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The analytics of sales time well spent

Jonathan Frick, Mark Kovac

February 2, 2017

Sales executives with even moderately large, distributed salesforces rely on data to help them understand which activities and behaviors lead to the best outcomes. Solid data and analysis allow them to make more reliable forecasts, close gaps in the sales pipeline and identify which practices produce superior performance. Yet much of the information that sales executives rely upon today, such as CRM reporting tools and time studies, are based on self-reported data. Even with good intentions, the quality of this data can be flawed. That leaves executives in the dark about what is actually occurring on the front lines, or whether those activities advance or impede progress toward desired outcomes.

Using new software to analyze the digital exhaust of calendar and email metadata provides a practical way to build an accurate profile of how frontline sales representatives and managers spend their time, who they interact with externally and internally, and what effect this has on sales performance. These tools are proving useful in sales organizations, where both managers and reps often have clear success metrics but fuzzy mental models of where and how they should be investing their time.

By seeing exactly where and how people spend their time—rather than relying on recollections, anecdotes or assumptions—executives have a solid basis for taking actions that will raise productivity. This view, combined with more traditional sources such as CRM data, quota attainment data, territory and account plans, and qualitative observations from ride-alongs and coaching sessions, allows executives to confidently identify which activities and behaviors matter most for sales performance.

Bain has worked with several companies across business-to-business sectors to deploy one of these software applications, Microsoft’s Workplace Analytics (formerly VoloMetrix), as part of a broader effort to improve sales effectiveness. The companies used the software in at least three situations: design of their coverage model; alignment of sales resources to market opportunities; and identification and widespread adoption of the behaviors with the strongest positive influence on sales performance. Let’s examine each in turn.

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Jonathan Frick

Jonathan Frick is a principal in the San Francisco office of Bain & Company. He is an active member of Bain's Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) and Customer Strategy & Marketing practices. He works with clients across the US, Europe and Asia with a focus on helping large companies address challenges and opportunities requiring transformational change.

Mark Kovac

Mark Kovac is a partner in Bain & Company's Dallas office. He is the leader of Bain's Sales and Channel Effectiveness, Go-to-Market Strategy and Commercial Excellence products within the firm's Customer Strategy & Marketing practice. He is also a leader in Bain's Technology, Media & Telecom (TMT) practices. He has nearly 20 years of experience helping clients to develop and execute pragmatic recommendations that drive tangible, enduring results.