6 Tips on How to Improve Your Lowest-Selling Sales Reps' Performance

It’s 4:30 on any given Friday afternoon. The entire office is buzzing with weekend excitement, everyone sharing what they are going to be doing tomorrow. You are looking over your weekly representative reports, seeing who was at the top of their game this week. As usual, your top three salespeople are jockeying for the top spot: typical overachievers. You’ve got about 10 right in the middle, but you happily notice that their numbers have been rising steadily. But it’s the three at the bottom that take the smile from your face. Jason has come in last again: that’s his third straight week of not hitting anywhere near his numbers.

If this sounds familiar you’re not alone. Studies show that roughly 10% of your salesforce are the top, 70% are the middle performers- the ones who aren’t the best but they aren’t the worst either. These middle-of-the-road salespeople are the backbone of your organization. The other 20% are the bottom tier, the ones who always seem to struggle no matter what the sales manager does.

There is a way to improve the 90% of your sales organization that is struggling- a method that is not only proven but that you can do in a single afternoon that is guaranteed to boost your performance. The best way to improve the efficiency of your lowest-selling reps is to let data help you pinpoint the problem as well as the way to fix it. These 6 tips outline how you can use data to pinpoint your low-performers’ most urgent problems and fix them right away. Follow these steps with your under-achievers and we guarantee you’ll see an improvement that will help your bottom line.

Data Communication

First tip- communicate with data. Nothing is more frustrating to a salesperson than being called in to the sales managers office to get reamed for poor sales performance and then leaving that office with no actionable steps that they can take to improve. These meetings need to be more than just “you need to try harder.” Your sales managers need to print out a performance report with the following KPIs and methods and discuss them, one by one, with your low performing sales reps. Use data to communicate and you not only avoid miscommunications but you will also provide your low-performing reps with the insight they need to improve.

Activity Efficiency Ratios

Salesforce is tracking which activities were completed for every successful closed deal. To discover the activity efficiency ratio for your organization look at the past year of your successful closed deals and average out which activities were completed, how often and in which order, for each successful closed deal. This will tell you which activities are most efficient for your particular product.

Now, compare that data with what your low-performers are doing. Odds are you will discover that these underperformers are simply completing the wrong sorts of activities at the wrong stage of the sales process. But now, with data in hand about which activities are best for your organization, you can coach them to complete more efficient activities early on and they will have a higher chance of success. Keep tracking their performance with this new direction over the next week to make sure that the lesson has sunk in. For more on this KPI and exactly how to track it, check out our eBook.


Sometimes the problem with a low-performer isn’t that they are completing the wrong sorts of a activities at the wrong time- it’s that they simply aren’t motivated. How can data help with a problem that is so deeply rooted in personality?

Simple: data can help you gamify your sales data in a way that will motivate your reps through natural, healthy competition. Thomas Steenburgh and Michael Ahearne of HBR call it “program-induced social pressure” and say “when designed well, programs heighten laggards’ sense of responsibility to the team and motivate stars to help laggards out.”  How can you design a social pressure program well? Do it with data. Place sales KPIs for process, activity efficiency and lead response time on TV screens throughout your sales floor for everyone to see. This will help your low-performers to know, at all times, where they are ranking according to their peers and will help them raise their performance to match their peers.

Lead Response Time

Leads that are contacted within 24 hours are 20% more likely to result in a sale, and the odds are even better if they are contacted within an hour. If your sales reps are not contacting leads within that time period then that could very well be the reason that they are lagging behind.

Gather data for how long it took the sales rep in question to contact the last 10 leads that they received. If they have not contacted them within at least 24 hours, ascertain why and make that a new goal for the underperformed to do. Incentivize them with perks wherein if they contact a lead within 24 hours they will earn recognition, but if they contact the leads within an hour they will receive something better. Consistency is key with this KPI, however. Track their performance for the next 10 leads they receive to gauge how well the lesson has sunk in. This is especially important as lead response time is one of the simplest ways to improve performance.

Process Coaching

Salesforce is currently tracking how long a representative’s opportunities are spending in each stage of your sales process. Often times lower performing sales reps will be effective at the early stages of prospecting and moving a lead through the sales process but will get hung up on one particular stage.

This is where data can help your sales managers pinpoint and solve the problem. First, you will need to filter your salesforce data by the # of opportunities, both won and lost, that an underperforming rep has been tasked with. Once you have that data in hand apply a second filter to discover which stages took the rep the longest. Finally, see which opportunities were won or lost based on how long they spent in each stage. With just a few simple data filters and layers of analysis you can discover exactly which stage of the process is hurting this rep’s performance and pinpoint your coaching to help in that particular stage.

Efficient Partnerships

If your low performing sales representative falls in the 70% of most sales teams, i.e. they are not underperforming but they are not performing particularly well either, the answer to bring them up to the next level might not be a matter of a 1:1 coaching meeting or gamification, but simply seeing and observing the behavioral habits of one of your top performers. To do this, you should pair the underperformed with one of your top performers for a few days- at least 3 days for optimal training.

The best way to make these partnerships is to use data to discover which step in the sales process your underperformed is struggling the most with. Then, compare that data with your top performers to discover a foil- a top performer that is particularly strong where the underperformed is particularly weak. This way your partnership will be tailored to meet the needs of the person that needs training, coaching them through exposure and experience to the correct way to do things.

The simplest way to monitor these KPIs and implement these methods is with a solid sales performance platform that can make activity efficiency ratios pop, gamify data, notify you when your lead response time is slow, make the slow steps in the process easily identifiable and help you make efficient partnerships. VisualCue’s sales performance platform accomplishes all of these objectives and more. Try it out with a free version today!

What is Data Visualization and How Can it Improve a Sales Organization?

What is Data Visualization?

Data visualization is a lot like architecture: it is a blend of creativity and science that has amazing practical benefits. At it’s most basic layer data visualization is an abstraction layer. As Scott Berinato of HBR writes, “Decision making increasingly relies on data, which comes just as with such overwhelming velocity, and in such volume, that we can’t comprehend it without some layer of abstraction, such as a visual one.”

Berinato’s definition gives us exactly what data visualization is and why it is valuable to a sales organization: it is a layer of abstraction, i.e. it translates the hard data into a different, visual form, and in so doing it makes data which comes at high velocity and volume easier to understand.

In a modern sales organization this means that when data is coming at a high volume (lots of data), velocity (real-time, streaming data constantly being generated) and variety (data coming in both structured and unstructured formats from many different sources) there is no better way to quickly consume and act on that data than visualization.

How Can it Improve a Sales Organization?

Makes Patterns Visible

This benefit of data visualization is particularly beneficial to those sales organizations whose data is coming from more than one source. In the modern marketplace many sales teams are working under these conditions- you could have sales and customer data streaming in from Salesforce reports, with marketing data coming in from Grow or Hubspot, with performance data coming in from a motivation app like Ambition or Hoopla.

Trying to find the correlations between these different data sets can be a next to impossible task without the aid of data visualization. For example, Berinato recalls the managers of the Osprey aircraft at Boeing needed to improve the efficiency of takeoffs and landings. But there were so many sensors recording so much data that “without visualization, detecting the inefficiencies hidden in the patterns and anomalies of that data would be an impossible slog.”

While the Boeing corporation used data visualization to spot patterns between different sensors sales and marketing teams can use the same principle with their different sources. The crew at visual.ly, for example, combine data from different sources into a single visualization and see a 72% increase in traffic. You can use data visualization to see how a dip in marketing affects sales or customer service by combining these disparate data sources into a single sales performance platform or an add-on to Salesforce, allowing you to see every metric and KPI visually presented in a single tool. For more on which KPIs you should be visualizing for the most benefit to your bottom line, see our free eBook.

Reduces miscommunication

If you believe Dale Carnegie 90% of management errors come as a result of miscommunication. The reasons for that miscommunication can be various, but the solution to many of them is simple: have all of your teams working off of the same data visualization and analytics tool. This way you can make sure that your teams are working from the same source of information and, if your data visualization layer is intuitive enough, that they will have the same interpretation of that data.

But data visualization increases communication among your team in another way: coaching. According to Berinato, ”Visual communication is a must-have skill for all managers, because more and more often, it’s the only way to make sense of what they do.” It can sometimes be difficult for a sales manager to talk to a sales rep about exactly where they are going wrong. But with data visualizations that are intuitive and easily understandable your sales managers can make their coaching more efficient.

This communication benefit works the other way in an organization as well. Executives want to know high-level information from the sales floor, and they often get that information in the form of Salesforce reports. The problem is that these reports are time consuming for the sales managers to produce and confusing for Executives to read. They can tell both parties that there is a problem, but do very little to discover the reasons why. When you bring data visualization into this equation your sales managers can communicate more clearly and accurately while the Executive can more easily look at a visualization than a complicated spreadsheet to try and find the best ways to improve.

What to look for in your data visualization?

While data visualization is always a good idea, there is a right and a wrong way to go about doing it. For example, if your data visualization only contains charts and graphs then you are missing out on many of the benefits of visualization. Research has shown that “attributes such as color and the inclusion of human-recognizable objects enhance memorability.” Therefore, in your data visualization solution you should look for creative uses of color and human-recognizable objects like pictures and symbols in order to enhance intuition and memorability among all your staff members.

Additionally, researchers J. Suda and Hampton-Smith undertook an extensive analysis of modern data visualization tools and used the following words in their description of the top 5 features that an effective data visualization should have. We put in our own examples to help you understand these features more fully.



  • A responsive data visualization is easy to navigate no matter what platform you are on. You should be able to explore the data visualization as easily as you would a picture or painting- zooming in on certain aspects while also stepping back to see the big picture. How well the data communicates no matter what level you are looking at is a determination of its responsiveness.


  1. Real time
  • One of the main benefits of an abstraction layer, as Berinato pointed out, was the ability to decipher information as fast as it appears. No one, other than the very highly trained, can do so with just a spreadsheet. It is therefore important, to get the most out of your visualization tool, that the data coming into it be as close to real time as possible.


  1. Customizable
  • This is especially true when it comes to performance thresholds. The best visualizations will take a data point and automatically determine whether that data falls into a certain range called a performance threshold. If the data point falls within prescribed parameters then the visualization will reflect that in color or size. If the data point falls outside of that parameter the visualization should also automatically reflect that by a change in color or size. This way your staff’s attention will be automatically directed to those metrics that need their immediate attention.


  1. Fast
  • Fast data visualizations occur when the data can go into a visualization tool and the response is immediate and accurate. Visualizations that take even a minute to load lose their real-time efficacy. This is easier said than done- a fast tool is a powerful one that can combine data sources, analyze the data for performance thresholds and translate all of that information into a visual medium in the blink of an eye.


  1. Interactive
  • Your staff should be able to not only look at the data that is being presented but they should be able to interact with it to explore the deeper relationships behind those data sets. Too often visualizations only present the outer layer without empowering users to delve deeper into that visualization and play with the data

Use these five rules as a guide for your data visualizations and you will be seeing data in a whole new light that will positively impact your bottom line through pattern recognition, clear communication, and real-time analysis. Or, try a free version of a data visualization tool like VisualCue and see the benefits for yourself.

You got the data now what? 5 simple ways to interpret your sales metrics and turn it into profit

The Problem: How do I start using data to improve?

There is no more denying it- we live in a world dominated by data. A recent GE survey showed that “61% of senior innovation executives now use big data to inform decision-making –that’s up from 53% in 2014.” This demonstrates that the most successful businesses out there are using big data to make their decisions, and their numbers have only been growing since 2014. If you’d like to join them then you’d better do the same.

But how exactly do you begin doing this? Where do you start? It’s one thing to say “you’d better start using data” and another to actually give the reader something valuable to do with that admonition.

That’s what we’re here to do. What follows is a step by step guide to analyzing the data coming in from your sales teams. We will tell you which KPIs you should be looking at and then give you suggestions about real actions you can take to start improving your bottom line with that information. We’ve pulled the following information from our own years of experience in the sales data analysis field as well as real stories from business leaders like you.

1. Start gathering your data

Luckily, this is the easiest thing in the world to do nowadays. Frankly, any digital CRM tool is already collecting mountains and mountains of data for you. This post is more concerned with providing you actionable insights on what to do with that information, but it’s good practice to give all readers the right starting point- and that means collecting the data first.

But what if you don’t have a digital CRM, are you out of luck? The short answer is yes. Investing in a CRM is an absolute must for the modern business. We’d recommend starting with the most prevalent CRMs out there- Salesforce, Hubspot, Oracle, and SAP.

2. Get the big picture with the following KPIs

In a previous post, we talked about the 5 KPIs you must be tracking. We didn’t just blindfold ourselves and pick those KPIs at random, we chose them because they were the single best KPIs to give you a big picture.

Why start off with the big picture when this whole blog was supposed to be about giving you actionable insights? Because if you don’t understand what is wrong with your big picture then you won’t make the right kinds of actions to improve. It’s like turning on the light before you find the thing you are looking for.

So look at these KPIs to get the best idea of where your sales engine is misfiring.

  • Lead Response Time
    • No matter what your industry is, look for a lead response time of under 24 hours. If you are over 24 hours then you need to revise your processes ASAP to start reaching out to leads within that time. If you can capitalize on every lead that comes through then you will undoubtedly see positive movement in your bottom line.
  • Efficiency Ratings
    • Here you are looking at which activities lead to the most won deals down the pipeline. What you need to do here is connect won deals to daily activities. The actionable item is obvious- do more of those activities that win you deals, and fewer activities that don’t. This will greatly improve your daily efficiency and make the entire organization more profitable.
  • Sales Cycle
    • This is the biggest of the big picture, you are going to look at your entire sales process and determine how long it is, on average, from when a deal enters your pipeline to when it is either won or lost. The actionable item is less obvious- don’t go making sweeping changes to your sales process before you look at all the facts. Bigger deals take longer to close than smaller ones, and your industry might have a longer sales cycle.
  • Successful Steps
    • This is a bit of a deeper dive- you are going to take the data related to how long each of your deals spent in certain steps of your pipeline and average that time out. Doing so you will discover which stage in your pipeline is holding up the works. Once you discover that your way forward to action is clear- you don’t need to overhaul the entire sales process, just take it one step at a time. This way you waste less time and resources.
  • Representative Outliers
    • Here you are looking at the big picture of your sales teams. Which teams are succeeding and which are failing? Your actionable item here is simple: once you identify your top performers you use them as trainers for the rest of the crew. You will undoubtedly see more sales as a result.

3. Dive deeper with the following metrics

Okay, if you are looking at those KPIs you already have a number of data points and actionable items for them, but that’s not enough. There are more actions you can take by interpreting the data you are getting from your CRM.

It comes in the form of looking for the following items in each of the following metrics. These are smaller items, but by taking action within each of these sales metrics you can improve your day to day operations and start seeing immediate positive impact on your bottom line.


  • Specific Action Activities
    • This metric tracks what actions each of your representatives are completing on a daily basis. Most modern CRMs track this information, and you can take action on it in a really simple way. By this point you should have already discovered who your top performers are- simply look at the action activities they are completing every day and make that standard practice throughout your organization. It’s essentially a micr0-efficiency rating for each employee that can only positively impact your bottom line.
  • Lead Flow
    • Much like efficiency ratings and specific action activities focus your sales team on the performance of their activities, this metric focuses your marketing department. Marketing will be sending you data (likely from Hubspot or other CRM) about how many leads they are generating, and where they came from. With that information in hand the actionable intelligence is clear: make sure that your marketing team is focusing on the most fruitful avenues for lead generation and abandons less successful campaigns- saving you money.
  • # of Qualified Opportunities Created
    • However, simply telling marketing to focus on avenues that give the most leads is a bit too simple, and the situation is more complicated than that. What you really need to do is get sales and marketing together to talk about what makes a qualified lead. For example, a few qualified leads are better than a dozen unqualified leads- have your marketing department focus on what gives you qualified leads.

4. How to take action

Quite frankly, the action needs to begin with the VP or C-level. While many of these metrics, KPIs and actionable items can be taken by sales managers or VPs if the executive suite does not buy in to the project then any action taken is doomed to be minimal and transient.

Panorama Consulting writes “Without executive support, it can be very difficult to procure the employee resources that are needed to make a project successful. Only by having true buy-in to the project will executives understand the importance of ensuring the right people are available to make the project successful.”

So how do you take action on the data that is coming in? Read steps 1-3 above and make sure that the initiative is starting from the VP or C-level executives. We’ve already given you the specific action steps you need to take to start turning your sales metrics into profits, but the VP or C-level is the key to making sure that the actions get taken.

5. Keep up the good work

Too often in our experience data analysis and interpretation are completed passionately for a week or two and then, as soon as things get difficult, the initiatives go by the wayside.

What you need to do in order to really turn your data into profits is stick with any data initiatives you begin. This step is closely related to step 4. When a data initiative comes from the VP or C-level and has a longer range view than just expecting returns in the short term then it has a significantly higher chance of success.

What we are talking about here is nothing less than changing your organization’s culture to focus on using data more effectively. But what is an actionable step you can do to actually make sure that these initiatives will stay active within your culture?


  • Gamify your data. Now that you know the metrics and KPIs, share them out with your teams to inspire healthy competition.
  • Communicate your changes. Data works best when everyone knows it and has it to work with. Put your data in a public place in your office in an understandable format so everyone knows the day to day changes.

The 5 Key Features You Need in a Sales Performance Platform

We recently wrote a blog post about why you should invest in a Sales Performance Platform in 2017. If you haven’t read that post yet you should definitely head over and give it a look, because this post assumes that you read it and have made the (very wise) decision to invest in a platform this year.

Now that you have made this decision you are faced with a new set of problems: what should you look for in such a platform? In this post we are going to share with you the five features you absolutely must have in a Sales Performance Platform in 2017.

1. Customizable, in-depth process tracking

According to the TAS group, “companies that follow a well-defined sales process are 33% more likely to be top performers” and “the win rate exceeds 50% for 2/3 of companies that have a defined process in place.”

Any Sales Performance Platform should be customizable to whatever your sales process is and should measure data relating to time in every stage of that process.

2. Gathers both sales and marketing data.

While we have been vocal proponents of aligning sales and marketingHubspot has recently reported that aligning sales and marketing data can add 25% quota achievement and a 15% increase in win rate.

This means that any platform you are considering should gather data coming from both your sales and marketing teams and present that information in way where you can spot the patterns between these departments easily.

3. Integration with overall strategy

Sales does not live in a vacuum. A recent TAS study showed that “quota attainment increases 15% when the sales organization contributes to overall company strategy” and “companies classified as High Performers (where average achievement of quota is over 75%) display this behavior 53% of the time.”

Before you make a decision about your Sales Performance Platform make sure that you are able to include, within the platform’s architecture, those larger, corporate goals and thresholds. This will ensure that your sales always fits within the overall strategy.

4. Time tracking

Many VPs and Sales Managers feel like they are walking a fine line between leading their teams and micromanaging them. That being said, time tracking is a great way to make sure your teams are performing efficiently without constantly looking over their shoulders.

Why is it valuable? According to studies by the Harvard Business Review “Time spent on pre-sales and post-sales activities are both up by 15%. Meanwhile, time spent on non-sales (i.e., admin) work is up a whopping 21%. And all of this has come at the expense of actual selling time in front of the customer, which is down a full 26%.” To make sure that your reps are spending  their valuable time in the most efficient manner, i.e. talking to clients, make your your SPP has sufficient time tracking capabilities.

5. Accurate pipeline forecasting

Everyone enjoys being in the loop and knowing that they are working out of accurate information. Yet a recent study by Salesforce found that “Only 46% of reps feel their pipeline is accurate” and these same reps “spend on average 2.5 hours per week doing their sales forecast. All of this effort wasted on inaccurate forecasts is a critical issue that should concern sales leadership.”

To fix this you should ensure that your Sales Performance Platform has the most accurate pipeline metrics and forecasting available. This usually means customizable stages with real-time adjustments.

If your Sales Performance Platform has the following five features then you can rest assured that you are making the smart decision and can move forward with confidence. If you would like to learn more about our powerful Sales Performance Platform, you can get started for Free Today!

The 5 most important Sales Metrics for VP's In 2017.

In a previous post, we talked about the 5 most important KPIs for VP’s in 2017. However, we have also talked at length about the important difference between KPIs and metrics. The problem is that most VPs don’t know what that difference is and why it matters to improving their bottom line.

In this post we are going to go through the difference between metrics and KPIs and which metrics you should be keeping an eye to make the biggest impact on your bottom line.

What is the difference between a KPI and a metric?

According to Klipfolio, “A Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is a measurable value that demonstrates how effectively a company is achieving key business objectives.” A metric, on the other hand, “A metric is a quantifiable measure that is used to track and assess the status of a specific process” and are usually more goal or performance oriented than measures (which is just the raw data.)

In practical, actionable terms KPIs are data applied directly to business objectives. What those objectives (or in this context goals) are depend entirely on the business at hand, and it is up to the VP to set those goals and thresholds.

Metrics, on the other hand, are aligned more with process performance. They are similar to KPI’s in that the VP will determine what constitutes good performance or bad, but they are more finite in their scope than KPIs. In other words metrics are the more actionable data points you can track and are incredibly useful in narrowing your scope from the sea of data your CRM collects.

1. Lead Response Time

This sales metric is one of the easiest to track with the data in your current CRM and it is, undoubtedly, the best place to start improving your bottom line. According to Openview, “A lead that is responded to in 5 minutes or less is 21 times more likely to be qualified.” On this blog we love starting with this KPI because, according to all best practices available today and our own experience, this is the single easiest thing to change to start seeing an immediate improvement in your bottom line, which is really what Sales VPs are most concerned with.

2. # of Qualified Leads

You should be looking not at how many leads are coming into your funnel, but specifically the number of qualified leads. Why should you be focusing more on qualified leads than total leads? According to a recent study by SAP “Over 2/3 of buyers wait longer to initiate contact with vendors than they did two years ago because they are doing more research themselves.” With so many possibilities doing their own education it has never been more difficult to qualify leads, which is why the VP should take it into account.

3. Process Steps

Sales processes have never been more necessary than they are today. A recent study by the TAS group found “companies that follow a well-defined sales process are 33% more likely to be top performers” and “the win rate exceeds 50% for 2/3 of companies that have a defined process in place.”  But specifically, you should be adjusting your processes and concordant sales metrics where your reps are interacting face to face with customes. According to Avanade “More than 80% of companies have changed at least one business process in the past three years to better interact with customers.”

4. # of Activities per Opportunity

This is one of the easiest metrics to track and improving it has one of the largest positive impacts on your bottom line. You simply track the number of activities on an account, setting a reasonable threshold for when that activity gets too low. This is valuable because, according to The Marketing Donut, “80% if sales require 5 follow-up phone calls after the meeting. 44% of salespeople give up after 1 follow-up call.” It is therefore worth your while to make sure that your teams are following up and logging activiites on accounts frequently.

5. Time to close

Often times VPs will make the wrong choice when looking at this metric and assume that longer closing times mean that they need a drastic overhaul of their processes to start closing more deals faster. However, a recent study by Robert Clay found that “63% of people requesting information on your company today will not purchase for at least three months – and 20% will take more than 12 months to buy.” So when you are looking at this metric keep these statistics in mind and don’t make any huge changes until you are sure your organization is out of alignnment.

VPs are always concerned about improving their bottom line, and data can help you do that. This is purely because metrics, by their very nature, are actionable. You can look at the data points in each of these five areas and immediately see the changes you need to make in order to start improving in the most efficient way possible.


Why You Should Invest in a Sales Performance Platform in 2017

The Problem: Lots of Data, No Intepretation

It’s a maxim that seems to describe the pain point in most sales organizations today. It was first coined by Gary Cokins and it goes “organizations are drowning in data, but starving for information.” You know that you fit into this unhappy scenario if your organization has a CRM (or any other tool for that matter) that is collecting data but you are not seeing any positive improvement to your bottom line. You were promised that data would give you insight into how to improve your sales and thus earn its ROI, but your data is not following through on that promise.

Regarding this now famous saying, Cokins states “Yes, I’m concerned about the slow adoption rate of enterprise performance management’s (EPM) various methods, like strategy maps, the balanced scorecard and activity-based costing. It’s taking organizations way too long, even though the methods are proven and the software technology is certainly not an impediment.” In this quote Cokins has essentially given anyone who feels that they are drowning in data but starving for information a way out. You need a performance management method. He even states that performance management is a proven method for actually using your data to improve your bottom line and the sales software is out there.

We are going to help you today by gathering some of the best Sales Performance Platforms that combine sales tracking, metrics, and KPI’s and demonstrate how investing in a sales performance platform in 2017 is one of the most actionable ways you can improve your bottom line fast.

Salesforce’s work.com

Our first sales performance platform actually focuses on the human resources side, and for a very specific reason. For this first platform we turn to the king of CRM’s, the world’s largest, Salesforce. They did not get to be the biggest CRM in the world by accident- they know how to sell, and they know how to collect the data you need to improve. According to Salesforce,  highly effective sales managers don’t rely on theoretical or arbitrary programs to drive sales team performance… it works best to align those organizational goals to a social network.  Leveraging social goals gives sales individuals targets that are practical, comfortable, and therefore more natural.”

What does this mean? Focus on your culture! Salesforce states that “culture eats strategy for breakfast” and, as such, they have come out with a neat tool that does exactly that. It’s called work.com and it allows leadership to “manage in real-time, drive alignment with social goals, and solicit and receive ongoing feedback and coaching.” Essentially this is a software platform that uses the data your CRM is collecting and spreads that information across social channels within your organization. This is the missing piece to effectively creating an efficient, aligned culture within your sales organization.


We were impressed by this organization’s entire suite of CRM interpretation and sales software, though we were especially taken with their sales automation features. What this software does is it takes all of the data your CRM is collecting and brings out, through automated analytics, the most meaningful actions you can take. According to Oncontact, their sales automation “guides you efficiently through day-to-day actions like scheduling appointments, writing proposals, sending emails and generating quotes.”

This step-by-step guide is a great way to make the data your CRM is collecting actionable. By collecting all of the data from every part of your CRM and gathering it into one software platform Oncontact gives you the insight you need to capitalize on that culture you created with work.com.


According to Salesforce, “A sales team thrives when all the components of the sales and management process follow regular standards and schedules. If sales managers have the tools, real-time tracking and instantaneous feedback are by far the best methods.” That is precisely the kind of features that VisualCue excels at: real-time tracking and instantaneous feedback. Like Oncontact, VisualCue’s sales performance platform gathers data from your CRM and interprets it in real time. However, where VisualCue differs itself is in the instantaneous feedback. The visual, iconic presentation layer makes insighftful feedback apparent with no prior training.

What VisualCue offers as a sales performance platform is a centralized place to track the metrics and KPIs that are important to growing your business. While your CRM is gathering the data VisualCue is a tool that can take the raw data and analyze it in real-time, providing the feedback your managers need to make smarter decisions.


So why should you invest in a sales performance platform in 2017? Because it has never been more necessary or easier. Hopefully the software platforms we have mentioned have given you inspiration and an actionable place to start your journey from data drowning to information feast.

But, if that were not enough incentive for you, think on this. According to Bob Marsh, “High-performing companies are 3.5x more likely to use sales analytics than underperforming companies, and 75 percent of companies are either using or planning to use activity management sales technology in the next 12 to 18-months.” Furthermore, LevelEleven noted that after implementing sales performance management software “Clients are seeing 15-35 percent increases in their key sales KPIs simply by identifying what’s most important and keeping it front and center.”

7 Efficient Ways to Scale a Sales Organization Leveraging Data

When it comes to scaling your sales organization there is definitely a right and a wrong way to do things. The right way means scaling your sales organization efficiently, encouraging growth or scaling back in the right areas at the right time. The wrong way is the exact opposite- it means simply hiring more representatives or managers because that is what other people have been doing. It happens whenever you scale with the hope, instead of the knowledge, that you are making the smart decision.

How can you know you are making the best decisions to scale your sales organization? Leverage data in the following ways to make sure you are scaling your sales in the right way. According to Peaksales, “Leaders need to test assumptions, basing sizing decisions on data rather than instincts.”

1. More than 29 Opportunities per Rep

According to Openview this is around the maximum number of open opportunities that a sales rep usually can handle. Take a look at your open opportunities by representative metric and if the majority of your representatives are handling more than 29 open opportunities then it’s time to bring on some more help.

2. Under 40% sales sourcing

Here, sales coverage means the # of qualified new leads that come from your sales department. According to Sales Benchmark Index,  “Even if you are supported by a world class marketing team, the reality is that sales will still need to source at least 50% to 70%.” Take a look at where your leads are coming from and if the sales team isn’t coming up with anything then it’s likely not the time to expand. For an easy way to fix this metric, see step #7.

3. Lead response time over 24 hours

According to 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.” Also, according to InsideSales, “Research shows that 35-50% of sales go to the vendor that responds first.” Take a look at your average lead response time and if you aren’t reaching out to prospects fast then it’s time to hire.

4. Fewer than 25% Leads are Qualified

Scaling sales often means scaling marketing as well, and keeping the two in sync is important. For example, Gleanster research shows “Only 25% of leads are legitimate and should advance to sales, while 50% of that qualified number aren’t yet ready to buy.” If you discover that your leads are coming in fast but they aren’t qualified then it’s not time to expand. Only expand when your percentage of qualified leads grows over 25%.

5. Less than 75% Opportunities Nurtured

Nurturing, in this case, means that your opportunities are progressing through the pipeline in a timely manner with frequent touches. According to a Demandgen report, “Nurtured leads produce, on average, a 20% increase in sales opportunities versus non-nurtured leads.” Further, the Annuitas Group shows that “Nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads.” Analyze the data around your sales cycles, looking specifically at how quickly your representatives are going through each stage of the process to make sure that no opportunities are sitting stale.

6. Less than 80% social media touches

Everyone knows that most sales happens over the phone, though cold-calling is on its way out. According to a report by the Brevet Group, 78% of salespeople using social media outsell their peers. If you find that most of your new leads are coming from social media sources and your representatives arent’ connecting with their clients on social media then it’s time to look at your process, not expand it.

7. More than 25% new leads come from referrals

According to Dale Carnegie, 91% of clients say they would give a referral, yet only 11% have been asked. If your sales teams aren’t utilizing this often under-utilized resource then you are definitely not ready to scale your sales organization yet. However, when around a quarter of your new leads are coming from referrals then you know that your team is ready to take on some new challenges.

If you can analyze and examine each of these seven KPIs and sales benchmarks effectively, looking at them all as a whole rather than just one or two then you can rest easy knowing you’ve made the smarter sales scaling decision.

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”.