This year, many brands were forced to drastically change sales tactics during the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic uncertainty that came with it.
While some companies saw sales pipelines slow down dramatically, others saw them speed up to the point where it was challenging to keep up.
Because of the constantly changing sales landscape, sales leaders and reps found themselves needing to make quick decisions about their strategies and how they approached customer-facing conversations. To do this, many brands looked to data to help them make tough calls and build new strategies
But, with all the data available to sales leaders today, it can be difficult to make sense of the things that actually matter without disrupting day-to-day sales processes. Luckily, sales intelligence tools can help teams make quick data-driven decisions while only focusing on the key metrics they need.
Gong recently raised $200 million in Series D funding, was valued at $2.2 billion, and tripled its revenue in the first half of 2020, all while navigating the uncertainty brought on by the pandemic.
Recently, HubSpot spoke with Annelies Husmann, Head of Enterprise Sales at Gong – a revenue intelligence platform that provides sales teams insights from their customer-facing conversations.
To help sales leaders define their own sales analytics process, here's a rundown of how Gong leverages data to make key decisions:
How to Leverage Sales Analytics like Gong's Sales Department
1. Focus on the right sales metrics.
Sales is a fast-paced industry where lots of deals, lead qualifications, phone calls, and messaging happens all at once. But, with a lot of activity comes a lot of overwhelming data. Because of this, many sales departments can find themselves tracking all the wrong things.
For many sales experts, including Husmann, data tracking strategies have evolved greatly with the influence of technology. Currently, the metrics she tracks to get a "clear view" of how her company and sales department is doing include:
- Activity Metrics: This data tracks sales rep actions, such as the number of phone calls, emails sent, meetings scheduled, or presentations given.
- Product Metrics: Data related to product success says as purchase rate, churn rate, or revenue attributed specifically to a product.
- Revenue Metrics: These data points could include total revenue, increases or decreases in company or product revenue, and percentage of revenue from new versus existing customers.
- Conversation Intelligence: Patterns, trends, and insights from conversations between reps, prospects, and customers
Activity, Product, and Revenue Metrics
"Before joining Gong, I really focused on activity metrics and how it was marrying product data – and of course – revenue data," Husmann says.
But, although sales reps at many major companies analyze the three metrics above, they still don't give leaders a full view of how their business is doing.
"[Activity, product, and revenue data] can give you a great snapshot of the health of your business, but really only answers surface-level questions. It can give you a sense of what's happening in your business. But it can't tell you why."
Husmann explains that activity metrics and other data, "can tell you that a rep is having three times as many conversations [as other reps], but it can't tell you why he's winning the deal from those conversations."
To solve the mysteries behind why deals close and how to replicate best practices across the organization, Husmann says her team also leverages conversation intelligence, as well as revenue intelligence data, recorded by Gong's software.
As noted above, conversation insights could include words used by prospects or sales reps, the length of conversations, or other verbal themes that solutions – such as Gong's – can pick up on.
To give you an idea of what this data might look like when getting reviewed by a rep or sales leader, here's a screenshot of Gong's software. The image shows a recording of a sales demo as well as a list of discussed topics that the AI-powered tool has picked up from the audio:
With conversation data like what's shown above, Husmann says her team can answer vital questions like:
- How often are competitors coming up in deals?
- How many deals are in the pipeline?
- Which prospects are most engaged on the buyer side?
2. Enable reps to track conversations and sales KPIs.
When a sales rep has a data tool or strategy that can help them track how well their deal is going, they can get a better view of what they'll need to do to convert their lead into a customer, according to Husmann.
For example, if a sales rep looks at conversational analytics and sees that a prospect is asking questions about a certain topic – like integrations, competitors, or pricing – they can make sure to add those to the agenda for the next meeting.
Reps can also learn from more tenured reps about how they address their potential customer needs and pain points, while also using KPIs to track their progress. For example, are they asking enough questions in discovery? Are they the right questions?
Sales teams can use conversational insights like that above to learn what's lacking in their sales calls and what’s working for other reps.
3. Identify where reps need coaching.
As a sales leader, Husmann leverages conversation data and other KPIs listed above to answer questions like, "Are reps positioning the value prop in the most accurate way?"
Husmann explains that sales enablement leaders or VPs of sales can also use this data to determine if their reps are using the company's designated sales methodology, such as Sandler or MEDDIC.
Because strategic initiatives will be reflected in words or phrases used in calls, conversation intelligence can pinpoint which reps have adopted new messaging or methodology and which haven't.
When sales leaders find inconsistency in sales rep data, they can determine the best way to train or give strategic feedback to team members to ensure that they're using effective tactics.
"We're really good at strategizing and moving jobs forward for our team,' Husmann says. "I think having this full picture of insights into what's going on in your pipeline frees you up to do more of that. – And that's why we'll close more business."
4. Access the voice of your customer.
Even though sales teams aren't expected to be marketers or customer service reps, they still need to develop expertise around who their ideal customer is. And, understanding the voice of the customer can benefit your sales team, sales enablement, and your overall company.
Husmann says sales orgs can use this type of data to hone in on the voice of the customer , market feedback to a new product or offer, and new messaging effectiveness. From there, sales teams can develop the best sales strategy around their ideal buyer and share the voice of that customer with other areas of the company, like marketing, product, customer success teams.
5. Use data for good.
With all sorts of data tools, leaders might be tempted to over-monitor rep activity, which could be disruptive to the sales environment. Instead, Husmann says tools like Gong are meant to help sales leaders strategize, strengthen their overall pipeline, and train reps more effectively.
"I think that reps and frontline managers can use analytics insights in a very productive way, without being disruptive in a daily process," says Husmann. "It affords them deep insights and complete visibility into what's truly going on in the pipeline."
"If I'm coming into a one-on-one with one of my team members, I no longer have to spend the first 20 minutes of a 30-minute meeting asking, 'What's going on? Who's involved? What's our next step?' Because I can already answer that question." Husmann explains.
"Instead of spending 20 minutes catching up, I'm spending 30 minutes strategizing with my team asking, 'How are you moving the ball forward?', 'How is our value prop resonating with their executive staff?', and most importantly, 'How are we going to close more business together?'"
6. Determine when to pivot.
In 2020, many sales teams, including Gong's, used data to recognize shifts in sales. If and when these companies chose to pivot their strategy, they also adjusted their KPIs and progress metrics accordingly.
"Throughout the year, we've seen a couple of different changes in our sales process. And that naturally affects the different KPIs and data that we're tracking. … Historical data the team had tracked was really no longer relevant because everything had changed," Husmann explains.
"What we focused on in Q2 is pretty different from what we're focused on in Q4," Husmann says. "In Q2, we were really focused on taking a step back and building relationships, because things have slowed down."
"Deals that used to be signed by a VP of Sales now have to go to the CFO or the CRO. So immediately, that buyer was elevated a couple of levels," Husmann expands.
Gong also adjusted sales processes when they determined that more prospects and customers were more budget-conscious due to the pandemic and looming recession.
"Making sure that we had a clear, definitive ROI and were tied to a value prop that really affected the entire business was now complete table stakes," Husmann says.
Now, as Gong's business has sped back up, its sales teams have pivoted tactics and data tracking again.
"People realize that they need complete visibility into the voice of their customer and ... into what these now remote teams are doing when speaking of their customers," Husmann explains. "What could have been a nine-month sales cycle sometimes was shortened to three."
Now, Husmann says the metrics she tracks focus less on small sales activities and more on improving productive time management. Here are just three questions she uses data to answer:
- Are the potential sales commitments real?
- Are we driving to close as fast as possible?
- Are we focused on making sure we have the largest land as possible so we can get in and get out of deals?
When Data Isn't Everything
As a sales leader or rep, it might be tempting to think sales intelligence and data tools will always lead you to deals.
But, because selling products involves soft skills, like emotional intelligence and relationship building, even Husmann notes that there are times where reps and leaders will want to follow their instincts rather than data.
"Instinct comes from understanding the human aspect of the relationships you've built with your prospects – and understanding the unspoken feeling of an opportunity. But most importantly, instinct typically comes from understanding the context of the conversations you've been having," Husmann explains. "Data doesn't always pull that through."
While sales reps might run into times when they need to trust their instincts on a call, sales leaders should also use their instincts when working with or training reps.
Even though data is a large part of Husmann's coaching, she says one of the things she always tells reps is that "they are always allowed to go and make their own decisions."
"I think using your instinct and listening to your instinct is part of that ownership of your sales cycle," Husmann explains.
"I think everything should be based on science – it should be based on data. However, I do think that the human aspect should not ever be taken out of the equation," Husmann says.
"At the end of the day, relationships are important. The art of sales is important," Husmann adds. "And I think those instincts will eventually need to be listened to."
Collecting and Leveraging Sales Data
Sales metrics can be an amazing way to get insights on your sales process, where it's leading to deals, and where it needs work. But, collecting, organizing, and analyzing all of this vital data takes work.
If this post has persuaded you to leverage data in your sales strategy, but you don't know where to start, you can look to your sales ops teams – as well as managers and reps – to collect and clean key data, according to Husmann.
"The ultimate goal for any strategic sales operations or revenue operations team is to provide real fantastic sales analytics from our sales force or other systems of record," Husmann says. "That being said, there is some responsibility on everyone from the rep to the frontline manager – all the way to the revenue operations teams – to make sure that we believe in the power of data and that we're all doing our part to make sure that dataset is as clean as possible."
For more on forming your 2021 sales strategy, check out this post – which highlights exclusive tips from a Sandler expert. Or, listen to this SkillUp episode for more from Gong.
To learn even more about sales teams around the world are approaching sales KPIs and other pipeline strategies, click below to get a free download of HubSpot's latest report: Sell Smarter, Grow Better.