A Chief Revenue Scientist’s take on technology in sales and how to leverage it for predictable growth

We caught up with Chief Revenue Scientist, Martin Fleming of Varicent to discuss technology in sales and how sales leaders and sales teams can use data to ramp up a sales team’s performance.

Varicent is an innovative software provider delivering measurable improvements for customers through their industry-leading incentive compensation and sales performance management solutions.

Q. What are highly evolved sales leaders and sales managers doing in 2022?

Considering the pandemic and ongoing variants, from a sales point of view, we may see that customers are taking it a little bit more slowly in terms of decisions that are being made. This may also impact the size of sales organisations and the time to recruit sellers for sales organisations. 

The way selling and buying is conducted; continuing to use zoom and other virtual modes as opposed to a more traditional in-person sales mode will be here for some time. 

This will influence how we plan, how we operate and how we train and develop the skills of our sales teams – because we’re going to be engaging with customers in a different fashion.

There is more machine learning, artificial intelligence and science being applied in this space.

We will continue to see the role of sales leadership changing and evolving from the more traditional sales executive to increasingly to chief revenue officers, with increased focus on the use of analytics, data science and the ability to be more predictive around outcomes and engagement with customers. 

Q. Should sales AI and technology led sales enablement be an integral part of sales, or is there still an opportunity to adopt other strategies that are just as effective?

Well, I’m a little biased in answering a question like this, since this is the space where I spend my life. I would try to put it in perspective. Just having good data and unbiased predictions of outcomes are not the only requirement to be successful. 

We certainly need skilled salespeople. We certainly need talent.

We need to help our sellers to be productive and work in a productive way. We need to be able to organise accounts into territories in a fashion that allows our sellers to be productive. So the technology matters, but it’s also about the people and the skill and talent involved and being able to upgrade that talent as needed, whether it means adding or letting go of some sellers or providing training in the course of business. 

And there’s also a process that’s not so onerous and burdensome that it’s consuming enormous amounts of time and is allowing the sellers to engage with their customers and prospects in effective and meaningful ways.

Q. What changes or advancements do you expect to see regarding technology in sales?

The challenge is that we want to be able to have the ability to understand where deals are likely, and where they are prioritised. So from a revenue intelligence point of view, we need to be able to be more predictive of where there are likely to be wins and, and where there are likely to be losses so that we can manage and coach our sellers more effectively. 

You don’t have to spend time reviewing every opportunity, but focus on those that either need more help or perhaps those that can be expanded for a more favourable outcome.

The revenue intelligence space is one place where there’s a lot of work going on these days. And then very closely related to that, of course is territory and quota planning.

Quotas of course, are in some sense a prediction of what sales are likely to be. It’s a bit more than that, but you can see the relationship between being able to predict an effective set of quotas and effectively predict sales outcomes.

The analytics are changing, and changing rapidly to do all of that. And this very quickly leads to the question of what shape is the data in, and what steps have to be taken from a data point of view.

So, it’s both the data and the analytics that are getting increased attention these days.

Q. And how is the data being used to ramp up and manage a sales team’s performance?

Well, of course, most sales teams are using some sort of CRM. Salesforce, generally which has a high market share around the world, but there are others as well. And there’s always the complaint that your forecasts aren’t very good because sellers aren’t really entering all their data into the CRM tool.

And to some degree that’s true. Sales leaders need to be able to bring greater discipline to the sales teams to enable more complete and higher quality data.

The sales leader in turn is going to get a better view of the business. On the other hand, as I always point out, we have statistical methods to deal with noise in data. So data doesn’t have to be perfect in order to get a very good, unbiased forecast.

You know the old expression “garbage in, garbage out”. We want to have greater discipline. We want to have greater quality data, but we deal with noise and data all the time and separate signal from noise.

And that’s part of what the analytics do, but being able to bring more discipline to the sales team and what they’re doing with the CRM tool is an important piece of this.