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Most successful companies are using sales analytics to report and predict sales performance. Organizations use the information provided by the sales funnel and pipeline to increase win rates and shorten the sales cycle. But even with data-rich analytics to track sales activities, companies are still lacking the insights they need to improve sales processes and practices. Why, in this age of information, are sales analytics still projecting in black and white?

First, let’s look at the definition of analytics as used by sales organizations. According to Sirius Decisions, sales analytics “enable more effective, fact-based decision making, and sales leaders should “leverage analytics to complement their judgment and experience.” These analytics give a look into the pipeline and funnel to get a better idea of what’s going on in certain stages: when deals will close, how long they’ll take, and more.

But these sales analytics only give you the what and when, not the why or how. Why are some deals closing faster than others? How can we shorten the sales cycle? Why do certain sales reps have higher win rates than others? Below are some reasons that sales analytics fail, and how to get the most out of them.

1. Analytics are not measuring the right things

Most companies use analytics to track and measure sales effectiveness. But the issue here is that sales effectiveness is mistaken for sales efficiency. Companies will track how long sales cycles took from start to close, the number of calls and emails that turned into meetings, and more. But these are not measurements of how effective a sales force is. In order to track the success of sales analytics, companies need to incorporate measurements of sales effectiveness. A few examples of this include:

  • Sales collateral that is successful/unsuccessful in different stages of the sales cycle
  • The ability for a sales rep to stay on message and on brand when speaking with prospective customers
  • Sales reps’ adeptness to share appropriate and relevant content with the right prospective customer at the right time

Most of these examples of sales effectiveness tracking have to do with tying the right collateral to the right selling situation. This includes being able to track and analyze how, when and how often a rep is sharing specific sales content with customers and prospects. But sales efficiency analytics are still important; a balance between the two is necessary.

2. The reasons for using analytics are misaligned throughout the organization

Typically, analytics are only being used for reporting and shared during weekly or monthly company meetings, to show each team’s progress for that time period. Most of the time they will not carry the same weight for the entire organization as they might for a specific team. If the significance of sales analytics reports for each team and their meaning for the bigger organization is not conveyed, it’s difficult to make any changes in behavior or practices. If the entire organization is not working towards improvement after analytics reports are shared and discussed, each month will be the same story and you’ll find yourself taking one step forward and two back after each meeting.

3. Analytics are only getting companies so far

Most sales analytics that companies track are based on the pipeline, forecasts and conversions. But these only get you so far; how do you formulate a plan for improvement from this data? Pipeline and forecasting reports are good for predicting when deals will come in and how much they will be worth, but what about the processes that get you there? It’s imperative to have insights into what practices should be repeated and which should be nixed, and the only way to do that is by tracking the why.

Finding a way to track and analyze not only sales interactions, but the interactions that prospects have with the content that your sales reps are now using and sharing, will allow you to see what is relevant and why it is working. Being able to see what content reps are sharing with prospects and how prospects respond to that content will allow you to emulate these successful practices and eliminate unsuccessful ones.

Sales analytics are often expected to solve problems and be the reasoning behind making certain organizational decisions. But the analytics commonly tracked by most companies don’t get far enough down the funnel to fuel these decisions—the funnel remains in black and white. Being able to track the how and why, however, fills the funnel with color and allows for better ways to improve sales processes and practices.

This post was originally featured on the Salesforce blog on February 16, 2015.

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