How leveraging AI can help managers improve their teams

Recently, Industry Analysts, sales training experts and thought leaders in social media have expressed concern that sales managers don’t receive the proper training and mentorship required to be successful.   Yes, it’s true most sales managers were top performing salespeople before they were promoted to management, and many rely too heavily on personal selling experiences without creating a positive culture, clear vision, sales process, and rewards for strong performance.

Despite the alleged lack of management training and lackluster spending on sales manager skills improvement, CSO Insights reports in their 2019 Sales Performance Report that nearly 94% of most recently surveyed sales teams attained their revenue goal.  At the same time, despite the fact that only about half of sales reps made quota (54.3% according to the same CSO Insights report), managers still found a way to make the Number.

If sales managers are still making their number, but half the reps aren’t performing, is there a problem?  Maybe not.  The Pareto principle suggests that a relatively small percentage of reps will perform at a level where they overcome average or poor performers. While the fact that less reps are making quota is not a positive, perhaps a more positive view is to acknowledge there is a significant upside opportunity to improve performance of reps who don’t fall above the Pareto curve.  Improving the performance of the 80% can create upward growth to exceed (not just make) the number.

It’s easier to make your number if you have even a small group of top performers who can make up for the rest of the team. As a manager, you also could be selling , since you (as a top performer yourself) can ill afford to let your team fail. It’s hard to improve the rest of the team given the effort, time, analysis, and coaching required to move the needle of average and poor performers.

In fact, if it was easy to fix, wouldn’t a much larger percentage of reps make quota?

So, it begs the question, what can a manager do to improve the skills and sales performance of poor to average performers?  As former VP’s of Sales and Sales Operations, the partners at Funnel Metrics relied on metrics assessment and manual rep scoring to determine what behaviors drove the most important metrics to make management and coaching decisions. While that seems like an obvious strategy, figuring out which metrics have the most influence on improving performance for the majority of reps requires exhaustive analysis.

In today’s world of overwhelming data input and CRM-driven reporting, there is no shortage of data available to assess metrics. Reps are asked to input extensive activity and opportunity forecasting data that should allow managers to analyze performance. From the inputs, there are hundreds of metric combinations and thousands of ways to analyze the data. Again, consider the fact that most managers don’t have extensive training in statistical analyses, let alone how to apply the data to effectively coach and manage their teams (or at least that is what the experts are saying).

The bottom line is most managers don’t have the time or the stamina to perform this analysis, support their teams, grow the existing client base and participate in closing key business opportunities to make the numbers.

This is where Artificial Intelligence comes into the equation.  There has to be a way to greatly reduce the effort and analysis to make decisions, to determine how reps are performing and to understand what is driving effective performance.  Instead of using AI to improve business conversations (which may already be good) or increasing sales velocity (by losing deals faster), what if AI could be used to determine what is driving rep performance?

This is what we discovered when we designed our FunnelocitySM Sales Performance Optimization application. At the heart of it, AI applies math and statistics to very complex problems.

  • What if a machine learning algorithm could explain which metrics have the biggest impact on revenue? Similarly, what if the algorithm could be trained to identify which skills and behaviors correlate with the most impactful metrics?
  • Wouldn’t it be empowering to log into Salesforce and spend 15 minutes reviewing the results provided by your AI Sales Performance Optimization app instead of spending hours of frustrating analysis to guess what actions to take?

AI can help you can make immediate decisions about what to improve and where to focus your management and coaching effort. You spend time on the right issues, make changes to improve the most important metrics, and focus your training and coaching on the skills that most impact your team’s performance.

As a result, those poor performers move to a satisfactory level;  average sales reps move to good or excellent, and your top performers’ skills are leveraged across the entire team, lifting sales by a significant percentage.  And if AI identifies you need better business conversations, then invest in a conversation analysis tool – at least now you know why it will produce better results.

As a sales leader, you have three options:

  • Rely only on your sales contribution and that of your top performers, accepting that half of your team may fail; or
  • Work very hard to marginally improve poor and/or average performers and still rely on the top performers to carry the team; or
  • Use AI to easily and quickly make decisions with minimal effort, significantly improve poor and average performers and grow your team above and beyond just your top performers.

In summary, Sales Performance Optimization uses Artificial Intelligence to help leverage all your CRM information without the corresponding effort. You may still be the top performer as the sales manager, but your entire team will be more productive.   And you’ll spend less time and effort coaching while achieving more sustainable results.

To see more information about Sales Performance Optimization and see a video demo of our FunnelocitySM application, check out our website: