A new Accenture report co-authored with CSO Insights crystallizes the problem that thousands of sales executives at global enterprises face in staring down their year-end sales goals: We’re selling in an age of distraction.

Customers are bombarded with information, competition in just about any category is fierce, and the sales rep is called upon to know more, deliver it in less time, and chase an ever higher quota. No wonder 58 percent of sales executives are concerned about achieving this year’s sales targets – with 56 of these organizations saying they’ll miss their annual sales targets, according to the research.

Its analysis goes further by noting that sales reps themselves are distracted, and failing to meet their mission. Sales productivity has decreased from 41 percent five years’ ago, to 36 percent today. This, at a time when a $12 billion sales acceleration industry has focused the attention of enterprises on building out their “sales stack” – a group of interoperable and often CRM-integrated technologies fundamentally designed to enhance productivity, not jeopardize it.

What’s going on here, and how do busy sales executives focus their sales reps on what it takes to deliver against revenue goals?

The Catalyst that 77% of Organizations Miss

Today’s business culture is seemingly drowning in data while parched for context. Smarter software is delivering to sales teams an unprecedented level of predictive and prescriptive actions based on algorithms and machine learning of past actions and outcomes. Yet too often, these fail to provide a full picture of what’s need to actually change them.

Recent Sales Management Association (SMA) research suggests that the answer may lie in a critical factor already hampering sales win rates and revenue growth – sales coaching. In this AI-focused time, it’s a seemingly retro concept where the application of data is nascent but promising. Approximately 77% of firms surveyed for the SMA study released earlier this year admitted they don’t provide enough coaching to their salespeople. This, despite the fact that implementing a formal coaching process generated much stronger results (53.6% win rate) in comparison to informal coaching (45.7% win rate) and discretionary coaching (44.7% win rate).  Furthermore, when optimized for quality and quantity, coaching was shown to help grow revenue up to 16.7% faster.

Rather than adding to the distraction, organizations using data to synthesize individualized coaching actions for busy sales executives are double winners. Here are four ways to to get there:

Quantify sales rep capabilities

With sales capabilities platforms such as Qstream, sales reps participate in scenario-based challenge competitions that reinforce the knowledge and behaviors that matter most in the selling environment. A predictive insights engine continuously analyzes thousands of response data points to provide real-time management updates, trends and comparisons. Employing a quantified metric on critical capabilities, together with observed competency and confidence ratings, sends a clear message that more was expected of reps than just their pipeline, and that manager 1:1s become something more than just pipeline reviews.

Respect their time.

Systems that add time demands and distract from selling are part of the problem here, not the solution. Taking a minutes-a-day approach, enabling easy mobile device access, achieve results at scale, and deliver a user experience that’s time-efficient yet meaningful, will deliver strong user engagement essential to boosting performance with impact to the bottom line.

Coach the coaches, too.

It’s well documented that sales managers are often promoted into those positions from the sales ranks and, as such, are proficient at selling but may have little insight how to coach their sales reps. Applying data to better coaching establishes a coaching culture where teams are guided by data, not hunches. Likewise, these systems can and should be used to track the coaching history and effectiveness of field managers to know where and how to invest in sales coach development.

Look for rocket-boosters among players and layers.

Industry analysts have called the human factor in selling the “rocket boosters” of any sales stack strategy. Via CRM integration, sales managers can correlate ongoing sales capabilities data against KPIs such as pipeline, quota and win rates to assess the effectiveness of their sales teams in ways they can impact. Companies using data in this way have achieved 35% average proficiency gains, 20% higher quota attainment, a 3% improvement in gross margin, and 12% marketshare uplift.

Increasing revenue expectations place an enormous burden on front-line managers charged with growing successful teams. At the end of the day, it’s people who deliver the number. By applying data-driven coaching insights to the activity metrics they use every day, sales leaders gain the confidence to know which sales reps and managers are on track, the ability to jump start those who are not, and the wisdom to know the difference – before it’s too late.

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