Big Data: The Savior of Inside Sales Coaching
Several weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal released an article on how data will replace middle managers. Sales managers, however, face much more positive implications from the emergence of available data. Inside Sales managers aren't coaching. That's a proven fact. They're too busy running reports, assessing data, selling themselves, and putting out dozens of other fires.
It's been a long-lamented reality in inside sales that managers just don't have time to coach anymore, inside sales reps are under-trained, and millennials are not getting the feedback that they seek. And ironically, Christopher Mims' new article that forecasts a grim future for middle managers actually gives sales managers reason for hope.
How Big Data Can Save Inside Sales Coaching
The article, Data is the New Middle Manager, highlights how some companies are running much leaner, middle-manager free operations by granting employees total access to performance data.
"Startups are nimbler than they have ever been, thanks to a fundamentally different management structure, one that pushes decision-making out to the periphery of the organization, to the people actually tasked with carrying out the daily business of the company. And what makes this relatively flat hierarchy possible is that front-line workers have essentially unlimited access to data that used to be difficult to obtain, or required more senior managers to interpret."
As part of a greater trend, WSJ denotes that the emergence of free and ready data might spell the end of middle management (the article focuses on SMB companies, in particular).
"In the past [...] companies were beset by 'data bread lines,' in which managers had all the data they needed, but their staffers had to get in line to get the information they needed to make decisions. In the world of just a few years ago, in which databases were massively expensive and 'business intelligence' software cost millions of dollars and could take months to install, it made sense to limit access to these services to managers."
But in Inside Sales teams, data isn't so much a threat to replace inside sales managers as it is an opportunity to free them up and let them do the one thing they always want to do but never have the time for: coach their reps.
In that regard, Inside Sales may be the industry that stands to gain the most from technology. Note this important excerpt from the article.
"The only 'algorithm' processing the data and using it to make predictions is simply the humans scanning it for correlations. And now that every employee can have the tools to monitor progress toward any goal, the old role of middle managers as people who gather information and make decisions doesn’t fit into many startups. Nor do the leaders who remain need to poll middle managers to find out how employees are doing, since transparency and accountability are the essence of the data-driven company." "Data is the New Middle Manager."
That final paragraph may be true in some circumstances, but not in the context of inside sales, where coaching is required to be successful and sought by the reps themselves. As our CSO wrote in an Op-Ed for Sales Hacker back in September, you can now become a killer sales coach via data analytics.
The Data-Driven Inside Sales Coach
Inside Sales managers need not fear big data. They should embrace it as their opportunity to get back to doing their favorite part of the job: coaching sales reps.
With data distribution out of the way, sales managers are free to help reps as needed. Reps can also go to peers for coaching assistance, and managers can more easily spot trouble areas and zero in on the precise areas that a rep needs help. It's already happening in organizations like Clayton Homes, whose inside sales team used their data to turn work into a fantasy football-style competition with unique activity and objective scores for each employee. Their success was the subject of this Harvard Business Review article.
Sales Coaching Software for Your One-on-One's
Ambition clarifies and publicizes real-time performance analytics for your entire sales organization. Using a drag-and-drop interface, non-technical sales leaders can build custom scorecards, contests, reports, and TVs.
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- Clayton Homes: HBR finds triple-digit growth in 3 sales efficiency metrics.
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