The Best Data-Driven Approaches to Shorten Your Sales Cycle

April 10, 2020

“A good sales leader is just like a detective,” Bill Groody, a sales leader at BloomNation, said.

Like Groody, sales leaders across Los Angeles are turning to data for clues on how to create a faster sales cycle. And for good reason: companies that inject data into their sales process and operations are 5 to 6 percent more profitable and productive than their competitors, according to a 2015 study by McKinsey & Company.

Tracking performance via KPIs, monitoring call volume and using data metrics from programs like Salesforce are some of the many, if not overwhelming, ways leaders collect data. In order to change those data points (when they aren't resulting in sales) sales leaders must find the behavioral causation.

Groody practices behavioral management with his team. Instead of giving low-performing sales reps their metrics and telling them to improve, he helps them understand what behaviors led to those numbers and creates a timeline for them to show improvement in behavior. Using data and behavior patterns from high-performing sales reps also helps. From there, Groody recognizes and rewards positive behaviors and behavioral improvement. 

“At the end of the day, sales management is all about driving a team to execute the behaviors that produce the best results, and this data helps us break down each rep’s daily, weekly and monthly behaviors,” Groody said.

Garreth Long, a sales leader at real estate company Endpoint, attaches a portion of his own income to motivate and incentivize his team to accomplish activity-based, monthly goals. He uses data from Salesforce to create actionable goals.

“You can’t improve what you don’t measure,” Long said.

 

Bill Groody
Vice President of Sales 

Data is everything when it comes to shortening sales cycles at florist e-commerce platform BloomNation. KPIs and total sales are tied to how Groody implements behavioral management techniques, which requires interpreting data to diagnose actionable items for improvement. Goody said it’s a sales leader’s job to find and explain the driving behavioral factors behind the data when coaching sales reps, rather than just giving sales reps data and expecting them to improve. 

 

What critical pieces of data is your sales team looking at when it comes to the sales cycle? 

We use data in many ways. We track performance with our KPIs across all teams. Then there are the many metrics we monitor that drive to big numbers. Total sales ARR, volume of accounts won and ACV are the big ones.

Behind those, we also monitor things like activity, talk time, meetings scheduled, meetings held, meeting stick-rate, win rates, volume of accounts won, total ARR, ACV, touches per lead or opportunity, last touch timeline, stage improvement and sales cycle time (broken down by each stage and overall) using Salesforce, Chili Piper and SalesLoft. Each of these metrics helps managers diagnose why a certain rep or team might be missing their goals. 

Each of these metrics is tied to our behavioral management process, and we use them as the clues as to why a certain result is being produced, positive or negative. At the end of the day, sales management is all about driving a team to execute the behaviors that produce the best results, and this data helps us break down each rep’s daily, weekly and monthly behaviors. A good sales leader is just like a detective. You have to be curious, focused, open-minded and only interested in solving the problem.

 

Looking back at data from previous sales cycles, what steps does your team take to derive actionable insights from that data? 

By knowing your averages, you can then observe the behaviors that drive performance above and below the averages. Then, it's about prescribing coaching that helps reps who are below the average to implement the behaviors or processes observed from above-average performers, in an effort to improve each team member's performance. We debrief on all performance weekly and then do a deep dive at the end of each month and quarter.

For example, our reps that had lower than average sales cycle times were observed doing a few things that reps missing the mark were not doing such as longer discovery, setting firm next steps, and putting monetary values on pain points. By helping our team implement the behaviors that were leading to above-average cycle time, we were able to reduce our sales cycle time by 50 percent.

Another example would be from Q4 of 2019 when we tested a new price model. The goal was to test selling “down market” to smaller accounts but with an upfront price point that delivered a desirable payback. When we compared win rates from the test to win rates from the normal offering, they were significantly lower. Payback was great, but people weren't buying. All other behaviors were the same, but the price was the driver of the low win rate. This allowed us to tweak the price model and test again in Q1, where our win rates improved on this customer segment by 200 percent.

Lead source data and funnel performance are also evaluated monthly, so we can effectively budget for the next cycle.

Data is everything.

 

What role does data play in conversations with your sales team? 

Data is everything. It's the best part of being a sales leader in 2020 compared to 20 years ago when I started. You can track, monitor and diagnose just about every behavior a team is delivering. The key is to use it to understand the differences between success and failure, then digging in to find the driving behaviors or factors behind the data. It’s not useful if you try to coach to the data or speak of the data too often in meetings and one-on-ones. 

A wrong way of doing this would be to point out the performance deficiency, give the rep a timeline to improve, assign a goal for that metric and then move on to another topic. The right thing to do would be to help the rep understand what behaviors are leading to the problem, have a collaborative discussion around what behaviors to change and agree to a timeline to show improvement in the behavior. 

You should agree that the success or failure of this new plan will be measured by quota achievement and win rate improvement, but the daily coaching and plan shouldn't be about the number. It should be about recognizing and rewarding them each time the desired behavior is observed. The number will, by default, improve over time and that will positively impact the end result.

 

Garreth Long
Vice President of Business Development

To make their sales cycles shorter, Long said he uses pipeline metrics from Salesforce to see what is working and what isn’t. From there, he examines a cycle stage on a micro level to further identify repeat patterns such as low call volume or low meeting schedules. He then creates action items his team can improve on. 

 

What critical pieces of data is your sales team looking at when it comes to the sales cycle? 

You can’t improve what you don’t measure, so I think it is vital to understand the average length of your sales cycle at each stage, and your corresponding win and loss ratios. We use Salesforce to determine these pipeline metrics by tracking the average number of days and the average conversion rates we experience throughout our sales cycle.

We also track the activity of our sales team and the characteristics of our leads through lead scoring, so we can accurately assess what activities work and who we should target to improve our conversion rates and shorten our sales cycle. Our team uses a suite of integrations to sync our Gmail, calendars and phones with Salesforce. That allows us to automate and simplify sales tasks and capture client interactions for analysis.

Endpoint is focused on delivering a full-service digital closing experience to all parties in a real estate transaction, so we also leverage product engagement metrics that inform sales on where they should focus their efforts.

I believe it is more effective to tell a salesperson to make 100 calls than acquire 10 new customers.

 

Looking back at data from previous sales cycles, what steps does your team take to derive actionable insights from that data? 

We use our pipeline metrics from Salesforce as a baseline to see which parts of our sales cycle are working and which parts are not. I like to identify one stage of our cycle that can be improved and then study all metrics within that stage to see if it tells me a story. I closely examine activity and lead metrics to identify a repeatable set of actions my team can take. Utilizing the insights in these reports enables Endpoint to more quickly and effectively close new customers.

 

What role does data play in conversations with your sales team? 

I believe it is more effective to tell a salesperson to make 100 calls than acquire 10 new customers. One is entirely within their control and the other is not. Data allows me to understand what activities will lead to orders, so that I can empower my sales team with actionable goals. I incentivize the right behavior by attaching a portion of my sales team's income to two or three activity-based, monthly goals. Since the Endpoint product is also designed to shorten the real estate sales cycle for our clients, our team is uniquely positioned to capture, optimize and align every metric with our quarterly objectives and key results.

 

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