Understanding the Funnel: Turning Sales Analytics Into Insight

If you’re a forward-thinking sales professional, you’re already using sales analytics to evaluate and predict sales performance. Analytics can “enable more effective, fact-based decision making” – which means that you’re probably trying to accelerate your win rates and shorten the sales cycle by gleaning data from your sales funnel and pipeline.

This is a smart approach; sharp as your experience and instincts are, hard data can spell out valuable truths. Yet great as your data-rich analytics might be, I’d bet you still lack some of the insights necessary to improve sales plays and practices.

Why? Because the most common sales analytics in use today lack depth. They spell out the what and the when in black and white, but fall short on the why and the how. And the latter is exactly what you need to know. How are your best sales reps closing all those deals? How can you speed up the sales cycle? Why does some content drive more closes than others?

If you think analytics can’t help you find those answers, you’ll be happily surprised to find out they can. But first, let’s take a look at the 3 top reasons common analytics aren’t as helpful as they should be.

1. Your analytics are measuring the wrong components.

Tell me if this sounds familiar. You use your analytics to track and measure metrics like how long the cycle took from start to close or the number of phone calls that led to demos. Those sound like reasonable things to measure, right? Well, not exactly. They tell you how efficient your team is without telling you how powerful they are. And that’s what you really need to measure – elements like how your sales collateral performs at different stages of the funnel, and if your sales reps understand how and when to present that content to prospects. Or if your team can stay on message with customers while tailoring their presentation to the customer’s background.

2. The analytics are misunderstood or ignored.

You’ve probably seen this before; a sales team presents analytics in a monthly report to not only show their progress but point out possible improvements. They understand that those numbers paint a picture not only of their team performance but of the effectiveness of the content creators, the marketers and the brand strategists. But if those other teams don’t see the analytics or understand the role they play in them, those key messages will be lost – and no improvements will be forthcoming. To really work change throughout the organization, the language of analytics must be spoken by all relevant teams.

3. Your analytics only spell out part of the story.

Forecasts and conversion rates can provide great information, when you’re predicting revenue or evaluating the success of an initiative. But these same numbers can fall short beyond that point, because they don’t always identify the improvements necessary or the tactics required to get there. You need analytics that can accurately tell you which processes are working and which ones aren’t, as well as the factors driving both successes and failures.

Right about now you might be wondering what the solution is. In part, the “right” solution is going to depend on your unique organizational needs – but there are two practices that can serve as guideposts for all teams. The first: track and analyze your sales interactions. Which ones are working and why? Which plays are most effective with which personas? What are your best sales reps doing differently and how can you replicate it?

The second practice: track content consumption. Watch how prospects interact with your content and you’ll know which pieces are persuasive and which are getting left on the table. Not only will you understand which mediums are most influential, such as videos versus white papers, you’ll identify which messaging is resonating the most strongly with prospects. That’s priceless information.

Let me be clear. Sales analytics can solve problems and steer critical decisions – when you’re using the right analytics. But to reach that level of insight, teams must go beyond popular analytics and into specialized metrics that give you visibility into real funnel dynamics. Drill down to the how and why of your sales team and you’ll get the nuanced information you need to transform your sales performance.