Evaluating and managing the performance of a B2B salesperson is ostensibly a more straightforward exercise compared with other job roles because of the transparent nature of quota attainment and easily measurable customer-facing activities. And yet too often, both sales managers and individual contributors fail to leverage data-driven opportunities, and objective external support systems, to identify nuanced, subtle, and coachable moments throughout the sales cycle.

The title of my new Research Report references the author’s favorite television character, whose quirky personality sometimes inspires him to take his logic-based approaches to life a bit too far. Dr. Sheldon Cooper would not likely possess the personality traits to make an effective business-to-business (B2B) sales rep, but he would probably appreciate the lessons of Sales Analytics: Data-Driven Forecasting for Better Quota Attainment, which promote the use of verifiable facts over gut-based emotions in supporting accurate sales forecasting practices. This data demonstrates how top-performing organizations remove emotion from their sales pipeline management efforts – “yes, Boss, I believe this deal should be at 90% likely to close, because I just have a good feeling about it” – and leverage “big data”flavored predictive analytics to better run their bottom-of-the-ninth deal management process. New Aberdeen research published in It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint: Best-in-Class B2B Sales Training for an Ever-Changing Market (June 2014) now allows us to travel back in time to earlier points in the sales cycle to understand best practices in sales coaching that can ultimately yield more quality and closable deals in this same sales forecast.

For generations of professional sellers, the “ride-along” event has represented an educational opportunity for their manager to accompany them in an in-person, phone-or web-based sales pitch. It is safe to assume that the sales manager (probably a high-performing player who was promoted to a leadership role), will generally have the ability to observe, diagnose, and coach their rep toward a stronger aptitude for and delivery of effective sales conversations. And yet, while the typical manager certainly has the best interests of their direct reports in mind, they are no less immune from subjectivity when pressured to deliver the team-wide sales number, nor to rely excessively on aging concepts of “when I carried the bag, we did it this way.”

Hence this report’s assertion: that the all-too-human necessities of romancing and selling a business sales prospect require more than the artistic and persuasive powers of a rep’s communication skills. Indeed, while Sheldon’s friendship algorithm may be extreme, there may be a legitimate “Bazinga!” moment for sales coaching when hard data helps determine the best course of action that will most effectively seal any given sales deal. Now, let’s explore the facts behind the theory.

Putting Analytical Thinking into the Spotlight

In the Sales Training research data set, 68% of Best-in-Class companies indicated that they find it “highly effective to apply analytics or ‘big data’ tools to historical sales activity, or the current sales pipeline, to better coach individual reps around the skills they need to improve.” In other words, they learn from their past successes and failures regarding what tactics, messaging, and pricing approaches are most or least effective in winning deals.

Table 1: Data-Driven Coaching Yields Superior Sales Results

When we slice the data from a different perspective, comparing the business results of all survey respondents adopting analytical sales coaching with those of other firms, the value of analytical coaching is clearly revealed in Table 1. Here, we see a variety of both current and year-to-year sales performance metrics supporting an investment in processes, technologies, or services that are designed to support fact-based, performance-improving, sales behavior modification.

These KPI’s highlight two of the most important families of measurements that the C-suite typically highlights when evaluating the sales organization as a whole: quota attainment and time-sensitive productivity. Certainly, given the general business climate in which lack of aggressive growth is seen as an enormous competitive disadvantage, a faster pace of overall team quota attainment is highly desirable. When more sales reps achieve their number and turnover subsequently drops more quickly; moreover, the overall efficiency of the sales operations team becomes more evident, especially considering that Aberdeen’s sales performance management research finding that the typical cost of replacing a B2B sales rep is nearly $30,000. As for shortening the sales cycle and sales onboarding timeframe, the correlation between these advantages and more effective coaching is easy to comprehend: more deals closed per year, and more fresh talent reaching peak productivity on a faster pace.

Read the full report here.