The days of making sales decisions based on gut feel are over. To win today, you need more than just some data and a hunch– you need insight into what is happening in your customer base and pipeline. You need to be able to answer questions, such as: What’s causing you to win or lose opportunities? Who are your most profitable customers? Where are your reps focusing their time?

Even if you have the best team in your industry, they’re not going to be able to win just on great salesmanship anymore. Data – and the ability to mine that data for trends and nuggets you can act on – is the key.

In fact, a recent survey published by MIT Sloan Management Review indicates that the most important behavior business leaders can promote to increase the effectiveness of analytics use within their organization is “fact-based decision making.” (Click here to read that article.)

In his last blog posted here, SAP director of global marketing Nicholas Kontopoulos introduced the concept of empowering the 21st century sales warrior in four key areas: insight, collaboration, agility and impact. We will expand on each of these concepts, starting with insight.

This topic has two components in our view: sales intelligence (all of the data you have about customers and prospects from both internal and external sources) and sales analytics (tools for gleaning actionable insights from that data). This week I will tackle sales analytics.

Sales analytics is essential to gaining more insight and making better decisions, faster. Your sales reps can no longer rely upon the strength of their winning personality or the depth of their network to make their number every quarter. In fact, according to a recent report from Aberdeen (Click here for a complimentary copy of the report.), best-in-class performers consistently provide sales leadership with better information on which to base decisions. Aberdeen found that access to configurable, role-based views of the forecast contributes to sustainable business results, with a 6.3% improvement in forecast accuracy, 3.5% boost to annual revenue and a 2.7% increase in team quota attainment. In short, having better visibility allows you to take quick action where needed – making that crucial call when a deal has stalled, for example, or assigning the right resources to make sure the opportunity closes as planned. This has a huge effect on your ability to hit your target.

The bottom line: Sales analytics delivers the insight you need to make your sales teams more successful by helping them focus on the right activities. As I’m sure you already know, gut-feel decisions don’t cut it anymore. Now, across the board, there is a huge push to make fact-based business decisions based on real-time analytics.

Author: Robert Rothschild is a director of global solution marketing at SAP. He is focused on customer analytics and passionate about helping business leaders realize the value of becoming more customer-centric. Robert has been with SAP for six years and has held various CRM product strategy, product management and product marketing roles at nearly every enterprise software company for more than a decade. Prior to this, he was a senior manager of CRM business processes at Compaq and helped business leaders at AT&T, American Express and FedEx as a marketing consultant at Digitas. You can reach him at @rbrt_rothschild or [email protected].