Sales executives with even moderately large, distributed salesforces rely on data to help them understand which activities and behaviors lead to the best outcomes. Solid data and analysis allow them to make more reliable forecasts, close gaps in the sales pipeline and identify which practices produce superior performance. Yet much of the information that sales executives rely upon today, such as CRM reporting tools and time studies, are based on self-reported data. Even with good intentions, the quality of this data can be ﬂawed. That leaves executives in the dark about what is actually occurring on the front lines, or whether those activities advance or impede progress toward desired outcomes.
Using new software to analyze the digital exhaust of calendar and email metadata provides a practical way to build an accurate proﬁle of how frontline sales representatives and managers spend their time, who they interact with externally and internally, and what effect this has on sales performance. These tools are proving useful in sales organizations, where both managers and reps often have clear success metrics but fuzzy mental models of where and how they should be investing their time.
By seeing exactly where and how people spend their time—rather than relying on recollections, anecdotes or assumptions—executives have a solid basis for taking actions that will raise productivity. This view, combined with more traditional sources such as CRM data, quota attainment data, territory and account plans, and qualitative observations from ride-alongs and coaching sessions, allows executives to conﬁdently identify which activities and behaviors matter most for sales performance.
Bain has worked with several companies across business-to-business sectors to deploy one of these software applications, Microsoft’s Workplace Analytics (formerly VoloMetrix), as part of a broader effort to improve sales effectiveness. The companies used the software in at least three situations: design of their coverage model; alignment of sales resources to market opportunities; and identiﬁcation and widespread adoption of the behaviors with the strongest positive inﬂuence on sales performance. Let’s examine each in turn.