Analytics is a big buzz term in sales, and it should be. Who wouldn’t want to know the six exact steps to repeat in order to make a sale? What executive wouldn’t jump at the chance to know exactly what to include in a quarterly business review to generate the most customer interest in product functionality expansion? These are questions that sales and customer success operations can answer when done well, but what gets you there: workflow or analytics?
A sales workflow is the orchestrated and repeatable pattern of sales activity that moves a marketing- or sales-qualified lead through the sales process to the closure of a sale. Sales engagement software generally facilitates and enables this process for sales personnel. Enabling workflow with technology is the underpinning of process repeatability, and process repeatability is the underpinning of process optimization. That is, there is no way to make a process work better if you can’t first complete it in the same way time after time without failure.
Analytics is looking at data and using math and logical reasoning to answer key business questions and discover previously unknown relationships in the data. When more mature, analytics can help you predict outcomes and potentially automate decisions that previously could only be made with human intervention. Analytics is by far the more fun of the workflow and analytics siblings as it’s where you make interesting discoveries that help you more reliably forecast sales closures and thus revenue. Analytics, however, relies on data that is clean and robust.
Workflow Then Analytics
Well-implemented workflow is how you get clean, robust data. This doesn’t, however, make workflow more important than analytics. Instead, it makes workflow more important to have before analytics. Anyone who has worked with data will tell you that bad data is many times worse than no data. Data collected from processes that are not uniform and repeatable can and will lead to discoveries that are red herrings. These inaccurate epiphanies can result in anything from your wasting sales personnel time to your generating tremendously inaccurate revenue forecasts, both of which drive negative outcomes of differing magnitude for your business.
In the race for actionable insights, focusing on implementation and optimization of sales workflow can be painful. It is best to focus first on getting sales workflow basics like activity tracking and common workflows implemented. You can then layer simple analytics over top of these and start mining for insights that will help you refine your workflows to be more efficient and effective. After the basics are in, you can grow your workflow and analytics maturity in lockstep, reaping more and more impactful actionable insights as you go.
Companies will continue to focus on more reliable ways to engage prospects and empower sales personnel, but those who focus first on reliable, repeatable, technology-enabled workflow and then analytics are more likely to come out ahead. It is these companies whose analytics efforts will be rewarded with accurate, actionable insights that drive greater forecast accuracy and revenue.