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Sales Operations and the Magic of Predictive Analytics

May 29, 2013 | By Mark Levinson

Unfortunately, much of what sales operations does is historical analysis to help explain what has happened. This is certainly important, but it’s also limiting, since nothing can be done to change the outcome. Sales operations can begin to take a more strategic role in sales organizations and provide true sales intelligence by using historical data plus current insights to drive a more predictive analysis of the business.

I received this great video from a friend via email the other day. It was a commercial that ran in Europe. A privacy protection group sets up a tent in the middle of a European city. Inside the tent is a clairvoyant – picture a man with long gray hair, flowing linen pants, shirt and sandals. Throughout the commercial, unsuspecting passersby are invited in from the street to meet with this man, who demonstrates his mystical powers by telling them things about themselves and their lives that a stranger could never know. The look on each person’s face is one of amazement as he asks about very personal things. How could he possibly know this? He must truly be clairvoyant.

Then comes the real shocker. The man asks if these strangers want to know how he knows so much. Of course, all say yes, then the white curtain behind him opens up to show a handful of analysts sitting with a dozen monitors and computers, searching the Web. They are using basic analytical searches to find out about each person. The main purpose of the commercial is to make people aware that what they put on the Web can easily become available to the world. For me, it brought to mind the relationship between analysis and intelligence.

Just as this team of individuals works together to quickly pull together information about people, sales operations needs to use a broad range of analysis to provide intelligence to sales leadership and sales reps. Unfortunately, much of what sales operations does is historical analysis to help explain what has happened. This is certainly important, but it’s also limiting, since nothing can be done to change the outcome. Sales operations can begin to take a more strategic role in sales organizations and provide true sales intelligence by using historical data plus current insights to drive a more predictive analysis of the business. I have spoken with many b-to-b sales organizations about this topic, and I always get a positive response, but adoption tends to be low. Why? Because sales is a world of short-term views focusing on what is going to happen this month or this quarter.

What if your organization were the one taking a more proactive approach to analyzing what has happened, what is happening and what is going to happen in your market? Could you be ahead of the competition? Would you be more able to predict which accounts are ready to buy? Could you drive more productivity from your sales reps? Simply: Yes.

Just as the advocacy group used its commercial to warn people to think differently, I urge sales operations to drive a new way of thinking about sales analysis that takes a longer-term, more-predictive view.

Learn more about how sales operations can combine historical and current data to model predictive analysis for the future. View our archived "Sales Analytics: Measurement that Matters" Webcast.

Mark Levinson

Mark Levinson is Vice President and Group Director of Sales and Channel Services at SiriusDecisions. Mark’s nearly 20 years of experience includes a wide variety of sales operations issues including strategic planning, territory optimization, compensation plans, account management, sales tools and sales analytics. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkBLevinson.

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