Baseball, Big Data, and Selling.

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A while ago I wrote a post on Sabermetrics which us using baseball statistics to make strategic decisions in improving a team’s performance especially when it came to individual performers. This was the subject of the story in the movie “Moneyball” staring Brad Pit. My post was how to use some of these ideas in building sales teams.

Now there is another book that discusses the role of Big Data in baseball.  (“Big Data Baseball ; Math, Miracles, and the End of a 20yr Losing Streak,”  by Travis Sawchik. This idea takes Sabermetrics a bit further and looks at the idea of sifting the huge amount of Big Data that has amassed in baseball to make long range decisions on a Club’s success rate.

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Forecasting Analytics: The Sales Cycle Length

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Occasionally, I go to the LinkedIn sales forums to see what’s on the minds of salespeople and the problems they are struggling with. I get frustrated though, because as the owner of a commercial sales application development business, I am frequently not allowed to post my two cents worth because it is “self-promotion.”

Recently, a sales manager was asking, “What is the best analytic I can use to see if my salespeople have good pipelines and my forecasting has a chance of being accurate.”

I know my answer to this probably won’t come up in the discussion thread. The one piece of data that drives information and knowledge about strategy in the sale and creates the best chance of accurate projections is . . . the length of the sales cycle. Let’s see why.

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Sales Are UP! Why Don’t I Feel Better?

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Technical Difficulties

Ed. Technical difficulties! OMG, we’ve had technical difficulties! Fortunately we have enough interesting and compelling content here at The HUB that we can dig into our archive and still offer up something that you should find, well, interesting and compelling. I’ve gone back to the early days, our 3rd week of publication, in fact, to pull up an article that you may have missed from then. Enjoy it. Meanwhile, I’ll get back to whipping those tech types to solve our difficulties.

Sales are picking up. Wonderful! We really feel good.

But is it because our sales team is doing an excellent job, or is it because the market is booming? The same applies to the other way round. Sales are down, is it us or them? Although it is so vital to our success we often do not know the real truth, and if we find out, it is very late – too late for taking the right actions early enough for meeting our targets.

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Big (BAD) Data! Or, What Is My Average Sales Cycle Length?

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Big Data

I don’t know if sales professionals spend much time checking what’s going on in technology that might profoundly affect their working lives, or not. I should throw in a caveat. Right now, what I’m talking about applies mostly to what’s going on with big companies using technology for competitive advantage. Small companies are typically “late adopters,” so checking in on what Global Enterprise is doing might give a heads-up on where small business will be in five or ten years from now.

There are a lot of things that the big guys are fooling around with at the moment, and I want to comment on a couple of them. First is big data, and second, by default—analytics. Don’t get me wrong, my domain in my professional career has always hovered around small companies, but I am convinced that learning from analysis of carefully collected information can be invaluable, and should be one of the driving forces for all companies, no matter what size, to implement CRM.

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CEOs Need To Get Serious About Sales

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CEO Sketch

Ed. – Today we offer Keith Thompson’s comments on an article in The Economist about giving the sales function it’s proper attention, especially in the area of analytics.

This is an interesting blog entry from the Harvard Business Review Blog Network:

http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/07/ceos_need_to_get_serious_about.html

I come from the mold of CEO that has always been serious about sales. And I don’t think I’m in a minority. But this article is a wake-up call for top managers to make sure they give the sales function the appropriate importance and attention. What is appropriate — well, the sales team, group, division or whatever is the most important functional group within the organization. As I’ve defined it in my own work, sales is the business of doing business.

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Sales Data – Critical Factors and Why You Should Care

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Companies who monitor and evaluate their sales data systematically are far more successful than those who don’t. To do this successfully requires a well thought out systematic approach. Companies who only analyze their sales figures on an ad hoc basis will find that they are missing essential data when they do so and will have problems with the interpretation of the data that they have.

Sales analytics is not an end in itself. It is there to support the management in different areas and at different levels in both planning and day to day sales management. For both, sales analytics serves as part of a closed loop. Consequently we first have to ask ourselves which are the decisions we have to take in conjunction with these tasks and then conclude which information would help us in taking these decisions. And not only this, we also have to decide how frequently we need the information and with how much accuracy. Then we have to find out, which data we need and how we can extract the required information from them.

Let´s start at the highest level, the sales strategy. For this we have to know the key drivers in different market segments, the main trends, and our position. Only then we can devise sales strategies which are in line with the overall company strategy and are realistic enough for being implemented successfully.

For concrete implementation, we also have to know the required resources, the lengths of the sales cycles, potential obstacles, the productivity of our sales force, and many other things that determine success or failure. This already has to be pretty detailed since different products or market segments may vary significantly in the lengths of their sales cycles or the amount of resources required. While this information has to be accurate and reliable, it does not have to be available on a daily basis. It is there to support more long term decisions and planning purposes.

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‘Moneyball’, and It’s Relevance to Sales

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Moneyball I watched Brad Pitt in Moneyball when it came out. I don’t know if you know the story, but it chronicles the efforts of Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane to assemble a winning baseball team through the use of computer analysis of player statistics. This idea goes against the traditional grain in baseball to pick players by gut feel and real life experience of their talent.

Before going further I should position myself as a Brit—transposed in my twenties to Canada. My knowledge of baseball is lower than rudimentary, and the only time I got juiced up on the sport was when Toronto won two World Series in a row. Back to Moneyball.

Billy was able to adopt his alternative approach to team building because statistics have always been a fundamental part of baseball. Indeed, when researching this post I learned that there is a special name for it—sabermetrics. Sabermetrics is the search for objective knowledge about baseball. Thus, sabermetrics attempts to answer objective questions about baseball, such as, “Which player on the Red Sox contributed the most to the team’s offense?” Or, “How many home runs will Ken Griffey hit next year?”

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Sales Are UP! Why Don’t I Feel Better?

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Sales are picking up. Wonderful! We really feel good.

But is it because our sales team is doing an excellent job, or is it because the market is booming? The same applies to the other way round. Sales are down, is it us or them? Although it is so vital to our success we often do not know the real truth, and if we find out, it is very late – too late for taking the right actions early enough for meeting our targets.

But where can we get the information we need?

Companies usually collect a huge amount of data. A lot of it is available in spreadsheets, and more in ERP and CRM systems. Sales people are writing visit reports in which they describe in great detail, what they are doing and what happens with their customers. On top of that, there are publicly available market reports and information that can be gathered from magazines, internet and many other sources. So, we should know what´s going on and where we stand.

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CEOs Need To Get Serious About Sales

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This is an interesting blog entry from the Harvard Business Review Blog Network:

http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/07/ceos_need_to_get_serious_about.html

I come from the mold of CEO that has always been serious about sales. And I don’t think I’m in a minority. But this article is a wake-up call for top managers to make sure they give the sales function the appropriate importance and attention. What is appropriate — well, the sales team, group, division or whatever is the most important functional group within the organization. As I’ve defined it in my own work, sales is the business of doing business.

So let me comment on some parts of the blog.

“In writing the book Sales Growth, we’ve found that CEOs who put sales management at the heart of their agenda have captured astonishing growth — outstripping their peers by 50 to 80 percent in terms of revenue and profitability.”

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