Sales Management: 7 Reasons to “Show me the Data”

When I think about the changing nature of Sales Management, I can’t help but be reminded of Tom Cruise playing Jerry Maguire in the film of the same name. The film was responsible for some fabulous lines, not least the unforgettable “Show me the Money”.

by Tim Knight, CMO, CloudApps

Clearly a totally different context, but the mantra of the new breed of sales manager would be “Show me the Data”.

For those that haven’t seen the movie, it is based on a sports theme. Where the main character, Jerry, is a sports agent trying to change the face of his profession.

Again, there is another parallel here as to how the sales management profession is changing. The emerging breed of sales managers have become more like elite sports coaches. As such, they crave data. They use the insight this data provides to tune the performance of every individual member of their team. The result is a sustained increase in sales performance right across the team.

Let’s pause for a moment and think about how most sales managers arrive in their position. It’s highly likely that at some point they have themselves been one of the top-performing reps.

However, it has never been clear to me where the supposition has come from that a top-performing rep will make a great sales manager. Nevertheless, that is the career progression path that is laid out for them. This is the path they are actively encouraged to follow. With no question ever raised about the very different skill sets required for each of the roles.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t immediately think of the attributes of a top sports coach when I think about the attributes of a top-performing sales rep. Many of them would, in fact, be polar opposites!

Sadly, most of these “career progression managers” also bring the baggage of how they were treated by their previous sales managers with them. And so, the proverbial stick method is perpetuated. Along with the costly hire-and-fire mentality that sees the top performers handsomely rewarded and the strugglers eliminated from the game. Not much has changed in sales management in the last 50 years. Until now.

The game of sales management is being rapidly overhauled. And those that choose to ignore it risk the very real threat of an impending drubbing from the opposition.


Sales Management


Here are just a handful of reasons why the emerging breed of sales managers are so different. They use data insight to inject science into the art of selling. Amongst other things they seek to:


1. Create a data-driven baseline of individual sales rep performance based on complex sales behaviours, not sales activity:

The digital-age sales manager is data-savvy. They seek to build a ‘behaviour oriented’ audit trail over time by modelling and subsequently monitoring for complex sales behaviours (not just sales ‘activity’).

Let’s take a simple example:

Sales Activity: I log a sales call.

Complex Sales Behaviour: I log a sales call, it lasted more than 20 mins, it was to a decision-maker who is attached to an opportunity that is due to close this quarter.

It’s easy to see why the latter is far more likely to drive successful sales outcomes.

Our modern-day sales manager tracks both positive and careless sales behaviours (for example, where the close date for a late-stage deal has been allowed to lapse into the past numerous times).

This data is used to pinpoint the areas where individual reps require additional focused coaching.


2. Benchmark ‘sales excellence’ based on the behavioural habits of top performers:

Or to put this one in other words, to ‘learn what good looks like’!

These are the reps that have cracked the code. The modern sales manager recognises this and is determined to uncover their secret sauce. These top performers innovate around the edges of the sales process, naturally removing obstacles and going the extra mile.

By monitoring the behavioural habits of the top-performing reps our data savvy sales manager can create the benchmark that all the core performers will be tasked to follow. Hence dialling up the performance of all.


3. Coach every rep to be a top performer (i.e. to follow ‘good’):

The next natural step for our tech aware manager is to coach everyone to follow the benchmark of sales behaviours that lead to success.

Conscious that there are simply not enough hours in the day to coach every rep on every deal, they recognise early-on that a new approach is needed.  As such, they seek to use the technology available to them to automate the coaching process and deliver it at scale.

By embedding intelligent coaching prompts directly into the CRM system, they are able to drive the right sales behaviours at precisely the right time. The coaching is available for every rep whenever they choose to engage. The added benefit they experience by taking this approach is of course, greatly increased user adoption!


4. Drive adherence to the sales process:

The modern sales manager understands the critical importance of driving reps to follow the sales process. They recognise the investment that has gone into the creation of the process in the first place. They understand it has been carefully crafted and honed over time for a reason. Primarily to increase the likelihood of a successful sales outcome!

Our tech-savvy sales manager again turns to the CRM system, this time with an eye on guided selling. They break the process down into the set of sales behaviours they would expect to see occur during each sales stage.

They have the CRM system automatically monitor and identify which of the required sales behaviours have been achieved during each sales stage and which have not. This makes it is easy for them to spot if any problematic gaps exist.


5. Expose true pipeline & individual deal health using leading indicators:

Once our data-driven manager has started tracking the sales behaviours exhibited by their team, they very quickly correlate these behaviours back to the deals they were focused upon.

Doing so allows them to build a picture over time (and by sales stage) of the behaviours that have been applied to each deal. From here they are able to predict the likely outcome of any deal at any point in its lifecycle.

They use this to predict the final outcome but also as an early warning system to highlight if a deal is veering off track. Combined with the guided selling approach above, they are able to clearly identify why the deal has veered off track and take the remedial action required to bring it back.


6. Monitor sales process efficiency for friction points:

The one constant you can rely on in the world of sales is change. Products change, competitors come and go, buyer’s habits change. These dynamics all have an impact on the sales process. What works smoothly today may not work so smoothly tomorrow.

The only way to identify these changes is to monitor and measure every aspect of the process. Those that just measure the final step of closed revenue are essentially flying blind.

Our data-hungry sales leader recognises this. They analyse the performance of the team against leading KPIs that span the sales process. Not content at stopping here, they will correlate against any performance changes exhibited by top performers to identify blockage points.

As fast as they identify these pinch points, strategies are quickly formulated to remove them.


7. Set behavioural targets that expose the hidden dimension of sales performance:

Monitoring sales behaviours allows our metrics-driven sales leader to measure them. In turn, this allows the setting of a ‘sales behaviour’ target in addition to a ‘revenue’ target.

Doing so exposes the hidden dimension of sales performance. It highlights who made their target by exhibiting the right behaviours. And who did not.

This allows our data-hungry sales manager to uncover true sales performance by mapping every rep’s achievement against their behavioural target right alongside their revenue achievement. And this is something that delivers rather surprising results.

When looking at a revenue target alone a rep either achieved the target set or they did not. There were only 2 possible outcomes. Mapping the extra dimension generates four, more granular, profiles of sales performers.

Winners – The group that achieved on or over 100% of the expected ‘sales behaviour’ target. They also met or exceeded their revenue target. We all know and love this group!

Strugglers – The group (hopefully small) that did not achieve on their ‘sales behaviour’ target. They also did not achieve their revenue target. This is the group that either need to exit the business or receive remedial sales training fast. Most likely the former.

Growers – This group over-achieved on their ‘sales behaviour’ target but fell just short of their revenue target. They are exhibiting the right sales behaviours and following the sales process but need a little extra coaching to make it across the line. In the old world, this group would have been lumped in with the “Strugglers” and wrongly treated as such.

Mavericks – The final grouping are those reps that achieve their revenue target, yet they do not hit their sales behaviour target. This wayward set may be hitting their revenue target, but they are not following the sales process. They are most likely delivering unhealthy deals that will unravel further down the line. Previously this group would have fallen into the “Winners” category and treated as such. However, this group probably require the most urgent coaching attention if they exist for you.


Sales management

You can read more about sales performance profiles here


Why does the new breed of data-savvy sales managers take this new approach to sales management? Simply put, because they:

  • Are maniacal about creating a clean & healthy pipeline

  • Want a smarter, fitter sales team that follows the clearly defined and repeatable path to success

  • Desire the peace of mind that comes from always hitting their forecasted number


And sales forecastingwho wouldn’t want those outcomes? They achieve all of this and more using SuMo.

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A strong sales pipeline provides the platform to achieve our forecasted number. And our plans for business growth rely heavily on our ability to repeatedly deliver an accurate sales forecast.

Learn how you can turn forecasting from an art into a science with a repeatable process that is underpinned by a clean & healthy pipeline in this eBook. Download by clicking the button below:


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