3 Steps to Start Transforming Sales from an Art into a Science

As the age-old adage “the art of sales” conveys, sales success has traditionally been considered a game of skill honed by sales veterans over years of deals won and lost. But with the continued rise of big data and real-time analytics, businesses are beginning to ask themselves: how can the art of sales be scaled, quantified and refined?

Just as marketers are no longer measured by the cleverness of an ad campaign but by its associated cost per lead and conversion rate, sales must forgo gut feelings and educated guesses in favor of processes that are repeatable, measurable and insightful. Let’s take a look at three ways that your business can start adopting a more scientific approach to sales.

Define Consistent Processes

According to a survey by Vantage Point Performance and the Sales Management Association, companies that define a formal sales process see 18% greater revenue growth than companies that don’t. This means that, in addition to defining sales pipeline stages such as “Qualified” or “Closed,” your business also needs to clearly outline the steps that belong to each stage of this funnel, and what it takes to move a deal from one stage to the next.

For example, imagine a business with a pipeline composed of the following stages: Prospecting, Qualified, Proposal, Follow-up, Close. A defined sales process might require reps to have an on-site meeting, provide a formal price quote and receive verbal confirmation that they’ve made the short list of competitors before moving from the Proposal to the Follow-up stage.

While this may seem unnecessary to a seasoned sales vet, it’s important to note that a structured sales process is key to ensuring success for less experienced reps. When all reps are speaking the same language and taking the steps necessary to close, the business benefits as a whole. CSO Insights claims that a formalized sales process leads to a 65% increase in individual reps hitting their sales quotas and an 88% boost in companies hitting their overall targets!

Maximize Data Capture

sales activity reportsJust like a chemist trying to crack the code for a new medical cure, to begin taking a scientific approach to sales, you’ll need to do a lot of research to see what’s working and what’s not. But before you can dig in, you need data – and lots of it. Of course, this is harder than it sounds when more than 33% of enterprises face low CRM adoption rates.

Here are a few ways to maximize data capture among your sales team:

  • Leverage an all-in-one sales platform that doesn’t require reps to bounce back and forth between systems to send emails, make calls or run reports. Not only does this type of solution increase the likelihood of data input, but it also prevents data from becoming siloed in various systems across your organization.
  • As discussed above, define certain stages of the sales pipeline that require particular pieces of information to move forward, such as a list of competitive solutions the prospect may be considering or marketing materials that have been sent.
  • Ensure that your sales management software is intuitive and easy to use, especially on mobile devices. If field reps can’t enter information on-the-go, the chances they will remember everything the next time they’re in the office are slim.
  • Automate as much data collection as possible. Your reps shouldn’t have to enter every phone call they make into your CRM; your sales tool should log this automatically!

Adopt a Dimensional View

Of course, every sales leader should be asking, “Have we hit our revenue target?” But the problems start when the questions stop there. Focusing only on this number yields very few, if any, insights. This is where the art of sales rears its ugly head as reps struggle to figure out how they can increase wins and average deal size through sheer mastery and determination.

Instead, data-driven sales folks should break the funnel down by various dimensions, such as sales teams, industry verticals, stage duration or lead source, just to name a few. This process uncovers underlying trends, patterns or variables that are not obvious when viewing the funnel as a whole, indicating levers that teams can then pull to scientifically impact sales.

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For instance, perhaps deals that sit in the Qualified stage of the pipeline for less than two weeks are less likely to close than those that stay there for three weeks. Or, maybe deals in the pharmaceutical industry are 3X as likely to close as those in the financial space. With these insights, reps can strategically drive sales by spending more time getting to know prospects in the Qualified stage, or focusing more on companies in the pharmaceutical space.

Helping your sales team to make the leap from the art to the science of sales takes time, but taking these three steps is sure to get you on the right path. To learn more about how your business can become a data-driven organization, download our free eBook, “From Art to Science: 5 Steps to Predictable Sales Growth.

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