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Make the 5 A’s of Intelligent Selling Part of Your 2018 Resolutions

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Christopher Cabrera
Christopher Cabrera
In Sales, Sales management, Sales Performance
Christopher W. Cabrera is an entrepreneur, author, and philanthropist. He brings more than two decades of successful senior management experience at both early-stage and public companies to his role as the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Xactly Corporation.

Hard to believe 2018 is already upon us—a year Forrester Research is declaring the “Year of Reckoning.” The economy is growing, unemployment is down, but the fate of individual companies has never been “more uncertain” for organizations that don’t embrace new technologies and business models. Consider how different the taxi industry looks just a few short years after the emergence of Uber and Lyft. Or how Salesforce forever changed traditional software with the introduction of SaaS.

The key to disruption, however, isn’t just offering the next ground-breaking idea or a great product. Companies have to look for ways to reinvent how they go-to-market in order to convince their prospects to embrace the new way. As one of the most over-used movie lines from Glengarry Glen Ross notes, successful companies need to: “A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing. Always be closing.” But is it really that simple? Do they have the tools needed to do so? I would argue, no.  

Companies spend millions on marketing to impact their top of the funnel, yet the same level of investment is not being made to push sales through the final mile. Today, sales operations are largely running on a bevy of spreadsheets and disparate applications that offer no real insight or intelligence on planning or executing sales. If existing companies hope to challenge new competitors, they must shake up the status quo themselves and digitally disrupt their own sales organization.

They can do this by investing in the 5 A’s of an Intelligent Sales model—Automation, Analysis, Accessibility, Area, and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Automation: By now, automation should be table-stakes but unfortunately it’s not. More than 85 percent of companies are still using spreadsheets to manage incentive compensation, sacrificing rep visibility and accuracy, as well as the ability to comply with complex new regulations, such as ASC 606. It’s hard to believe that in the year 2018, the majority of companies are managing one of their largest expense items, sales commissions, on spreadsheets with no audit trails and known error-rates.

Analysis: To be more effective, companies should be going deep on data analysis to understand the forces that work – and those that don’t. Sure, your sales team may have hit a collective goal, but how did individual reps do? Which regions are performing best? Which products have the lowest discounts? Which incentives were most impactful – and which were a waste of money? What was the average cost of sales? If you don’t have these answers at your fingertips on a daily dashboard, you’re missing out on potential game-changing information.

Accessibility: If you want to motivate a sales team, give them the tools they need when and where they need them most: on-the-go. Today, access to a sales compensation management dashboard on a mobile device is the modern-day dangling carrot that will motivate sales reps. By giving a salesperson the ability to quickly access this critical data, track the progress of a sale, or estimate commissions in real-time, companies are making it easier for reps to perform at their best, improving sales as well as providing reps the ability to deliver a better customer experience (if the incentives are designed correctly, of course).

Watch the webinar, "Shifting the Performance Curve: Identify Trends in Low Performers Before You Miss Your Numbers” to identify low performers and improve the health of your sales org.

Area: Location, location, location isn’t just important in real estate but also in sales. To truly maximize selling potential, companies need to modernize their territory management strategies with the combined intelligence of mapping systems, CRM, SPM and more. Are you guilty of still allocating territory assignments on spreadsheets? If so, you’re likely to have a salesforce who grumbles about imbalanced and unfair distribution. Modern territory tools can offer a better understanding of a geographic market, including specific customer and prospect opportunity to allow territories to be created with similar TAM’s. These apps can also assist with forecasting and hiring initiatives to ensure you are deploying enough reps to service your customers.

Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning: With Artificial Intelligence tools, predictive and prescriptive analytics can now be applied as a guiding light to quickly identify sales outliers, such as reps who could benefit from additional coaching or metrics that don’t meet best practices for optimal performance. Unlike the second A (Analysis), which allows companies to analyze their own performance, AI refers to more insightful data that allows companies to compare their performance against a benchmark of their peer companies or industries. For the first time, companies can answer the question: Is our performance, quotas, productivity, etc. really industry leading? Are we lagging our peers? How do our sales cycles compare to our industry? And for the first time the answers aren’t anecdotal they are factually based on empirical data!

What’s important to remember is that the 5 A’s need to work in tandem, interconnected and communicating with each other. When the data in the SPM, CRM, ERP, CPQ and CLM systems are in constant harmony, sales operations no longer operate in-the-blind. Instead, they become a living, breathing system that resembles a Waze or Google Maps for sales.

Sales reps open an app that gives them a graphical view of all existing and potential customers in a territory and they can do everything from estimate the value of a deal to prepare a proposal to get prescriptive suggestions on how to close future customers—all from their mobile devices.

The age of intelligent selling is upon us. Here’s a toast to working together to make sure your company is the one doing the disrupting in 2018, and not your competitors.


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Make the 5 A’s of Intelligent Selling Part of Your 2018 Resolutions