Debug the Sales Process Now

For those of us who lived through the economic downturns in 2001 and 2009, we well know that telling the sales organization to “work harder” does not cut it. Rather, we need to explore and (while chief financial officers may not like to hear this) invest in ways to help increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our sales organizations. That raises the question, what sorts of investments should we be considering now?

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With the economies restarting in many countries around the world, a major focus for sales organizations is how to maximize revenue for the remainder of 2020 and into 2021. Discussions with B2B sales executives across multiple vertical industry segments reveal that very few are planning to increase the size of their sales force to increase sales. Rather, they say they are seeking to increase the output of the teams they already have in place.

For those of us who lived through the economic downturns in 2001 and 2009, we well know that telling the sales organization to “work harder” does not cut it. Rather, we need to explore and (while chief financial officers may not like to hear this) invest in ways to help increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our sales organizations. That raises the question, what sorts of investments should we be considering now?

To start to formulate an answer, let’s review the reality of the current marketplace, which is that for the vast majority of companies, where you are today bears virtually no resemblance to where you thought you would be at the beginning of the year. Now, for some firms, like Zoom, Microsoft, and Slack, this is a great thing, as they have seen a couple of years of digital transformation occur in a couple of months. This is a plus for their businesses. The same, however, cannot be said for oil companies, airlines, the food industry, or carmakers. They are in the midst of massive uncertainty if not outright chaos.

What is clear is that the sales strategies and tactics we laid out at the beginning of the year need to be changed, and what they will be replaced with is far less clear. So how do we start to bring clarity to the changes we have to successfully make (and sooner versus later)? It is time for sales to learn from the experiences of their product development colleagues.

None of us think twice about expecting the executive in charge of development to fully debug the products or services we sell so that they perform as optimally as possible. And in many cases, they are able to do so by leveraging analytics to identify product issues to be resolved. Now is the time to do the same and debug the sales process so we can optimize how we sell, and to do that we need more analytics in sales.

Fortunately, technology vendors have been working on delivering those solutions at a time we need them the most. Sales intelligence firms like InsideView and ZoomInfo have introduced advanced analytics to more effectively identify a company’s actual total addressable market so sales teams can focus their efforts on the accounts most likely to buy based on current marketplace realities.

Analytics has also come to the world of sales product and skills training reinforcement. Solutions like Brainshark and Nytro can evaluate how well salespeople are learning and applying new sales messaging designed for the current COVID-19 environment. Salesforce, ExecVision, Chorus.ai, and others provide AI-enabled analytics that analyze all the remote conversations salespeople have to surface insights into how sales teams are engaging clients and how the buyers respond to the proposed solutions.

Agility and adaptability need to be the watchwords for sales organizations for the rest of this year and into the next. Making decisions based on guesses is better than doing nothing today. But knowing what to do increases your odds of success by an order of magnitude, and the analytics exist today to effectively enable knowing

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Jim Dickie

Jim Dickie

Jim Dickie is a Research Fellow for Sales Mastery; an independent research firm that focuses on profiling case study examples of how firms in the B2B marketplace are leveraging sales process, CRM, AI and knowledge to optimize revenue performance. Jim has over 30 years of sales and marketing management experience. Jim began his career with IBM and Sterling Software and then went on to launch two successful software companies. Jim then went on to co-found CSO Insights, which was acquired by Miller Heiman Group (now a part of Korn Ferry). Jim is also a contributing editor for CRM Magazine, CustomerThink, Top Sales World, and a contributing author for the Harvard Business Review. He has served as an advisor to Baylor Center for Professional Selling, William Patterson University’s Russ Berry Institute for Professional Selling, and is a lecturer at the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business. Over the past twenty years, Jim’s teams have surveyed over a thousand sales transformation initiatives. Their research has become the benchmark for understanding how the role of sales is evolving, the challenges that are impacting sales performance, and most importantly what companies are doing to address those issues.

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