SiriusDecisions Summit offers insights on sales productivity

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Last year at SiriusDecisions' annual summit, the marketing consultancy rolled out a major revision of its marketing effectiveness model with a new approach to sourcing and qualifying leads. At this year's conference, the company upped the ante with a new take on sales productivity that, in typical SiriusDecisions fashion, relies on rigorous modeling, x-y axis graphing and metrics analysis. “Decision-making is changing,” said John Neeson, SiriusDecisions' co-founder and managing director, at the summit last week in San Diego. “The changing CXO buyer journey continues to challenge sales, marketing and product executives.” Several SiriusDecisions researchers at the summit stressed that an important solution can be found through better sales efficiency and effectiveness, in particular through the company's new Relative Productivity Framework model. Mark Levinson, service director-sales operations strategies at SiriusDecisions, said the new model is an advance on typical time-and-motion studies that analyze the types and duration of sales reps' activities during a typical week. “Sales, and especially sales operations, must focus on productivity increases,” Levinson said. “You want to make resource decisions based on the positive impact on productivity. Even a small increase can make a large impact on an organization.” The goal of the new model is to increase the number of hours sales reps spend on their most revenue-producing activities, such as direct engagement with prospects, while as much as possible reducing administrative work, research time and service calls. That will result in more hours spent in the most valuable phase of the sales funnel: closing. Also presented at the summit was an assessment of how SiriusDecisions' revised Demand Waterfall alignment model has fared after one year in the field. “The reaction to the [new] waterfall was quite favorable, but a key issue remains: Most organizations continue to ignore its ability to indicate the cost and scalability of their demand engines,” said Jason Hekl, service director-demand creation strategies at SiriusDecisions. The model provides a statistical analysis of lead qualification, as prospects move through the sales funnel from initial inquiries to marketing-qualified, sales-accepted and qualified leads and, eventually, closed business. Analyzing the percentages of leads passed to each subsequent stage measured against industry best practices has been a key ingredient of SiriusDecisions' consultancy practice since 2006. The new model recognizes other influences on demand, including leads qualified by marketing automation programs, leads qualified or generated through teleprospecting, and leads generated by the sales department. In assessing its clients' practices with the new model, SiriusDecisions found that about 48% of company leads come from marketing automation systems, but too few of them are then being accepted by the teleprospecting team for further qualification. “It's at 81%, which is a little disappointing,” said Tony Jaros, SiriusDecisions' senior VP-research. “We had hoped to see it in the 90%-to-95% range.” Another issue has been a propensity of early adopters of the revised model to send leads that are qualified by marketing automation systems directly on to sales, bypassing teleprospecting entirely. “We recommend that no more than 15% of leads for a complex sale go directly to sales,” Jaros said. “Bypassing teleprospecting is almost a sure way to assure you have significant lead waste in your waterfall. Watch out for this route-around rate creeping up over time; that's a warning sign of alignment trouble.” SiriusDecisions also pinpointed another alignment issue: Sales is qualifying about 65% of the leads it generates itself but only 48% of those it receives from marketing or teleprospecting. “Watch out for systematic behaviors that cause what sales and marketing generate to differ,” Hekl said. “It could mean that sales is holding on to leads from marketing and not entering them as opportunities,” he said. Sales enablement was also the subject of several social media marketing sessions. At one, researchers focused on social interaction in support of direct sales. “Social selling is a hot topic that we're often asked about,” said James Ninivaggi, SiriusDecisions' service director-sales-enablement strategies. “But it can't be defined as closing business in 140 characters or less.” Ninivaggi said typical social media activities vary from passive monitoring to such activities as promoting awareness and engagement. Making a direct sales overture via social media can work, he said, but only when sales has a good handle on both product and buyer, and the buyer is socially engaged. “Even though this is an area of great opportunity, sales reps should still be monitoring, getting information and engaging on social channels to build up their networks,” said Erin Estep, service director-strategic communications management. “Confidence to work demand comes from these other social areas.”
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