide insight into the ‘why’ behind metrics as it relates to the go-to-market strategy. For example, if enablement sets a goal to increase the close rate, it is important that enablement can partner closely with demand generation teams to help improve processes that impact that metric, such as lead qualification.

Connecting with each team to establish ways to capture data on each portion of the sales funnel provides a way to create strategy with precision instead of creating wide-reaching initiatives based on gut instinct.

Distinguishing Between Data and Insights

Metrics without context are simply numbers. When enablement teams begin tracking metrics, they can find themselves swimming in data without many qualitative insights into what that data means. Though metrics help highlight where problems are occurring in the sales process, practitioners can go beyond the data to find the root causes. Enablement can help tackle this by focusing on a few key priorities at a time and diving into the details behind the data.

“If there is a win-loss issue, how do we get upstream and understand the root cause so that the enablement actions we take are targeted to the underlying issues?” said Bill Schuh, chief revenue officer at Anaplan. “How do we slow down a little bit, take the trends that we’re seeing in the data, and actually do the discovery work with our teams, customers, and sellers?”

Given the large amounts of data that enablement teams can be inundated with, it’s important to portion the data into segments before attempting to pull key insights. From there, it’s easier to locate where inefficiencies occur between successful and underperforming reps. Analyzing performance across reps on metrics like conversion, win rate, deal size, ramp time, or other KPIs can highlight where key competencies are being met and where there is opportunity for improvement.

Once enablement has identified metrics and segments that need support, practitioners need to move into discovering why problems are occurring to understand the obstacles reps are facing. Establishing processes to continually receive feedback from reps and involve them in strategy can help enablement teams more accurately create initiatives with a mission and goals that align with reps’ needs. In addition to reflective conversations with reps, hiring a third-party sales consultant can provide an objective report to provide additional clarity on losses and identify behaviors that lead to wins.

Understanding Leading Versus Lagging Indicators

Metrics often fall into two categories: leading indicators, which are forward-looking, predictive, and process-based, and lagging indicators, which demonstrate current performance and the state of the business. Leading indicators can be metrics such as customer satisfaction, which help predict future revenues, while common lagging indicators can be win rate or sales quota attainment. Using a combination of leading and lagging metrics can help improve decision-making.

“If you only look at [quota] attainment, a lagging indicator, and decide who you’re going to cut and who you’re going to keep based on attainment alone, that’s a mistake,” said Allison Metcalfe, chief revenue officer at Demandbase. “We look at attainment but also take one step back and look at leading: is this person building pipeline? Are the leading indicators there? If they are, I believe that that person is coachable, and it’s worth investing in getting them to attainment.”

Leading indicators are usually more difficult to measure than lagging, but can help enablement boost productivity, revenue, and growth.

Uncovering Trends to Replicate Winning Behaviors

Data trends don’t only reveal what needs to be fixed, increased, or improved. Enablement can also use data to identify winning behaviors and leverage the insights to create initiatives that can help scale those behaviors.

To identify winning behaviors, enablement can use metrics to find top sellers and the strategies that are driving their performance. Win rates, for example, can show how successful reps are at nurturing leads, building buyer relationships, and pitching, and what is different between these activities and the way that underperforming reps are approaching them. If enablement has the metrics in place to know what is helping reps be successful, then those strategies can be deployed to help the rest of the organization.

Once enablement has identified what behaviors help quota-attaining reps be successful, leaning on coaching to replicate them can be instrumental in driving change. Following training best practices means using repetition and reinforcing learned concepts in everyday work.

“If I don’t have the data to understand how you’re doing, I don’t know how to coach you and help you improve to get better,” said Metcalfe.

One of the most effective ways to encourage reinforcement of training concepts is by coaching the coach. That is, engaging first-line leadership to help validate that the right behaviors are being displayed among their team through coaching. Enablement can coach managers on what to look for and how to reinforce the right behaviors among their teams so that they can, in turn, coach their reps to maximize success.

Modern business is increasingly data-driven. Not only can metrics provide enablement a way to demonstrate its value to the business, but metrics can also provide a jumping-off point to dive deep into the opportunities and problems facing a sales organization. By analyzing key metrics to identify actionable insights, enablement can develop programs to replicate winning behaviors, optimize the sales process, and drive business outcomes that help companies sustain success through economic uncertainty.

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