How are your sales methodologies really doing? Let your CRM data tell you.

Sales methodologies: we’ve all got them. Sometimes a sales team jumps on a hot new one every year that they’re sure will revolutionize their results; some teams stick with the tried and true; sometimes teams invent an intricate system they think no one else has ever come up with. But there’s one common denominator here and that’s the need for teams to accurately evaluate whatever methodology they have adopted.

As you’re probably aware, some CRM systems have tried to accommodate specific practices and systems. But the team tendency to keep changing methodologies means those platforms haven’t been all that successful. Hence the smart ones stay agnostic so they can accommodate any sales methodology a team might use.

But that doesn’t mean your CRM system can’t reveal meaningful insights about your pipeline. No matter what methodology you use, your system can offer key indicators that reveal significant information about your sales health. Do you want to identify any problems in your process? Any weaknesses that need correcting? The right diagnostics can illuminate the path to a stronger methodology.

Take a look at your data and consider the following.

Sell by date. Take a look at your open deals. How many have gone past the expected close date? Any number over 10 percent indicates either an adoption problem or a data problem that’s skewing your pipeline. The best way to deal with this is to go ahead and auto-close any deal two weeks past its sell by date.

Orphaned deals. In a productive and efficient system, every deal should have a contact assigned. So if you find a high number of deals don’t have any contacts listed, that’s a serious problem for two reasons. One: It means the sales rep is too lazy to record the most relevant players involved in the deal. What other important processes are they skipping? Two: Without contact information, the marketing team won’t be able to create targeted campaigns or measure their own effectiveness. (Hint: this can be avoided by making completion of the Contact field a requirement for advancing beyond the initial phase.)

Deal size. Compare the size of the deals you close to the deals you don’t. Which one is typically bigger? Now go evaluate the deals in your pipeline. Do their sizes look more like the winners or losers? Don’t be afraid of the answer.

Deals with no activities or campaigns. A few possibilities here. One, a deal that shows no campaign touches recorded could truly be a deal generated entirely by sales – but the sales rep may have deleted any record of marketing activities simply to make it look that way. Compare any deals with no activities recorded to the average number of activities for won and lost deals. You’ll know if something is off.

Deal timing. Look at deals won and lost. How many days do they spend in the pipeline? At which point in the buying process is a deal most likely to die? Don’t assume you know these numbers already. You may be surprised and they’ll help you recognize and possibly save a dying deal. How many deals go backwards or down in value?

Probability and forecast percentages. If your CRM system uses default “probability” percentages for each stage, you’ll want to look at your actual history and see how accurate those settings are. Don’t be surprised if you find they fall on the optimistic side. Adjust your settings for accuracy. As for your forecast, what percentage of the final closed amount was in there? When did it come within 10 or 5 percent of the actuals?

A final word of advice. If your sales team breaks down into multiple arms or segments, you’ll need to check your analytics by each arm. Looking at overall numbers is the easy route, but doing so can conceal the very issues you want to fix. Remember, the whole point of running diagnostic indicators is to identify and make specific improvements to your organization, messaging and methodologies and policies.

Which means – sorry – this isn’t just a one-time process. You’ll want to continually look at your CRM data and turn it into insights. Do that and you’ll have a sales methodology worth bragging about.