Guest Column | July 30, 2014

Bad Data + Bad Decisions = Bad Sales

Gil Cargill

By Gil Cargill, Sales Acceleration Coach, Cargill Consulting Group, Inc.

Sales executives have perennially shown anxiety regarding the quality of data available to them.  Questions like “Should we hire more salespeople?” or “Should we get more leads?” are constantly revolving around in the minds of those professionals responsible for managing sales forces and sales processes. I believe that most of these decisions are made with bad data.  Stop and think about it for a second.

Sales reports are typically made by salespeople to management, they are made after the fact and, let’s face it, human beings rarely point out their own faults. I’ve been a sales manager, coach and/or consultant since 1973, and I literally cannot recall the time a salesperson told me that he/she “blew the call” because they made a boneheaded mistake.  What I have heard, and I bet you have also, is, “Your prices are too high” or “They weren't qualified anyhow.”

If the data you receive is bad, then any decision you make based on that data de facto must also be bad. These bad decisions lead inevitably to bad sales. Stop and think about: How many of you know exactly how many calls your salespeople made yesterday? Or, when did each salesperson make his/her first call? Their last call? What percentage of their calls were follow-ups on “friendly contacts” versus prospecting calls?  The list of questions can go on and will far exceed the space allotted to me here.

It’s imperative that sales management embrace a process where they can utilize leading indicators. Every other function in a quality business has some set of leading indicators that provide senior management with insight regarding the future. If inventory is low today, odds are management will have to scurry to replace inventory. That’s an example of a leading indicator.  If customer support calls are trending up, that's an indicator that training of the customers has not been done as well as one would like.

But, sales managers can only manage with lagging indicators. Lagging indicators are the worst, and I repeat, they are the worst indicators to be utilized for management decisions. After all, we can’t do anything about dollars generated last week, last month, last quarter, et cetera.  As a result, we tend to manage based on history.

If sales are up, let’s say, ten percent versus historical norms, the assumption is everything’s working. But, how do you know that we are calling on all of the right accounts? How do you know that your customers are buying better than your salespeople are selling? The secret sauce is for you to develop a system of leading indicators that lets you know what’s going on inside of the funnel.

Now, I recognize that there is no shortage of CRM systems available on the market today, but precious few of any of these give you clear 20/20 insight into what’s occurring inside of the funnel. We know clearly how many opportunities go in the funnel (from a variety of sources), but we also have 20/20 visibility on the opportunities coming out of the funnel. Again, if the ratio between input and output is better than history, we assume things are going well but we don’t know precisely what to do.

Without visibility on what’s going on within the funnel or pipeline, it’s impossible to coach your salespeople. All you can do is become a cheerleader, and far too often too many sales managers are relegated to the position of being a cheerleader due to the fact that they don't have good data upon which to make coaching decisions and/or strategic/tactical decisions.

Symptoms of a cheerleading sales manager are phrases like, “We need to work harder” or “We need to work smarter.” A good system that provides you with visibility on what’s going on within the funnel will provide you with the fact that you need to coach your team to execute certain steps of your sales process more accurately and precisely.

For a complimentary copy of Gil Cargill’s Sales Effectiveness Planning Guide, click here.

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