The sales industry has gone through a dramatic transformation over the past decade. Advancements in digital and computing technologies have enabled informed buyers to exercise more control in the buyer-seller relationship. In addition, marketing and sales has moved more and more from a traditional outbound format to an inbound model. An industry that had been considered an intuitive art has been driven more and more toward technology, data and science, bringing significant efficiencies and automation. This kind of analytics has not only helped in managing the sales force but has brought in more predictability about customers’ behaviors in the sales process as well. These tools now enable an enterprise to develop its own structured sales process based on data and science — for more predictability and increased success.
Research by Steve Martin, a teacher at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business, looked at features that distinguished top performing sales organizations from others. His findings from an extensive survey of sales professionals bears out the importance of a structured sales process – indicating organizations that perform at higher levels employ more supervised, formal sales processes and set high goals with accountability.
More specifically, high-performing organizations were viewed as having structured sales processes that were process driven: the process and system usage were disciplined; and closely monitored and strictly enforced or automated, with close monitoring of the follow-up of leads. These organizations also had a higher level of accountability and were faster to terminate underperformers.
Data Driven and More Scientific
The sales industry has increasingly become more data-driven, scientific and automated with rapidly developing technologies. Advances in analytics, data science, and developments in sales acceleration and automation technologies can provide management numerous data points across the sales process, much of it quite specific and granular.
A company can use its actual historical and customer experience of what actions, at what time and in what order have best achieved the most successful outcomes, as well as profiles of customers with the most propensities to buy. With this data available, management can develop a unique, specific and defined sales process based upon what has proven most successful in the past. The more data and the more past transactions, the more precise, repeatable and predictable the process can be.
The sales acceleration technologies are also able to provide a wide range of metrics on an immediate, real-time basis. These tools can gather and analyze data relating to the sales process, outreach, as well as a prospect’s behavior virtually as such actions are taking place. These may include data visualization, analytics, sales intelligence, automated email and email tracking, website browsing frequency, page visits, specific pages visited or downloaded. The platforms can then prioritize or automatically implement actions in response to a prospect’s specific action or behavior based on historical analysis of what has produced the best responses or outcomes. For example, a prospect downloading a white paper may trigger an automatic personalized, predetermined email follow-up.
Real-time data also provides management the visibility to see and closely monitor crucial metrics and key performance indicators quickly and clearly in order to have the ability to be proactive and ensure that the sales process is being followed as defined. Management is not only able to monitor the defined sales process but also to quickly evaluate results and test alternatives to continuously refine and improve the process as new data is processed.
The digital information age has dramatically changed the dynamics of most sales environments. The pace of business is continuously accelerating. More and more business processes are time sensitive and require current up to date information. Sales organizations must take advantage of available technologies and data science to create structured, repeatable and predictable sales processes. It’s essential that sales teams be able to make quick, well-informed decisions in a timely manner to drive the sales process and provide the right response to today’s demanding buyers — and maintain a competitive advantage.