15 KPIs That Every Sales Manager Should Use in 2017

It can often seem like data analysis and efficiency optimizations are the realm of the VP or the C-level. It makes sense when you think about it- those are the roles that are tasked with thinking strategically, making larger decisions to improve the overall health of the organization.

But there is another role that can and absolutely should be using data analysis tools to optimize performance, and it’s the role that is most involved in making the tactical, day-to-day decisions: the sales manager.

Data Analysis for the Sales Manager

In fact, sales managers should be using data at least as frequently as the VP. If your goal is to use data to make smarter decisions every day and improve the overall health of your organization then sales managers are in the best possible place to influence those daily best practices. According to Salespop “The sales manager has a weighty responsibility. On his or her shoulders rests the overall responsibility of ever increasing sales; training, coaching and performance of sales personnel; and the prediction of how well sales will do in the future, called sales forecasting.”

Let’s break down those roles a little bit to clearly identify the five things that sales managers are most often charged with:

  1. Increase Sales 
  2. Training 
  3. Coaching
  4. Improve Performance 
  5. Forecasting

While these are definitely weighty responsibilities there is good news: these are precisely the sorts of decisions that could use data to improve. And so, to discover how data would fit into each of these sales manager objectives we will provide three key performance indicators you can act on today to improve each aspect of your job as a sales manager.

1. Increase Sales

  • Lead Response Time: We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again- if you contact a lead within an hour of receiving it then you are seven times more likely to have a customer. Acting on this KPI always means increased sales fast.
  • Sales Cycle: This means the average time it takes a deal to close. As a general rule you should be looking at any deals that seem to be stuck in the pipeline and either assign them to new representatives or drop them entirely.
  • Win:Loss Ratio: Take your historical data and deal size into account and see how many you are winning and losing and act on it. How? If you are winning fewer larger accounts and losing lots of little accounts then change your strategy to focus on the larger and change your qualification standards to weed out the smaller deals, thus increasing your sales.

2. Training

  • Efficiency Ratings: There is no more efficient way to train up your new sales reps than in teaching them what is a good use of their time. Efficiency ratings take a look at every action your reps are doing and then follows those actions down the pipeline to won or lost deals. Simply train your new reps to do the actions that most often result in wins for your organization.
  • Successful Steps: This KPI looks at individual steps within your sales funnel and tracks them by how much time each opportunity spent in each step. If opportunities frequently stall in one particular step you can take action by training your new representatives in that step, thereby bringing up a more efficient next generation of reps.
  • Causal Analysis: This KPI has you examining your wins more closely, specifically collating that data with successful steps to see the pattern and discover where the tipping point for your wins was. If you can train your next generation of reps to repeat those successful processes every time then you will undoubtedly see an increase in sales.

3. Coaching

  • Opportunities by Representative: Essentially this KPI is breaking down your pipeline by employee, comparing that data to the overall status of the opportunities each employee is responsible for in order to determine who your top performers are and why. Once you know that information you can pair the top performers with lower performers, bringing them up.
  • Employee Funnel Progression: But say that you have an employee that is brilliant at getting opportunities through a certain step in the pipeline, whereas another is terrible at that same step. Neither are top or bottom performers, but by comparing the data you can discover a strengths/weaknesses match. Pairing those reps together should see improvement in both.
  • Closed Deal Size Aptitude: Another representative view, this KPI breaks data down by representative, win/loss, and deal size. This way you can discover your reps that are best at closing certain deal sizes and make sure that you are assigning them opportunities based on their strengths.

4. Improve Performance

  • Overall Sales History: Performance improvements don’t happen overnight- they take time. That’s why looking at your overall sales history is important, so you can see the bigger trends before you start making any big changes to the process. The first step in improving performance is knowing where you’ve been.
  • Pipeline by State/Region: The next key to using data to improve performance is realizing that one set of efficiency improvements will not necessarily work across all regions of your business. To assume so is to over-simplify a complex issue. Instead, break down your pipelines by state and region to discover what sort of actions you can take in that geographic location that make sense. This allows you to think locally and more agile.
  • Success by Season: In addition to geographic location you need to look at success by season. This is different from overall sales history because this KPI is breaking down that history into months of the year. When you do, look for patterns across time that can help explain seasonal dips and bumps: a downward trend might not be so bad if it correlates to a certain time of year every year. And what’s better: if you know it’s coming you can plan for it.

5. Forecasting

  • Size of Win Trend: Overall sales history, pipeline by state/region and success by season are all important KPIs when it comes to making an accurate forecast, but size of win trend tops them all. This KPI takes the data from each of those metrics and compares it historically, specifically looking at the size of deals that were closed by location and time. With this knowledge in hand you can make accurate, reasonable forecasts for your sales reps, ensuring that you aren’t putting unrealistic expectations on them and thereby harboring resentment.
  • Pipeline Inflow/Outflow: This KPI is important to take into account when making your predictions becuase it should be telling you how many opportunities your reps are recieving from which marketing sources and thereby should impact your forecast. If you are recieiving fewer deals from marketing it might not be the month to heap a higher amount of closed deals on your team.
  • Average Deal Size: One of the best predictors for any accurate forecast, knowing the size of your deals on average will help you understand where you are going in the future in terms of revenue. When making your predictions make sure you are analyzing this data first and drawing your numbers with this in mind, thus ensuring that you have a sound reason for making your forecast. Acting on this KPI means changing the deal size gradually rather than all at once.

Keep a close eye on these 15 sales manager metrics and we guarantee you’ll start seeing improvements in each area fast. Your CRM is already gathering the data you need for each of these KPIs, all you need to do is dig into the system and access it. We recommend putting the data into a visualization that helps you easily identify and spot trends between these 15 KPIs for even faster improvement. Also, make sure to check out our Sales KPI eBook where we outline where each of these (and other) KPIs come from, how to formulate them and how to act on them.

5 Reasons Why CEOs Should Master Sales and Marketing Data

The role of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) has evolved over the years. CEOs today have to get their hands dirty and do their share of the legwork, while at the same time being responsible for making the decisions and guiding a business in the right direction. The role of the CEO is such that he/she is more used to putting out fires than preventing the fires in the first place. This means that CEOs are far too reactive and only take action when problems emerge. Using data, they can foresee potential problems and take steps to prevent them. However, they don’t know how to read the data correctly.

Here are 5 reasons why CEOs should understand sales and marketing data

1.Big Data is the New Black

In over 60% of corporations that are relying on data-driven sales and marketing initiatives, the initiatives are launched by the CEOs. Big data has become a household term today. Any business worth its salt invests heavily in gathering and analyzing data about its customers, partners, and even employees. Big data also encompasses the sales and marketing function of a business.

Using the insight provided by big data analytics, CEOs gain a comprehensive overview of their sales and marketing levels, revenue, and bottom-line, enabling them to make informed decisions. If your company is planning to invest in machine learning, you have to be on top of the game to understand how data can drive decision making.

2.Tracking is the Key

Businesses have to track and monitor any activity they invest in, especially sales and marketing. If you want to double your sales volume, this means you have to double all the factors that lead to a sale, i.e. prospects, leads, etc. Effective tracking will enable you to check if you have been able to increase the factors accordingly or not and whether you need to make any changes.

How would a CEO know if the new sales campaign is generating results? It is only possible if he/she has tangible sales data analytics on hand to decide whether to continue with the campaign or look for new ideas. Defining the Key performance indicators(KPIs) for measuring your sales and marketing performance is important to gauge the return on investment (RoI), among other factors.

3.Enhance Organizational Performance

A successful company relies on cohesion, collaboration and communication between the departments. As the CEO, you are overseeing everyone, and hence need to be on the same wavelength as your sales and marketing teams. If you don’t understand the KPI’s they are using for measuring the progress of their campaigns, you cannot hold them accountable or measure their performance. Broadening the scenario, you have to track the performance of the entire business, and understanding sales and marketing data goes a long way towards helping you achieve that.

This is because not all employees have access to the volume of data as you, because you are the person in charge. If you are counting on them to act on information they don’t know about, they won’t be able to meet your expectations.

4.Understand Your Customers Better

Today’s customer is savvier and knows more about the brands he buys products and services from. Your marketing efforts cannot focus on a generic customer profile. You have to understand the ideal client persona and develop it keeping in mind the data you generate from CRM tools. A better understanding of your customers fosters retention and loyalty. For example, using big data, you can get an idea of your customers’ location, age, and spending habits.

5.Make Better Decisions

Last, but not the least, with companies increasing their emphasis on reporting, more data is available to you than ever. As the CEO, you have a bird’s eye view of sales data, marketing data, and any other form of big data your company generates. A keen understanding of the information the data provides and the analytics your team uses will help you make better decisions to improve your bottom-line.

As a CEO, if you find it difficult to understand sales and marketing data, VisualCue can simplify it for you. VisualCue is a comprehensive Sales Performance Platform that boosts performance by transforming the data your team generates every day into actionable insights they can use to work smarter.

We acomplish this by combining revolutionary data visualization with proven Business Intelligence strategies to empower every member of your team with information they need to improve their performance.

The 5 most important KPI's for VP's In 2017

The Problem: You Need to Make a Change, But Don’t Know Where

Here is a scenario for you: you have just been hired as the new VP of Sales at a young technology company. You were hired with the expectation, naturally, of improving processes, increasing sales and growing the company in the right way. Your first day on the job you sit down at your desk and discover that, like the vast majority of sales organizations out there, the organization has been using Salesforce or another CRM that has been gathering data on how the sales of this particular organization have been operating.

You are now at a crossroads. You’ve got all this data, a big job to do, and aren’t sure where to begin. That’s where we come in with this article. A few weeks ago we published an eBook, Sales KPI’s That Drive Performance Outcomes. In that book, we outlined, described, and gave advice on how to implement 24 of the most meaningful KPIs that we have come to know through years of personal experience and extensive research.

But what if you haven’t got the time to go wading through all of those KPIs, making sure that your organization is hitting each one. This is your first week on the job, after all, and you need to take action fast. No problem, we’ve condensed the list into these 5 KPI’s that will provide the most immediate, noticeable benefit to your bottom line. Start with these and then work on the others once you feel comfortable that your organization has each of these KPIs working at maximum efficiency.

This information is particularly useful to the new VP of Sales, but equally useful for the seasoned VP who is looking to shake things up a bit.

The Answer: Start With These 5 KPI’s.

The following 5 KPIs are presented in the order that you should start implementing them. Again, this is not a comprehensive or exhaustive list, it’s just the best place to start in order to begin seeing the most immediate, positive benefit to your bottom line- it doesn’t create a truly winning sales organization; that part comes with more time.

Lead Response Time

  • Monitor the time between when a lead entered your pipeline to the first time that they were contacted by a member of your team (any contact counts).

Why do we start with this one as the best way to quickly impact your bottom line? Because according to the Harvard Business Review “Firms that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead (which we defined as having a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker) as those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later—and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.” If you want to start seeing immediate results, initiate processes and protocols that have your sales team following up with leads in less than 24 hours.

Efficiency Ratings

  • Track your won opportunities and identify which activities led to the most wins.
  • Where the information is available, track what activities your competitors are completing most often.

This KPI essentially asks you to take the long view, attaching specific activities to wins. While you might need the assistance of a sales performance platform to make these connections (as they can sometimes be a little hard to spot if you are looking at the data without any visualization help) it is definitely worth your time to figure out which activities your reps are doing that translate to the most wins. And why do we put this one on the shortlist of KPIs to start tracking immediately? According to Cobhan Phillipson “If you can eliminate unnecessary time spent on non-selling activities sales objectives and results will also see improvements.” Improve your efficiency rating and you will see everything else improve shortly thereafter.

Sales Cycle

  • Monitor how long it takes for a deal to enter your pipeline until the time it is considered won or lost.
This KPI earns a spot on our short list for the simple reason that it is the most comprehensive and meaningful when it comes to analyzing your sales process. However, we would caution you to make sure that when you are looking at this metric you try not to be short sighted or myopic. Think about this KPI as a part of a larger whole. For example, if you are taking a long time to close deals look at the size of the deal- is it large enough to warrant the amount of time spent on it? This is the first step in understanding how your sales is currently operating, and you need to know it before you can move on to other improvements.

Successful Steps

  • Closely monitor each stage of your sales funnel and track the time that each opportunity spends in each stage.
  • Identify patterns between won opportunities and individual steps, taking particular note of when opportunities gained momentum.

This KPI asks you to perform a deeper dive into your sales funnel and promises big returns when it comes to optimizing the processes found therein. In the “Sales Cycle” KPI we asked you to take a look at your entire sales organization in the big picture, looking for weak links. In this stage, you are looking at specific stages and trying to find patterns in the data– which stage is most often associated with a win? At what stage do most deals go from slow moving to the fast lane? In other words, at what stage in the sales process are opportunities picking up speed? Looking at the data in this way will allow your entire team to capitalize on what you are already doing well and see even more sales. This is important to monitor early on because you can start providing training around weak steps in the process, taking immediate action that is sure to improve your time to close.

Steps by Representative

  • Track each of your representative’s opportunities by the KPIs listed above
  • Make sure that you are gathering current and historical data to give yourself a clear picture of the employee’s growth over time.

While there are many benefits to tracking this KPI, the primary benefits are found in the performance improvements you will see within your own representatives. But this is just the start. Most data analysis tools can give you which opportunities your representatives have open, and even what stage they are in. But for real efficiency gains, you need to remember that second bullet point and also gather and analyze that information historically for each employee. Often employees can go through seasons of busy times or slow times depending on factors in their personal lives or the waxing and waning of a particular industry. Gathering that historical data will allow you to see the patterns in an individual’s performance and do more than just scramble to make changes in the moment. While this is certainly beneficial it would be even more efficient if a sales leader could predict, based on historical data, when a certain employee will be busy or slow, thereby changing the workforce before it becomes a problem. Track this KPI right at the beginning of your tenure and you will surely be in an enviable position with a team full of motivated, efficient salespeople in no time at all.

If you would like to dig deeper into KPI’s that matter most for your company, check out our Ebook “Sales KPI’s that Drive Performance Outcomes”.

How to Leverage Data to Scale your Sales Team in 2017

The Problem: How to Scale the Right Way

Most businesses, especially those with a heavy sales focus, face a lot of pressure to scale their operations in order to meet with increased demand. It makes perfect sense when you think about it: if the business were going well then VPs and C-Levels are going to start looking for smart, responsible ways to grow their sales force in order to not only keep up but stay one step ahead of the competition. This is usually where the most fear or trepidation for the VPs comes in, and with good reason.

Steve W. Martin put the fear into the following terms in the Harvard Business Review– “What prevents a sales organization from achieving success?  After studying hundreds of sales organizations, I have found the answer to this question is directly related to the challenges associated with their development stage.” That’s where the fear really comes in- most organizations don’t go about scaling their sales organization in the right way, and as a result, they don’t achieve success and the entire business is in danger of failing.

So what is the solution to scaling a sales organization in the right way? While there is no magic cure-all for knowing the exact right way to scale your sales team, there is a lot to be said for making smarter decisions during the crucial stages Martin was talking about. And smarter decisions start with being more informed- in other words, knowing how to use data and information to make informed, smarter decisions rather than just going off of your gut.  We’re going to talk about what metrics and KPIs you should be looking at in order to make the right decision about when and how you should be scaling your organization and in which direction.

Smarter Decisions Start with Knowing the Difference Between Metrics and KPI’s

It’s lesson one because the difference between them could mean success or failure when it comes to making a data-informed decision. According to Jonathan Taylor of Klipfolio a KPI is “a measurable value that demonstrates how effectively a company is achieving key business objectives.” A metric, on the other hand, is “a quantifiable measure that is used to track and assess the status of a specific process.”

But what is really the difference between a KPI and a metric in plain English? Taylor notes that “With metrics, think broad. With key performance indicators, think deep. For example, a metric may monitor website traffic compared to a traffic goal, whereas a key performance indicator would monitor that same site traffic but only insofar as it’s related to, say, content downloads.” In other words, metrics are the building blocks of KPIs. KPIs can be an aggregation of a number of metrics, though most usually they are a selection of a very few, related metrics. In Taylor’s example, the correlation of metrics to form a KPI is # of hits on a certain website and the # of content downloads. A KPI in such a scenario might be “x amount of web traffic converted to content downloads.”

So what does knowing the difference between a metric and a KPI have to do with using data to scale your sales organization in the right way? Becuase it is only through looking at the right KPIs that you can know when and how to scale your sales organization. If you choose to expand or cull your sales organization without knowing whether or not you are hitting certain benchmarks then you run the risk of making a serious error that could have been avoided if you had only looked at the data.

The key here is to look at a certain number of metrics and KPI’s and then, once those numbers pass over a certain threshold you can know with surety that it’s the right time to expand or cull your sales organization.

So Which Metrics and KPIs Will Tell Me When and How to Scale my Organization?

That’s just the thing- if you are reading this you know your business better than we do. When to scale a business is a tricky question and varies by industry, so we won’t try to tell you exactly when you should be increasing or decreasing your sales force. Therefore it is up to you to set the performance thresholds, but we can say with certainty that no matter what business you’re in you need to at least be tracking the following specific metrics and KPIs that shed the greatest insight on growth before you make a decision whether or not to expand or decrease your sales organization.


  • Deals Closed
    • This is one of the most basic metrics and is still useful even without context. This is the most basic because it essentially shows you how your sales are growing or shrinking and therefore acts as a great early warning system for possibly bigger problems ahead. However, don’t put too much faith in this metric alone. You might be closing fewer deals but each of those has a higher dollar value attached, or the converse might be true.
  • Size of Open Opportunities
    • This metric is great for understanding what kind of business your sales organization is attracting. Again, this metric serves as a wonderful early warning system for either potential benefits or negative impacts based on the size of deal your representatives are attracting. But without the context, this metric can be misunderstood. For example just looking at the size of your open opportunities could have you neglecting the historical context and future predictions of the same data.
  • Cost to Acquire Customer
    • This metric asks you to closely monitor how well your sales and marketing teams are working together and is one of the first metrics that will start to slip if the two departments start drifting out of alignment. If you see a sudden spike in the cost to acquire a customer that could mean that your marketing team is spinning their wheels bringing in poor leads for your sales department and you need to start bringing the two of them together. For more information on how to do this, check out our article on the subject. You can always find this metric in your Salesforce data, as explained here.


  • Sales Per Representative
    • This KPI combines sales metrics with individual representative performance. If you are keeping your eye on this KPI then you will not only know who your top sellers are but can see, if you compare the data historically, whether or not your training programs are working and whether or not you are growing or shrinking as an entire workforce. As an added benefit, according to Klipfolio, “Some leaders share this information across their entire sales teams to encourage competition among reps.”
  • Product Performance
    • This KPI not only looks at metrics for # of products sold but then breaks down and compares that information to other products in your organization. The benefits of such a KPI are beyond obvious- if you know which of your products is selling well you can focus more of your business on those aspects while perhaps adjusting your approach to the rest of them. This KPI is also helpful in scaling your organization because it points a direct light on what you should be training your new salespeople on.
  • Pipeline by State/Region
    • When trying to decide how and when to scale your sales organization nothing is perhaps more important than understanding your business as a whole. If you, like many companies in the world today, have business in more than one state or region then you need to be looking at the bigger picture. By breaking down your sales data into a geographic location (the first metric) and then the size of opportunities in the pipeline for those regions (the second metric) you will have a clear picture of whether or not your entire organization is booming or just a single region has gotten hot. This allows the conscientious VP or C-Level to focus their attention in the right area.

How Do You Use This Information?

Now that you are tracking these 6 metrics and KPIs that shed particular light on how well your organization is growing, and how to expand it in the right way, you need to understand how all of the pieces fit together. The secret to this is that you can’t just look at any one KPI or metric, you need to be examining all of them at the same time to spot patterns and see how they all fit together. When all of these metrics and KPIs are working together, with none of them lagging behind or lacking attention, then you know you can make a smart decision with confidence.

The difficulty doesn’t lie in gathering the information. Countless programs like Salesforce, Hubspot, and Insightly are collecting real-time and historical data on daily sales, website traffic, and broader sales goals. The difficulty, rather, is in gathering all of these data sources into one, centralized location and then seeing all of that information in the big picture without losing the details.

That’s where a sales performance platform like VisualCue comes into play. VisualCue allows you to see all of the metrics and KPIs listed above, and more, in a single, understandable graphic that makes the actionable intelligence jump off the page. The platform even comes with customizable thresholds so you can know the instant that a metric or KPI starts to slip into worrying territory.

Seeing all of these KPIs in one graphic helps you understand the data in context, enabling you to spot patterns and make sure that you know when the time to scale is right without having to spend hours poring over spreadsheets and reports. According to analyticbridge , “Data visualization enables users to effectively see patterns and relations that occur between operations and business performance. It’s easier to see how your day-to-day tasks impact your overall business performance, and find out which operational change triggered the growth/dip in business performance.” That is exactly what data visualization is supposed to d0- enable anyone to find the patterns in how one of these metrics and KPIs affects the others. That way you can make sure that your entire business is on the right path before you have to make the large, strategic decision to scale. It’s not just about growing your business, it’s about growing it in the right way.

The 5 Most Common Mistakes Sales and Marketing Teams Make, and how Data Fixes Them

It’s costing you a lot, and the solution is right there.

The Problem: Sales and Marketing Aren’t Using Data Effectively

It has become something of the maxim for many modern companies. We most recently read it in Forbes, who writes “industry expert Gary Cokins has repeatedly said that companies are “drowning in data, but starving for information.” And while this maxim has humorous connotations when it comes to swimming in a sea of data and just looking for that one little bit of actionable information the reality is much more troubling. And if you find that this drowning/starving metaphor applies to you then the situation is more dire than you might think.

We don’t mean to be dramatic, but the situation really is that serious. According to Forbes “83 percent of CIOs believe data is a valuable asset that isn’t yet fully utilized.” Essentially what this is saying is that there is a valuable asset hiding in the data, everyone knows it, and yet no one can seem to figure out how to use it.

Why is that? There are many possible explanations. One possible reason could be that data analysis is time consuming and costly. Industry expert Gary Cokins also thinks that “Among organizations, there is fear of being measured, knowing the truth and being held accountable.” In other words the information that comes in the hard light of data’s day might not be what most organizations want to hear. But we are here to tell you that, no matter what you might find, it is always worth a look.

So where should an organization start using data effectively? We recommend right at the ROI generating twin engines of your organization: sales and marketing.

This post is going to deliver a step-by-step guide in how to use data effectively at every stage of the sales and marketing funnel. For more information on how to align sales and marketing, see our previous post on 5 Simple Strategies to Align Your Sales and Marketing Teams in 2017.

Confusion About What Qualifies

In our previous post, we mentioned the importance of getting sales and marketing to agree on what constitutes a qualified lead, whether it be MQL, SQL or SAL. This is the first mistake that many sales and marketing teams make: they disagree on what qualifies a lead. This miscommunication leads to marketing generating tons of bad leads while sales is griping for more educated, ready-to-buy prospective clients in their workday. The experts at PersistIQ define the problem this way, “After you have an SLA in place and know who is responsible for your inbound leads, the first step is to qualify those leads. Simply put, is this prospect a good match for your product/service or not?”

This is also the first place where data analysis can help. If you are using a CRM or sales performance platform (if you are not, we highly recommend starting in order to remain competitive) then you are already gathering all the data about what qualifies a lead not just in a general sense but which leads are most qualified for your specific industry and sales processes. All you need to do is track which of the leads that marketing generates make it down to the purchase stage in the least amount of time and you will know that any lead coming from this source or meeting these circumstances should be considered a high priority. It’s using data analysis to come up with your own set of qualifications rather than relying on an outside source.

Know What Content Qualifies

All of the qualified leads that you identify in step 1 had to come from somewhere, and in the modern marketing landscape that means a specific piece of content resonated with them. Luckily most websites and CRMS are tracking what pieces of content most prospective buyers are interacting with. Once you have that information in hand you can start to not only tailor the rest of your content marketing strategy but can solve one of the biggest marketing blunders of our time: producing content that goes nowhere.

Forrester Analyst Lori Wizdo defined the problem and the solution in this way: “you need to make sure that the content that you’re distributing to your prospects, the content that you’re presenting to them either remotely or in person, matches exactly what their needs are so you can have smarter conversations with them.” When a piece of content fits those criteria then the prospective client moves through the pipeline more smoothly and sales can know that the content the prospective buyers are reading earlier in their journey is qualifying them in the best possible way.

Look for Quality, not Quantity

We get it: everyone wants to see results quickly. For a new CEO coming into an organization with floundering sales the most immediate answers could be something like “hire more salespeople” or “generate more leads.” Quite frankly these are shortsighted, foolish answers to a more complicated problem and smart leaders will see the benefit in adopting a little patience and looking for quality, not quantity. In other words, the quick fix might improve the outlook in the short term but can actually end up hurting your organization in the long run.

According to the experts at SMA, “Stuffing more leads into a flawed sales process will not resolve a sales effectiveness problem.” So how does data solve this problem? Simple. Use the data in your CRM to track your sales process and look for flaws in the system rather than trying to stuff more leads into a flawed system that will only drop what you spent time and money to build. We recommend using the data to see where most prospective buyers get stuck in the sales process. Which step is taking more time than any other, and where do you see the most drop-off? With that information in hand you can start focusing your training and efforts where they can actually do some good.

One Set of Scoring Metrics

Most sales organizations have multiple branches and multiple clients across multiple countries. If you sell anything online then you definitely do. And while we understand that people are different no matter where you go this buyer diversity leads many CEOs into a trap that seems all too reasonable: have different scoring metrics for different regions. While it might seem like this approach makes sense top marketers and sales organizations now know something different: have the same metrics for your entire organization.

According to the experts at Marketo “This centralized approach has greatly helped us evaluate the quality of top-of-funnel leads coming in and understand our program performance.” When you have a different set of scoring metrics around lead qualification then your performance analysis suffers and your sales organization will blunder on as it always has. However, if you use data to generate a reasonable set of statistics then you are already well on your way to the most efficient means possible of making sure that all leads, no matter where they come from, are qualified. To find this data we recommend looking first at average lead generation to purchase time over a period of months and years for the whole organization: this will give you a historical perspective you can use to set your centralized scoring metrics.

Know What Your Qualified Leads are Costing You

By this point you should know what qualifies a lead, what content creates that qualified person, that you have an efficient sales process ready to receive them and that all of your leads across your organization look and feel the same in terms of scoring metrics. This is an enviable position for any CEO to find themselves in, but there is one final piece of the puzzle- getting to this point should not cost the company too much money. This is often a trap that many organizations fall into- they create sophisticated processes that generate qualified leads but, due to a trial-and-error approach in getting there they find that they are in a less rosy financial picture than when they started.

So how does data fix this problem? According to marketing and sales expert Eric Vidal “be more ROI focused as you approach metrics. For example, calculating the customer acquisition cost (CAC) could be a good way to determine the success of your marketing campaign, and that’s a measurement sales could get behind.” Essentially what you need is for your sales and marketing teams to agree on data metrics when it comes to the marketing activities. While marketing might be ecstatic that their email was opened and had a high clickthrough rate they need to discuss those same metrics with sales so that a correlation can be made. If that email did not result in significant higher sales then perhaps it is time for a new approach. Your CRM is gathering this data and a sales enablement platform can connect the dots to track marketing efforts all the way downstream. This way the C-suite can ensure that only the most cost-effective methods are being utilized.


The world of sales and marketing is a tricky one to navigate, full of pitfalls and dangers. The world of data acquisition and analysis could be your roadmap to not only avoiding these common mistakes but capitalizing on utilizing data the right way.

If you would like to learn more about aligning sales and marketing leveraging data, download our free E-book ” The War is Over: The ultimate guide to aligning sales and marketing”.

5 Simple Strategies to Integrate Your Sales and Marketing Teams in 2017

It’s a problem as old as companies themselves, but 2017 brings fresh challenges and solutions to the age-old problem.

The Problem: The Roles of Sales and Marketing is Changing

Aligning sales and marketing has always been a difficult proposition. Molly Soat of the American Marketing Association defines the problem most succinctly when she writes “For most companies, marketing’s job is to generate leads, and sales’ job is to turn those leads into clients. In practice, though, marketing and sales need to work in tandem, aligning their roles and goals to ensure that ROI becomes the responsibility of the whole organization, not individual teams.” And therein lies the difficulty- getting sales and marketing to work together has always been difficult because the two departments have, historically, seen themselves as being in separate departments with separate goals. While in a perfect world they would work in tandem as an ROI achieving machine the reality is much more complicated, and has only gotten more so in 2017 and an already difficult proposition has become more challenging.

How have the roles of sales and marketing changed in 2017? According to sales and marketing expert Craig Rosenberg “The top third of the sales cycle has gone away. Salespeople believe that the beginning of the traditional sales process has evaporated and that buyers are self-servicing their needs instead of engaging with salespeople.” This viewpoint is backed up by the sales and marketing leaders at Marketo. According to their most recent research, marketing is now responsible for the  buyer’s journey all the way through evaluation, with sales only stepping in for the final stages of evaluation and purchasing. This essentially shifts the responsibility for educating a potential buyer to marketing, a role that traditionally had been held by sales.

Aligning sales and marketing is still important, as seen when Forbes writes “71% of C-level executives noting that sales productivity is ‘critical’ to future growth.”  The sales masterminds at SMA write “There is a whole lot of evidence that closer Sales+Marketing Collaboration lifts Sales Productivity, and I can show you that a lift of just 5% in Sales Productivity can yield a 20% increase in profit. So, Sales+Marketing Collaboration should be a BIG DEAL” (ibid). But if the situation has gotten more complicated as buyer’s preferences and behaviors shift in the digital marketplace of 2017 then the C-level also needs new tools and strategies to accomplish their goals.

That is what we offer in this post- this is an overview of how to align sales and marketing, giving the C-level reader a step-by-step guide to getting started the right way and ensuring that their sales and marketing teams stay aligned in the future.


The C-Suite Provides the Vision

According to Fergal Glynn and the American Marketing Association “In a lot of places, there’s huge tension between sales and marketing teams. In sales, they don’t appreciate all the different work that marketing can do, and marketing doesn’t understand all of the different situations that the sales team faces. The very first step is an executive agreement.”

That is why the first step begins with you, the executive. Part of providing leadership for your organization comes in the form of just getting these departments together for the conversation to begin in the first place. And, once that meeting is being held, the executive needs to be a strong, clear voice for defining the different roles of marketing and sales within the organization. Now, as for what those rules should be we recommend research into your own customers. In this case, marketing handles the buyer’s journey through evaluation with sales taking the lead through those crucial last steps of evaluation and purchase.

Define your target

The next step in aligning sales and marketing to define the target audience, with the end goal of getting sales and marketing to agree on who they are even talking to in the first place. This is a crucial step because all further actions depend on a clear understanding of the audience for your industry, then sales and marketing can finally begin to collaborate effectively.

Why do both departments need to be involved in coming up with this “ideal buyer?” According to Craig Rosenberg “Sales and marketing must agree on who the target buyer is, what they do every day, what they care about, and why they buy. This effort should not be owned by only marketing or only sales. Instead, this should be a joint activity.” This is essentially echoing what Molly Soat identified as the key to aligning sales and marketing in the first place- ideally throughout these meetings they will transition from working in a silo to working in tandem.

Invest in Sales Performance Software

The modern take on the old standard of sales performance management are software platforms with a strong focus on data analysis that put valuable information on every opportunity, lead and account within easy reach of both sales and marketing.

While there are many different sales performance software options out there (many of them start with the CRM itself) there are a couple of guidelines on what to look for when you are thinking about purchasing a platform for your organization.


  • It should be scalable.
  • Data collection and automated analysis should be key.
  • The visualization or presentation layer should be understandable and accessible.
  • There should be one for both sale and marketing.

Of all of these criteria perhaps the most important is the last. If sales and marketing are working from a single source of truth then there will be fewer miscommunications and you can foster a corporate culture where the two operate as a single unit instead of separate entities.

This step is truly important, and with good reason. According to the Savo Group, “55% of top-performing companies are investing in sales performance technology and programs to drive sales productivity.” 

Perfectly Align Your Content

If the statistics are correct and marketing really is responsible for both attracting and educating prospective buyers then there is only one way for any organization to do it effectively: content marketing. Everyone in marketing has heard the now old adage “content is king,” but the true power behind the throne happens when sales and marketing come up with a content strategy together.

So how does this happen? Simple- have sales and marketing talk about the hot-button issues in the industry and then, together, come up with blogs, videos and other content that will educate prospective buyers in the right way so that when they finally do speak to a salesperson at the very end of the funnel they are ready and willing to take that final step into purchasing.

The marketing gurus at Hubspot recommend as much when they write”Your sales reps are talking with prospects all the time and know what is getting them excited about your company.” They should then be able to share this information with your marketing team so that the message the marketers are delivering and the promises the salespeople are making at the end of the process perfectly align.

Decide on Lead Generation Metrics Together

Now that you know who you are talking to, what content they are interested in and have a sales performance platform gathering the data on how everything is performing you can really put that data to good use; lead generation metrics. Traditionally this is where sales and marketing have tended to butt heads most frequently. Marketing works hard for every lead that they get and when they pass them on to sales they are proud and happy about them. When it turns out that sales doesn’t think the leads are as great or they are not what they are looking for then miscommunication and inefficient operations are a result. The minds at Marketo define this quite well when they write  “The problem is that, traditionally, Marketing defined the qualities of an MQL [Marketing Qualified Lead], and Sales decided what made someone an SAL [Sales Accepted Lead] or SQL [Sales Qualified Lead]. This partially explains why Sales sometimes feels that Marketing hands off unqualified leads – Marketing doesn’t always know what Sales is looking for!”

So how do you fix the problem? Easy- consult the data in your sales performance platform or CRM to discover which leads the marketing department generated went all the way down the pipeline faster and led to more revenue than any other lead. This way you can not only direct marketing to the most fruitful best practices but sales can know that every lead coming down the pipeline is qualified according to what works best for your particular organization. Essentially it is using the data your company is already producing in a new and more efficient way.

Aligning sales and marketing has always been a challenge to the CEO or COO because these different areas of the business have been seen as fundamentally different. As a result they have traditionally worked in silos, missing out on communication and often working against each other rather than as a cohesive whole. However, if you follow these steps you can start seeing the amazing results that happen when the two work in tandem.

If you would like to learn more about aligning your Sales and Marketing teams, download our free E-book “The War is Over: The ultimate guide to aligning sales and marketing”.


How to Choose the Right KPIs for your Sales Organization

Meet Veronica she’s got it all figured out.

The Problem: how to choose KPIs that will have the most immediate, direct effect on revenue.

To answer this problem let’s meet Veronica. She is one of those people that you always seem to hear about- rarely stressed, her managers and teams are consistently meeting or exceeding their sales quotas, the CEO and COO are kept in the loop and couldn’t be more impressed. She attracts top talent that always performs above expectations.

No, she isn’t made up. People like Veronica do exist. But if you could have seen her six months ago you wouldn’t have recognized her or her sales teams. When Veronica joined the company she was hired with the very specific goal of implementing best practices for her industry, ensuring that sales quotas were met- something they hadn’t done in a long while.

Analyze current top performers to discover the KPIs that are right for your business.

When Veronica first started things were a little bumpy, put simply she didn’t know where she should look to find the right best practices to implement. She knew of over a dozen places where she could get a list of KPIs that she should be tracking, but wasn’t sure if these were the exact KPIs that she should be focusing on for her industry. She needed individualized guidance and was coming up short.

So she did what many would do- she started analyzing the sales reports that her company was already generating. The company was still selling, and so she figured, wisely, that if she could identify who the top performing salespeople are then she could use that data to generate a list of best practices that were tried-and-true for her specific company. According to Bob Apollo “A minority of the sales organization – rarely more than 20% – are habitual over-performers. A larger number – often 30% or more – are habitual under-performers… the majority of sales people sit somewhere in the middle: there is some indication that they have the potential to do better, but they have so far failed to consistently and reliably over-perform against their targets.”

So Veronica needed to identify the 20% of her sales organization were her habitual overperformers and establish best practices based on what they were doing, thereby turning that middle ground into a high productivity zone. According to Apollo this is a smart approach, as “The middle ground represents a huge opportunity for performance improvement.”

But herein lies another, more meaningful problem-she needed to find the top 20% but didn’t understand the reports she was getting- they weren’t giving her a clear picture of the overall performance of each sales team. This made it difficult for her to identify who her top performers were and why. Without this information she couldn’t identify what the organization’s best practices were so that she could implement them throughout her sales organization. She was stumbling around in the dark and was under tremendous pressure to perform at a high level and deliver the results she was hired to bring.

Data visualization makes who the top performers are and why easy to see

Veronica discovered that the company was already gathering all of the data she need to improve, she just had no way to see exactly which metrics the top performers were excelling at in order to put them on top. That’s exactly where data visualization enters the picture- with the right way to look at the data the company was already gathering Veronica could identify the top 20%’s best practices and implement them company-wide, and she could do it without wasting a lot of time looking over endless reports, afraid she would miss a crucial KPI.

According to Brian Gentile “Data visualization’s greatest strength comes, arguably, from the way it can bring actionable insights to the surface. Unlike with charts and tables, visualization tools allow the user to interact with and directly manipulate the data sets. This level of interaction allows executives to ask further questions about the data, not just the what, but also the why, how, and where.” And that is precisely what Veronica needed- most CRM data analysis tools, rudimentary though they are, still give the user who the top performers are. They are even gathering data about the KPIs and metrics that the 20% are hitting, they just don’t visualize that information in a way that makes the intelligence actionable.

With the right data visualization Veronica could not only see who her top performers are but, as Gentile points out, was able to see “the why, how, and where.” These deeper questions are the intelligence she needed to identify why her top performers were the best, how they got there and where the rest of her sales organization should be focusing in order to see the biggest gains in performance improvement, fast.

Veronica’s success happened because she was able to use data effectively, seeing how performance metrics impacted revenue and using that information to establish a set of key performance indicators which became the best practices for her sales organization. The process was fast, effective, and enjoyable because she worked smarter. And it started with finding the right tool for the job.