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Jim Steele, president, InsideSales.com: Tips for sales analytics buyers

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24th Mar 2016
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In the latest in our series of articles where IT leaders provide their take on the purchasing process, InsideSales.com president Jim Steele shares his tips for those looking to buy sales analytics tools. 

MyC. What do practitioners need to consider before they start looking for sales analytics tools, to determine their requirements?

JS. The most important thing is to look at the consistency and predictability of their current sales performance, and ultimately what’s currently working and what is not. There’s a need to look at all the metrics surrounding growth trajectories to determine next steps. Buying behaviour is constantly adapting. Today, prospects and customers know more about what they’re buying and who they are buying from. Having a sales analytics tool that understands the likelihood of contact is incredibly useful.

MyC. What kinds of questions should they ask themselves?

JS. Most sales organisations point to their marketing departments and ask, ‘why aren’t they getting leads’? On the flip side, marketing will point to the sales teams and ask why they’re not selling the content we’re giving them. There’s a misalignment here. Communication is not taking place between sales/marketing efficiently.

So, what they have to look at is the full lifecycle of the lead, right the way through from initial lead to revenue. If they have full visibility into that process then they know they know what the conversion rates and close rates are, profile of leads – which leads are the best or most valuable. That’s what practitioners need to be asking themselves: do they know the full lifecycle of a lead. That’s where revenue is currently being haemorrhaged.

Also – what are the metrics that are important to them – what’s going to be the game changer? Then there’s a need to focus in on that. Spreading yourself too thin will only make decisions harder. In this environment there is not a single company that’s not trying to figure out how to grow revenue. So it’s about looking beyond that.

MyC. How can buyers convince the CFO that investment in this kind of technology is a wise decision? How can you get buy-in?

JS. The beauty of the sales acceleration space InsideSales.com currently sits in is that everything is measurable. Measurability is the driver behind return on investment and revenue lift.

When you look at our customers – like ADP, it saw an increase of 80% in terms of the number of calls that sales people were making – not only that, but contact rate was multiplied by 50%, and close rate was up to 30%. Figures like these convince a CFO to buy – you’re selling them guaranteed revenue.

MyC. Are there any particular challenges in the sales analytics solution market that buyers need to be aware of?

JS. Yes, it’s a very fragmented space today. There’s a lot of sales analytics tools that are surplus. Data is being analysed, but it's a snapshot in time, which is not being built into the workflow, so continuous value can’t be gleaned from that data.

A dynamic, real-time analytics solution needs to analyse the opportunity but prescribe information to the sales people in real time. This gives them the information they need to close the deal.

The other challenge is around the data. An analytics platform can’t make great decisions unless it has a huge wealth of data to base it on. We’ve built a platform that not only has all these productivity tools built in, but has recorded over 100 billion sales interactions, 110 million buyer profiles and thousands of individual data points. All of this data helps sales people make smarter and faster selling decisions, because the platform has been there, done that, and made the sale in the past. And if it didn’t make the sale in the past, then it learnt from that.

It takes a considerable amount of time to build up a database of this size and that allows it to make those smart decisions. Algorithms without that data to build upon are meaningless. The more information you can build into business processes, the more realistic predictions will be.

These legacy CRM systems, which companies have had for up to 20-30 years, have spewed out mountains of data. Every company has huge amounts of data, but often in silos, not able to be pulled together quickly, analysed and actionable insights derived from it. It doesn’t stop there – it’s vital that these insights then get fed back to the sales team to help them close deals.

MyC. Once practitioners are at the solution selection stage, what advice can you share to help buyers find the most appropriate vendor for their needs?

JS. It always helps to check references and vital to check with other customers to see what their experience has been. Ask them how they’ve found the solution and qualify if a vendor’s promises and commitments are real.

Secondly, do a proof of concept – an A-B comparison test with the solution so you can see what results are for your particular business processes.

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