September 30, 2015

Use data to help your sales organization graduate to masters-level performance

By Tim Kerstein, Director of Solutions Development

Sales success is often measured by winning and losing. You either hit the number or miss the number. These numbers are the heartbeat of sales and serve as the scoreboard. Often, sales goals are incremental changes based on the previous year and assumptions for the year to come. But is this rigorous enough?

When evaluating sales performance, managers must think beyond the basic analysis of spreadsheets and understand the data and nuances behind the numbers. A lot of emphasis is placed on the bottom line performance—and rightfully so. But what if our assumptions about the variables impacting the bottom line are wrong? 

Sales performance and relative success is often viewed in terms of volume (e.g., how many gallons, dollars, etc.). But what is the value of volume if you do not fully understand capacity? When you fill up the gas tank in your car or truck, the nozzle shuts off when your tank is full, but we all know you can generally squeeze a few more drops into the tank. That is how we operate today—we squeeze a few more drops into next year. We validate our tank is full by looking at the gauge when we get back in the car or truck; but this gauge does not exist in sales. Or does it?  

Sales success today is much less about simply getting better at what you already know, and much more about creating the pathway to tackle uncharted territory.

As we remain in an environment well below $8 corn for the foreseeable future, it will be challenging to continue to innovate, progress, and win. Companies will need to look at their business with a critical eye and make adjustments to succeed in their surroundings.

Successful sales teams have a deep understanding of their customer’s business, allowing them to drive, challenge, and influence their customer’s business and teach them how to be more competitive. But we often overlook the importance of developing a deep understanding of our own business beyond the products/services we offer to make us more competitive. The best way to start this process is analytics and data mapping to understand volume as well as capacity.

The path to using analytics to navigate that uncharted territory looks like this:

  • Understand

    Do you know exactly how many acres of a particular crop are in your service area? Do you know your market share against your competitors in your service area? Most don’t. When Entira works with clients to conduct a sales team analysis, we work with your team to generate these vital performance indicators and provide a true “scorecard.” Our analysis will help you to understand where you are most successful, and where you’re not, and the circumstances surrounding it. We can analyze performance by sales rep, by location, or both. You can uncover much more compelling information by taking time to understand the context surrounding performance—and that means both the winning performances and the less-than-stellar performances.
  • Tailor

    Not all markets are created equal—even regions in close proximity can be vastly different from one another when you take a closer look. Geopolitical boundaries are convenient, but there’s even greater value in understanding the real picture at a more localized level. Status quo (e.g. financial spreadsheets) will not propel you as far as you could go if you adapt your strategy to truly understanding the volume versus capacity relationship. Every location has unique needs, and you must adjust accordingly so you are providing the right support.
  • Allocate

    That means being more judicious with saying “yes” or “no”—being more efficient with time and resources, and not being afraid to recalibrate where necessary to get the most value out of what you have. Innovate to get the most from each location; and, be sure you are giving more weight to markets where there is potential. It is like the gas tank analogy—you do not want to put more resources in a tank that is truly full, which will be incredibly crucial in the foreseeable market environment.

How Entira Can Help

We challenge all our clients to be asking tough questions such as:

  • Are we selling to the same customers or are we actively seeking new business?
  • Do we understand our local market potential and share or are we guessing?
  • Do we evaluate based on potential or the previous year plus an incremental percentage?
  • Do we really understand who our most successful sales team members or locations are?
  • Do we have a firm grasp of how well we cover a market compared to our competitors?
  • Are we allocating our resources efficiently or are we fighting ourselves?

When Entira works with clients on these endeavors, we work together to dive deep into discovering the answers to these questions. We partner with you to bolster your existing core base of knowledge and integrate our own proprietary databases, models, and insight. That puts you in a powerful position. Our proprietary market databases have been refined over time so they’re immensely valuable to our clients—including detailed analytics of local market sizes, acreages, and other market insight, all of which adds very meaningful granularity to your sales information and other data.

The end goal is to give our clients the insight they need to identify, develop and retain the most effective sales force for their organization. Here’s what an effective analysis of your sales team can get you in the long run:

  • A more robust sales analysis structure.
  • A fresh way to analyze your sales staff, pinpointing new sales metrics to implement that are more meaningful and right for your organization.
  • A forecasting model that goes beyond relying on previous year’s sales, using the indicators that more accurately forecasted market potential.
  • Updated compensation structures to offer better incentives tied to what truly moves the needle in your organization.
  • Identification of additional resources needed for the sales team to be successful.
  • Clarity to the rationale behind strategic decisions pertaining to budget allocation, product distribution, territory structure, etc.
  • Ability to give back in other areas—to the community, or investing in your people with extra bonuses—that produces real long-term value.

We never know what we’ll discover when we merge our client’s data together with ours, but the insight is powerful. If you would like to learn more about our approach to sales team analysis, please contact me at