Learn how to improve your deal health with these 3 simple steps. I have always felt for my sales operations colleagues. It’s a tough gig for them...
On one hand, you have sales leaders demanding accurate sales forecasts and pipeline metrics. On the other hand, you have a CRM system that only stores a partial view of the truth.
Somewhere caught in the middle is the poor sales ops employee, bogged down in a mire of spreadsheets and pivot tables that just don't give them the insight they crave.
CRM systems are not designed for sales analytics
Why is this happening? The answer is simple. It’s because, as sales leaders, we expect to be able to derive a historical view of the health of our pipeline and the deals in it. We expect that the CRM system we have invested in can tell us how every deal has progressed across its lifecycle.
The reality however is very different. The truth is the CRM system is not set up like this. It was never designed to deliver a historical view. It was designed to be a productivity tool for the sales rep. An activity tracking tool with some simple reporting bolted on. Our CRM system was setup to proudly show us the state of any opportunity as it stands today. It does not, however, have the power to tell us the journey our deal has travelled.
The truth is, CRM systems are strong at providing us with the tools to move deals forwards and to track simple tasks. They are however, weak at retaining a picture of where deals have come from.
Let me give you a classic example. It's 5pm on Sunday and Larry Laggard knows he has a forecast meeting with his sales manager at 9am on Monday morning. What does he do? He logs into the CRM system and changes all the sales stages, close dates and deal amounts to reflect the positive discussion he would prefer to have with his sales manager.
The CRM system is weak at tracking what Larry is up to. Larry moves his deals backwards in the pipe. His sales manager can’t track that. His deal values bounce around. Again, his sales manager can’t see that in the CRM system. All he can see is the picture of the deal as it stands right now.
Hence, our poor Sales Ops folks are left poring over data extracts, trying to piece together the journey of deals. They try, mostly in vain, to forensically determine the health of deals to establish if they should even be on our forecast.
Alternatively, as sales leaders, we revert to the traditional approach of asking our turkeys to vote for Christmas. We sit down with the sales rep, who’s vested interest is to make their pipeline look healthy and we ask them if their pipeline is healthy. Guess what the outcome of that conversation is.
What are the indicators of deal health we should be tracking?
What sales ops folks really crave is to be able to track both the positive and negative indicators of deal health. They want to ask questions of our CRM system that it just can’t answer.
Positive behavioural questions like:
- How many times are my reps updating their next steps every week?
- Are they adding future dated activities on every deal?
- Are my reps following up on leads in a timely fashion?
- Do they add a close plan once the deal gets to its later stages?
As well as tracking the positive, sales ops want answers to negative questions also:
- Are deal values going backwards?
- Do deal stages bounce around?
- Are deals magically appearing in the pipeline in later stages?
- Are deal close dates constantly pushed out?
The critical element here is the ability to track these metrics over time. You can read more about Sales KPIs here.
If we truly want to know the health of our deals, then we need to do 3 simple things:
- Drive high-value sales behaviours along every step of the sales journey. We need to motivate & reward our reps for hitting metrics that span the pipeline, not just on closed deals.
- Silently track negative as well as positive sales behaviours. This provides insight into where additional sales training might be required.
- Constantly seek to refine our sales approach. We should seek to coach & guide our reps, monitor & track sales behaviours and learn from our top performers. Having done this, we can refine our sales journey. Now we are ready to return to the start and begin coaching again. It is a cyclical, scientific process based on data-driven fact, not gut feel.
If we do these 3 simple things, we will be treating sales as a journey NOT just a destination. We will have healthier deals and will be able to rally our precious resources behind our best-looking deals.
To put this into context – here are some real-life examples. To save any embarrassment, I will leave out the company names.
CompanyA - 200 sales reps in the recruitment space
Across 5 positive sales process behaviours, this company measured the before, during and after effects of motivating a focus on these behaviours. Metrics that were just not possible to track using CRM alone.
These metrics included:
- ‘Opportunity Management’ metrics such as creating (& completing) future dated meetings
- ‘Productivity’ metrics such as tracking meaningful call volumes per day
- ‘Data Quality’ metrics such as capturing key contact details in a timely fashion
To be clear the sales team were silently tracked before any motivational techniques were applied. They were then coached and rewarded for attaining these sales process behaviours. Finally, the coaching and motivational elements were switched off but unknown to the reps, the tracking continued.
The results were staggering.
Across the 5 metrics, once the coaching and motivational elements were applied, the percentage increase in the achievement of these sales behaviours jumped, ranging from a 170% increase to a 5400% increase.
Once the motivational and coaching elements were removed the behaviours continued to be exhibited, but decreased considerably ranging from a 43% decrease to a 78% decrease. Old habits soon started to creep back in.
The conclusions that can be drawn here are:
- There was genuine shock at the low attainment levels of these high-value sales behaviours during the initial tracking phase. Because the CRM system could not provide this insight, sales leaders were blind to what was happening.
- If you coach, motivate and reward for sales journey behaviours it will lead to a significant increase in these high-value sales behaviours.
- Take away the coaching and motivation and you once again lose control of the deal health.
A memorable quote from the Sales Ops leader here: “We know the art of selling. This approach provides the science of selling”
Let’s look at another example.
CompanyB - A global powerhouse in the Telco sector
Much like the last example, this company elected to run a ‘stealth’ period to build up a true ‘before’ picture of the efficiency of the sales team. They then applied coaching and motivational techniques to drive the sales behaviours they wanted to see.
Again, the results were truly exceptional and gave control back to the Sales Ops teams and Sales Leaders.
- A 187% increase in sales productivity. There were more cleansed accounts and more opportunities (of which more progressed through the pipeline in a timely fashion because they were healthier).
- Over 200 extra hours of call time with customers & prospects. The motivational approach galvanised sales commitment.
- A 60% decrease in closed/lost opportunities
How do I get started?
If you want to put your sales operations team out of their misery and truly determine the health of your pipeline, then this is the fastest, proven way to make it happen.
Go ahead, gain control of your pipeline, get the insight you need to refine your sales process and increase your sales performance. Watch this demo of SuMo Motivate to learn more.