Steve is the GM Sales for North Eastern US at a leading software company. He has just got off the phone with his VP Sales – his face still red with embarrassment. Steve had thought he had the forecast under control – the deals in the CRM added well, the sales team was upbeat – and as per the latest billing statement that he got last Friday, 30 percent of the forecasted opportunities had got billed by the middle of the quarter – which, going by experience, was good going. In most quarters, only around 25 percent of the target was achieved by the middle of the quarter.
But the VP Sales had other ideas. His questions were direct and backed with solid data. Which product was lagging the most in Steve’s region – what percentage had been billed, and what the pipeline was to bridge the gap with budget? What was the customer sat rating of the prospect that was being called out as the largest deal? How did the deal that came in yesterday get billed for a third of the value called out in the last forecast call? How was he going to bridge the 80 percent gap between budget and actual for Product A in the Boston area?
Steve was stumped.
Given ample time – he could have answered all the questions. But today, on the call, he felt terribly handicapped. He failed miserably!
There are plenty of Steves in Sales Management – Sales Leaders who feel handicapped for want of real time information that is subject to the right analytics, presented in an easy to use manner. Stepping back, let us examine what those challenges are that feature in every Sales Leader’s nightmare.
- Availability of Real Time Information: Most Sales Managers swear by their CRM. They get near real time data from their CRM – be it Salesforce, Siebel or SAP C4C. But that is just “good data” – not useful information. That data can be made useful only when juxtaposed with detailed billed revenue data. However, billing information comes in a scheduled manner – weekly (sometimes maybe -even daily) but very rarely in real time. The dependence on the ERP – Finance system is still high and retrieval of billing data has to go through “proper channels”. So here we have the Sales Manager with up to date pipeline data but with ‘stale” billing or revenue recognition data.
- Analytics: Sales managers often struggle with a large volume of data pulled out from their CRM systems – and then they need to compare that with data from the billing system. This is tedious – given the patience levels of most sales managers and the time they have at their disposal. For example, “deal velocity” or “conversion rate” – are CRM related analytics that can give Sales managers a better hold over their forecasts. However, when you combine billing data and CRM pipeline data, the details that one can go to are amazingly useful. What is the gap to budget for a product A in territory T1 – and which are the opportunities being called out by the sales team to back that gap – and with what deal velocity? Now, that needs real analytics. Real time as well!!
- Ability to Act on Information: Action at the point of delivery of information. That has been a challenge for most Sales Leaders. For example, they get to know that, say, a certain product has been slow in picking up in a certain territory. What may be the reasons? Who can help give the necessary push? With the data in front of him, the Sales Leader now needs to go to a separate emailing tool or some such communication channel to get across to the right people for them to act on the information that he just obtained. Often, the busy person that a Sales Leader is, he misses out on the actions to be taken, once the information is “out of sight”. This becomes a big challenge – given the complexity of the business today, where collaboration of Sales with Marketing, Product Management, Customer Satisfaction, Delivery and Finance – is an extremely important and critical element for success of the business
- Anywhere Anytime: In spite of video conferencing, telepresence, etc playing a big role in communication today, Sales Leaders still spend a big portion of their time on the road. It’s just they and their mobile phones most of the time – in between customer meetings and internal cadence calls. Given such a scenario, it becomes a challenge when the hours spent at airports and in cabs become completely useless – for want of the right information on their mobiles. They long for just-in-time information. For example, when visiting a client, they need an accurate picture of prior sales to them, customer satisfaction scores, and active pipelines across products etc. Today, with smartphones rapidly replacing laptops and tablets as a primary source of information – Sales Leaders have to necessarily obtain useful actionable insight into their business right on their mobiles.
- Accuracy: Now, this is an age old problem – with hardly a good solution in sight. Discipline has been a key necessity while designing CRM systems – but salespersons still find ways and means to create a completely different picture on CRM as compared to reality. It is estimated that over 75 percent of salespersons input partly incorrect or delayed information into CRM. Analyzing salesperson behavior and incorporating such analysis in deriving the forecast seems still the best way to get around this challenge.
I have seen Sales Leaders across industries struggle with the challenges described above. The degree or intensity of each of the challenges may differ – based on their industry or maturity of the sales teams – but in general, all of these challenges present themselves often and are bound to make the life of a Sales Leader quite difficult.
Apart from the last challenge which is more of a discipline issue, the rest can be mitigated to a large extent with proper use of technology.With advances in Enterprise Mobility backed up by great tools for information integration, solutions to the above challenges are available today.
An apt example to mitigate the risks that arise from these challeneges is the “Sales 360” Mobile App from Boston Technology Corporation. Click here to view the demo of the App. I welcome your thoughts on the app and its usefulness.