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It’s all About Visibility: How the Best-in-Class Establish a Clear Line-of-Sight into Their Business

This post is guest authored by Peter Ostrow, VP & Research Group Director of Customer Management and Sales Effectiveness at AberdeenGroup.

I recently heard about a scenario that, unfortunately, may ring familiar for the reader. A substantial, multimillion-dollar B2B sale – months and dozens of players in the making – was delayed, and nearly lost, due to miscommunications among disconnected members of the selling organization. The embarrassing details? An overdue invoice unpaid by the buyer, worth less than $5000 and suffering from a comical, Murphy’s Law lack of internal controls and routing, almost killed the deal because the accounting, sales, and operations teams in the selling company were all singing off different sheets of music.

This extreme example may never have occurred in your organization, but I'll bet that at least a couple of times, someone on your team tried to sell something to a supposedly net-new account that turned out to already be an existing customer.  The scenarios are remarkably common, and create a whole world of hurt for any sales operations practitioner seeking to keep their quota-carriers focused on selling, rather than searching for the correct "version of the truth" regarding prospect and customer organizations. 

To be more precise, this situation occurs mostly among Industry Average and Laggard companies, because the Best-in-Class sales organizations in Aberdeen's research place one strategic priority above all others: "integrating multiple internal sources of data into a single view of each customer.” Fully 63% of these top performers, identified in Grab the Low-Hanging Fruit: How Best-in-Class Companies Leverage a 360˚ Customer View, indicate this action as a top-tier approach, along with a savvy, multi-channel mindset – "create or implement new ways in which our customer can engage with our business” (56%) – that enables a bigger share of the customer's wallet more effectively when all account data silos are connected properly. The other most popular strategic actions taken by the Best-in-Class?  Standardizing on a single CRM or ERP (25%), and "identifying and capturing all interactions with the prospect/customer, in order to influence the effectiveness of future interactions” (19%).

None of these lofty ambitions, however, can begin to take shape without the necessary blocking and tackling abilities to enrich sales data and enable sales team members.  When we compare adoption rates of Aberdeen's different sales performance cohorts of these core competencies, a more complex challenge emerges:

Get your house in order

Best-in-Class companies (they report an average 92% customer retention rate vs. 81% for Industry Average and 19% - not a typo – among Laggards) are far more likely than under-performers to integrate the front- and back-office systems and customer data silos. Don't be that guy… the one trying to collect a miniscule invoice who becomes an inadvertent Director of Sales Prevention, unaware of the enormous sales deal that's just about to close. Find a way to connect your marketing automation, ERP, CRM, help desk, and service databases, so that anyone who could potentially touch a customer has full clarity into the entire relationship.

Know thy customer

Top performers (who grow average net client value by 13.2% annually, vs. 1.0% and -1.9% for Average and Laggard firms) also enrich their customer records with multiple degrees of separation: does this division of that business unit trade with another subsidiary of a different holding company? Big pictures lead to big sales; a keen understanding of the source of every potential customer dollar ensures that volume pricing and renewals contribute effectively toward every quota-busting activity.

Land and expand

Everyone knows that it's easier to make your number by growing existing accounts than by finding new customers. Best-in-Class firms grow their overall team attainment of quota by 11.6% annually, not a chance occurrence, given their heavier adoption of up-sell-enabling data management tools. As for all the others, they improve by a collective 0.0%, and, not coincidentally, are 10% less likely to report this core competency.

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