As a Sales Ops leader and Sales Optimizer, I’m a big believer in the modern consensus that sales performance should be data driven. By studying patterns in behavior of our reps and benchmarking them against success, we have the power to build the most highly optimized sales teams to hit the industry thus far. We can all achieve quota and we can build a repeatable sales process that enables our companies to scale. This approach has been popularized by modern inside sales experts, who champion the process of coaching with metrics as the best way to build a high-performance team.
The problem with this approach lies in its implementation. Getting high-quality metrics requires forcing sales reps to enter numerous activities into the system so that you can track every move they make. On top of capturing activities (calls, emails, meetings), we create qualification frameworks that push sales reps to “go the extra mile” when determining if the prospect is a good fit for your product.
These first two activities are built on the false assumption that sales reps have the time to capture all of this information accurately and consistently. They slow down sales performance.
To exacerbate the issue, we visualize these activities in Salesforce or an analytics tool such to prove to our CEOs that activity levels month-over-month are high enough. We create funnel metric reports to show we have control over the process and know which reps are getting stuck and where. We file all of this under ‘creating leading indicators’ for performance and coaching.
These management activities are built on the misguided assumption that our sales managers are equipped with the time and resources to coach them based on the performance data that is collected.
Here is how this typically plays out.
As a manager, you feel blind to the true status of the deals in your pipeline. Your reps are supposed to enter data around an opportunity at each stage in the pipeline, but this information is often a few days old or nonexistent. You live with the situation, supplementing your fragmented CRM data with word-of-mouth updates from your reps. Then, the end of the month or quarter hits, and a deal you had banked on closing slips. You now face increased pressure to improve pipeline visibility, and you and your Sales Ops team come up with additional qualification criteria and a more stringent Salesforce usage policy that you then impose on your team.
As a result, your sales reps have more fields to fill out. You have a bigger report or spreadsheet with more columns, and somehow you end up with less visibility than before. The reps that are good at CRM continue to be good at CRM and the reps who are good at sales continue to be good at sales.
The one lasting impact is that now, over 40% of your time goes towards forecasting, or pipeline management, and your reps are still spending too much time on non-core selling activities.This diversion of time away from coaching results in the all too familiar scenario of over 50% of sales reps not reaching quota.
All that extra work, for no added value.
Improving Sales Performance
Breaking out of this vicious cycle requires finding ways to reduce the burden on your sales reps while improving visibility into your pipeline. It can be incredibly frustrating as a sales manager to watch deals go down the drain for reasons you can’t see in CRM. While it’s easy to blame the sales rep when this happens, oftentimes the issue is that reps don’t get coaching when they need it.
The most efficient, and therefore successful, teams moving forward will be the ones who can identify early on the deals that are losing traction and direct all coaching efforts towards moving these deals forward.
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