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How to Translate Intangible Sales Data Into Metrics for Sales Success

A guest post by Rob Käll, CEO and Co-Founder @ Cien.

Your sales are being held back. The culprit? Intangible sales data.

What makes a good sales rep? It’s a question that constantly plagues sales leaders. If you know how to spot your best salespeople, you can feed them with more sales opportunities. You can also use that knowledge to train team members who are not exhibiting these skills, and piece together other influences.

For instance, the contribution that marketing is making to the sales process. We’ve all griped about low-quality inbound leads. However, the extraordinary sales reps are making them count anyway.

The problem is not in understanding the elements of a good sales professional – there is plenty of literature on better sales performance. The issue is identifying the best reps at your company, and pinpointing where they can improve. It’s about using sales data.

Books and blogs can’t help you with that. Unfortunately, neither can the sales data that most companies use for evaluating sales rep performance.

Much of the data required to understand who is performing best comes from intangibles that are hard to measure. Many sales leaders let these factors stay fuzzy. They rely on their gut when deciding things like the impact of lead quality and team mood on sales performance. This is a mistake. With the right metrics, sales teams could be driving greater sales success.

Everything Can Be Measured

There are no intangibles. That’s my basic philosophy in life. Everyone says there is this “gut feeling” and a “sense” for sales. But those things can be measured! You’re just not measuring them. You’re leaving the data fuzzy and at great cost to your business.

Sure, you can try optimizing your sales team with the usual fix: sending great leads to underperforming salespeople.

In many cases, poor performers are not bad at their jobs. They’re bad because they are missing the key ingredients to becoming a good salesperson. They haven’t been given the tools to get past an important roadblock: themselves. It’s extremely difficult to see this dynamic (and determine how to help) if the data is fuzzy and left intangible.

Turn your intangible sales team data into hard numbers. Otherwise, you cannot truly optimize.

How to Translate Intangible Sales Data Into Metrics for Sales Success

Make Intangible Data Precise and Actionable

Let’s skip ahead and get to the meat. How you can measure intangibles like team mood or product knowledge? Are your lead assignments helping reps or holding them back?

There’s an app for that.

By structuring your sales data, you can measure the intangibles. You can have more defined parameters within your SalesLoft and your CRM. These will give you actionable next steps for improving your sales team performance.

AI-powered apps such as Cien make intangibles like work ethic, product knowledge, and closing ability much more measurable. Start by untangling the variables (like marketing’s contribution to sales) and break them down into measurable chunks that you can assign values to and therein measure.

Machine learning and natural language processing help make sense of this. For example, calculating the specific value of the leads handed to sales from marketing.

Then, sales leaders can understand previously ‘fuzzy math’ in a measurable way. What if you know exactly where marketing is adding value to leads?

Beyond that, you can measure seemingly qualitative factors such as team mood. You don’t just send out a survey asking how your team is feeling. If someone had a fight with their partner that morning, they will be feeling off during the workday. That isn’t what we mean by measuring team mood.

Instead, ask your sales team very concrete and relevant questions. Try “How do you feel about the training you received last month?” If the response is positive, that’s great. If it’s negative, then that was determinant to team mood.

You have to drill deeper with questions. It is easy for people to answer a question like “How are you feeling?” with a false answer. When you pass someone in the hall at the office and ask how they are doing, the reflex response – “doing great” – might not be honest or accurate.

How to Translate Intangible Sales Data Into Metrics for Sales Success

So you also have to ask questions in several different ways to home in on the truth. Many questions, same goal.

Making intangibles meaningful also requires asking these concrete questions repeatedly, prompting trends to emerge. These data points only start to make sense when you see their changes over time, and how they relate to other sales data. By comparing all the inputs, you’ll finally be able to establish patterns and draw important inferences.

The outcome of your efforts is sales dynamics that are no longer intangible. Applying AI to your CRM data, what was previously fuzzy sales data can suddenly become a clear picture, with actionable improvement areas.

When assessing what your numbers are telling you, lean on structured metrics instead of the fuzzy and intangible data. The reward is better sales productivity and effectiveness, not to mention a happier sales team.


Rob Kall at CienRob Käll is an accomplished entrepreneur with 3 Successful MM exits in 10 Years. His latest startup, Cien, gives sales leaders an immediate edge by using the power of AI to increase the productivity of their teams. Automatically detecting problems, predicting outcomes and recommending the shortest path to success. A versatile leader that has served as Startup CEO, Corporate Exec and Technical Founder, Rob advocates a scientific approach to sales and marketing alignment. Connect with Rob on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Interested in learning about how a sales engagement platform can boost your sales data and transform your sales organization?  Download the full report here.

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