Moneyball For B2B Sales: The Insights-Driven Sales System

Author: Phil Harrell, VP and group director, Forrester Research

Sales organizations must change how they earn, retain, and grow customers in order to adapt to new B2B buyer preferences. B2B buyers today want a digital-first buying experience that facilitates a frictionless purchase path. This digital-first buying experience generates mountains of data that companies must analyze and turn into insights to sell the way buyers want to buy, as well as to improve the customer experience.

Many Major League Baseball teams underwent a similar transformation of leveraging insights to improve performance through a concept called sabermetrics that was popularized by the popular movie “Moneyball.” In 2002, the Oakland A’s, a small-budget team faced with the challenge of trying to compete with big market clubs like the New York Yankees that routinely fielded the best teams by spending lavishly on superstar talent, decided to adopt a scientific approach to baseball.

Moneyball for B2B Sales

Instead of using standard statistics that all teams used, they used sabermetrics to look at “advanced” stats like exit velocity (how hard a ball was hit), on-base percentage, and other metrics that gave them a more well-rounded, accurate, and actionable view of each player. These players were often underappreciated and undervalued by other teams that focused on stats like home runs. Thus, these players could be acquired relatively inexpensively. As a result of the A’s success in using sabermetrics, other teams today leverage a similar approach to make personnel and in-game decisions.

We are in the midst of a similar change in B2B sales. There is a massive, untapped opportunity to mine and leverage both customer and seller insights to drive business and increase revenue and productivity. Sales leaders can capitalize on this opportunity by adopting an insights-driven sales system that prioritizes the use of processes, infrastructure, and insights over relying solely on superstar talent to hit the number.

Using insights to enable all sellers will lift the entire sales organization and enable more sellers to hit quota more consistently and predictably. Sales leaders must leverage insights effectively to automate mundane, administrative tasks and allow sellers to spend more time on core selling activities. That will allow managers to spend more time coaching their reps, while insights will highlight each seller’s gaps to ensure managers coach reps on the things they need the most help with. With an insights-driven sales system fully implemented, artificial intelligence will automatically send next-best-action recommendations to reps and tell them what they should be working on every day to drive productivity. Finally, organizations who successfully stand up an insights-driven sales system will reap the benefits of hitting their revenue goals in the predictable, sustainable, and consistent manner that CEOs and investors crave.

However, the shift away from the popular superstar sales culture to an insights-driven sales system cannot be done overnight. Organizations must ensure that they are committed to being 100% buyer-centric, seller-friendly, and integrated across the entire organization, not just in sales. Organizations must ensure they have the right processes and infrastructure in place. Without these, mining insights, let alone leveraging them, will be extremely difficult.

Transforming to an Insights-Based Sales System

Clients can read more about the importance of transforming to an insights-driven sales system in our recently published report “Talent Is No Longer Enough: The Insights-Driven Sales System.” In it, we highlight the need for change within the next one to three years as we head into a new era of B2B sales with an influx of younger, digitally native buyers, who come with different buying preferences and expectations. We explain what it means to be buyer-centric, seller-friendly, and integrated, and the increased importance of implementing the right processes and infrastructure, as well as the waning importance of talent and the lone wolf mentality.


Author Phill Harrell is VP and group director at Forrester Research. Read more from Forrester here.

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