It’s in the Numbers: Building High-Performance Sales Teams Through Data Analytics

Everybody talks about data analytics in marketing and how it’s critical to find prospects who look like your existing customers. But data analytics is just as important for finding, hiring, managing, and retaining the right talent.

Over the past few years, employers have been using data to predict the capability and capacity of candidates before they even walk through the door. It’s no longer up to IQ tests, skills exams, and gut hunches to answer the question of who best fits the mold.

Through a combination of predictive analytics and behavioral insights, you can now find not only the right person for the job, but also someone who’s highly likely to succeed in the role. Then, you can provide the right training and incentives to drive that person’s productivity, innovation, and execution on the sales floor.

What It Means for Sales

Sales often requires a certain type of person. You need to find someone with tenacity. He or she must know how to establish rapport with prospects, have in-depth product knowledge, and have the nerve to “ask for the sale.”

Salespeople are also working through very complicated systems. Whether it’s building quotes, working up proposals, entering orders, updating CRM systems, or pricing out deals, they take multitasking to an all-new level.

Finding someone with the ability and personality to be successful isn’t a small task. Only a tiny percentage of the population can fill those shoes, and you need all the tools available to identify the right candidate.

Our company starts with a profile that details the background, experience, and temperament we feel would be the right type of person for the job. We then hire to that profile — that is, of course, after a series of assessment tests to predict the success of the individual in the role.

We continue to refine that profile, applying performance data from our best team members. We look at experience, background, skills, and other attributes. We weigh our experience in training and production to strengthen our recruitment efforts. The profile is refined with every new wave of hiring.

Data-Built Sales Teams

While every organization has a different set of metrics to define success, there are things you can do to use data analytics to build a more successful sales team. The following can help you get started:

1.Leverage assessment tools. Personality tests such as Myers-Briggs have been around for decades. But there’s been an explosion over the past few years of new assessment tools that can help identify a person’s natural tendencies. They provide insights into whether a recruit is up to the task at hand. Will the candidate like the job? Will he or she be successful in the role? Using these kinds of assessment tools is critical to your recruiting efforts.

2. Refine candidate profiles. After hiring your first wave of recruits, make small changes to your assessments based on your top performers. Keep in mind, though, that you don’t necessarily want a homogeneous group of people. Differences in skills and personalities can boost productivity and improve the bottom line.

But staff performance can provide further insights into where to direct your recruitment efforts. You have a better idea of the types of people who won’t be successful in the role or at the company. Adjust the evaluation process to reflect this.

3. Build custom coaching plans. Assessment tools are critical in not only hiring, but also managing employees. On day one, you have many of the necessary insights to build a more effective coaching plan. You know what will resonate with the candidate and how he or she would best be coached.

Take our coaching plans, for example. They’re based on behaviors we’ve identified as essential to succeed in each sales role. Let’s say a new hire isn’t comfortable in a certain area. We can monitor his or her behavior closely and work on building comfort in that area. It’s all about supporting the person throughout the training process.

4. Involve sales managers. HR is crucial for identifying prospects and conducting initial screenings, but that’s where its role should end. Sales managers tasked with managing these people need to make the final call.

Don’t, however, assume they know how to conduct interviews. Make sure sales managers recognize the importance of asking questions related to job performance. Provide a list of desired skills and attributes. Develop a series of interview questions. Even go so far as building evaluation sheets, making it easier to compare candidates.

Over time, you might find that certain sales managers excel at the interview process. You can rely on them to conduct the final interviews for those sales managers who aren’t great at picking new hires. Just make sure everyone is aligned in finding people who will fit the role and the organization.

5. Make trainers part of the ecosystem. You don’t want to think of training as a separate department — one that comes in, trains, and disappears. These people will spend the first critical months with your new hires, so they should be a part of the sales management infrastructure.

Utilize trainers all the way through the life cycle of a salesperson to make sure you’re focusing on what works and doesn’t work for that individual employee. Look at it from a coaching perspective, always working toward improving the skills of your sales force.

In our experience, a high-performing sales team should have at least two-thirds of its members meeting or exceeding sales quotas. By using assessment tools and predictive analytics to identify the right candidates and develop a training program around them, you’re well on your way to improving your bottom line.

Judi Hand is president and general manager of Revana, which provides leading technology-enabled revenue generation solutions. Judi has more than doubled Revana’s revenue and increased profitability by 4,600 percent. Read more about Revana here.

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