How to increase sales force adoption of BI initiatives

November 18, 2010 - 5 minutes read

Sales Star“We’ve tried that before.”

“It’s too cumbersome and I don’t get much for the trouble.”

“Yes, but that doesn’t apply to me or my customers.”

These are statements about business intelligence (BI) we’ve heard echoed by sales reps in a number of organizations. It’s no doubt an endless source of frustration to well-intentioned sales managers who want to bring the science of data-driven decision-making to boost productivity on the front line.

Like closing the deal in any sales setting, overcoming these objections requires forethought, meaningful engagement and putting the customer first – in this case the sales rep is the customer – when implementing a BI or analytical initiative.

So, if you could get into their heads… what would the sales reps want?

More dollars with same or less effort
Provide tactical actions
Streamline, simplify their workflow
Let’s cut to the chase. Can the solution actually make them significantly more money, consistently, for the same or less effort? Offer specific, contextual and timely actions that reps can follow without doing a lot of thinking. Don’t make them pull data and run reports. Just like stock market recommendations – buy, sell, hold. Simple actions. Do not allow room for a lot of interpretation. Fit into what they already do every day. Sure, some modifications are needed but don’t expect them to open a multitude of spreadsheets, switch  between applications, and interpret multiple sources while they should be making calls (or while the phone is ringing).

How can you get buy-in across the sales force?

1. Engage users – the reps – from the very beginning. Gather and address all their concerns up-front, and get their input on how they would like to use the system. Find the managers who are a bit more analytical or process-driven as champions to engage in development and a pilot run.

2. Show beforehand how it could have made a difference. This is an often overlooked, yet powerful buy-in benefit of predictive analytics. You have the ability to run “back-test” simulations to show how customers bought – or didn’t buy – as predicted, and how sales could have intervened to generate more outcomes in their favor. Showing “what could have been” helps to encourage buy-in, because people see “what could be.”

3. Address the most challenging problem that each rep faces. Not all reps have a problem with customer retention. Some may have issues with penetrating deeper into an account. Or achieving consistent cross-sell or higher order size.  Sell to your own sales reps – show them various benefits of the program with coaching and help them make it their own.

What are some ways to ensure sustainability of the BI program?

1. Start with the most eager participants, then build demand from there. While data can be democratic – available to all – that is often not the most alluring case for generating demand. Choose teams and reps that are barely making quota and are willing to try something new. When these early adopters are now meeting targets – or winning deals they didn’t think they could — that in turn seeds organic demand that continually grows support for the program.

2. Spread anecdotes and “unbelievable success” stories. Catalogs and emails don’t talk to each other, but people do. Find compelling cases of customer wins to share early on. Yes, we are talking outlier stories here – but make it credible.

3. Support the BI initiative by doing internal marketing to your sales team. Use promos, incentives and most important, show management commitment. Show them that others are rooting for their success. Enough said.

Not only is it possible to gain enthusiastic adoption – and yes even addiction – of BI initiatives, but it could be critical to the very success of your sales organization. So there’s high stakes in getting it right.

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