Why you should put some sales tasks on autopilot
For any airplane pilot, the autopilot is a valuable companion. It can automate routine tasks like maintaining altitude and direction, so you are free to focus on the next tasks needed to reach your destination. Or for sales, think of your goal as your destination!
But amazing as autopilots are, aviators are aware that the autopilot does not fly the plane for you. You are still always responsible for reaching the goal destination. Autopilot mostly helps make that job easier and safer.
Analytics tools for sales – especially those with predictive methods – can act a lot like an autopilot. They reduce workload, prioritize tasks, and standardize best practices so you can focus on things the autopilot doesn’t do.
You can focus on improving human performance, anticipating hazards far in advance, and staying ahead of the navigation tasks.
Like autopilots, how can automated analytics help sales rep productivity?
Pilots joke that flying is a long span of boredom, followed by moments of panic. Maybe like sales activity during the final days of the quarter?
When flying, reducing mundane workload is a top concern. Mundane stuff weighs on pilots. As it weighs on us all! Eliminating it makes a big difference in the most crucial parts of flight, such as preparing for landing.
In a similar way, sales teams could offload mundane workload to autopilots. This way, sales reps can focus on the conversation with prospects and customers, the crucial part that only the rep can do.
Here are a few ways that analytics can reduce workload so sales reps can perform where it counts:
Less time searching. Time spent searching is hard to document, but costly nonetheless. Smart Selling Tools says that only 218 days a year are “selling days.” That’s only seven and a half months of the year! You can set up automated searches within CRM to cut down on research time.
Align customer-brand preference. Manufacturers and brands run promotions based on their needs, like clearing inventory, launching new products, or gaining competitive share. These promos are often shared with sales reps in an ad hoc informal way. But you can use analytics to automatically identify important things to know, like the brand and product preferences of a customer.
Then, reps can take advantage of a brand’s promotions, and contact the targeted customers who are most likely to respond to that brand. This boosts sales rep productivity by eliminating time spent on customers who are not likely to purchase a brand.
The automated analytics run in the background like an autopilot.
We all prioritize tasks, either by design or default. In the high-stakes world of aviation, prioritization is taken to a whole new level of delivery of consistently successful outcomes. Right?! Because successful outcomes must be achieved.
Doesn’t that also sound like a sales wish list?
Here’s how predictive analytics can help prioritization and your sales rep productivity:
Prioritize based on predicted value. Sales reps must allocate time to customer conversation, learning, research, and administrative work. Beyond having good time management, advanced analytics can further boost sales productivity. You can do this by creating a “predicted value measure” of customer interaction.
What is it? How?
“Predicted value” could be the sum total of expected new orders, new product categories, and average order size of repeat orders. Based on this, the frequency and type of contact with the customer, level of effort/time, and type of offers could be varied to realize the value. Without this approach, sales reps are likely to focus on the trailing twelve month revenue. But, this is a lagging rather than a leading indicator.
Suggest a “best course” workflow. It is not realistic to expect reps to know preferences across all customers and all circumstances. But there are metrics that can create a chain of sales activity, like a decision tree. If this chain or decision tree is followed, it will result in a significantly higher customer value.
How can you do this?
Determining ideal “horizontal contact strategy” – in marketing language – is perfectly suited for predictive analytics. Rather than stop at one or two actions, it allows reps to see the relationship as a nurturing continuum. This workflow can then integrate with campaign management approaches so reps get additional support from marketing.
Standardize best practices
No pilot will fly without a checklist. And a checklist is basically, standardized best practices.
A checklist has specific tasks to be done in sequential order, in a short amount of time. A checklist can also be a related set of maneuvers to do. For example, aviation checklists include tasks for pre-flight, taxi, take-off, climbing, and landing. The task instructions for each section are also specific to each type of aircraft, and they include manufacturer recommendations, learnings from experienced pilots, and recommendations from NTSB investigations. In other words, time-tested best practices.
Likewise, sales has its own time-tested best practices.
Do checklists have a place in sales? Yes. You can use them to:
Test and learn. Like marketing will test email campaigns, web page layouts and e-commerce offers, there are also sales dimensions to test. These can be customer portfolio mix, product penetration, growth, and customer loyalty.
Test various combinations across different teams of reps. Determine the most profitable combination for customer, product, and sales rep. These combinations become a checklist to follow.
Build analytics that recognize sales rep strengths. Some reps get growth from a small set of customers. Others do well in certain product categories. Yet others do well with a certain size book of business.
Through predictive analytics, you can avoid painting reps with a single broad brush that may be counterproductive. And instead, you can craft individual performance levels that are driven by how similar reps have performed historically.
Just as safety is paramount in aviation in all aspects of flight, efficiency and productivity are critical to sales. Analytics can deliver that efficiency.
Our app for Salesforce, ProsperVue, delivers many of these “auto-pilot” features to sales reps. Check it out if you use Salesforce!
President & CEO at Valgen
Rainmaker extraordinaire for our clients. Turns databases into gold. Analytics executive and entrepreneur with a track record of producing significant and sustained revenue gains for sales teams in fleet, transportation, high tech & financial services.