March 28, 2022

Sales Strategy

The Evolution of the Sales Activity Tracker

The sales activity tracker is an invaluable component of any successful sales management effort in B2B and SaaS sales. Here's how new sales tech is future-proofing this well-known tool.

Sales Activity Tracking, CRM, Head of Sales, Sales Reps, Sales Reps Productivity, Data, Sales Process, Sales Tech, AI Guided Selling, Actionable Insights, Activity MEtrics, Sales Activity Management

The sales activity tracker is an essential component of successful sales management in B2B and SaaS sales. Nowadays, sales teams commonly utilize sales activity trackers integrated into their CRM systems. The software ensures ease of use by automatically recording all data from every interaction.

Sales activity trackers aim to deliver data which helps measure performance, identify key metrics and ultimately assist in guided data-driven improvement of sales processes over time. Simply put, their primary function is to provide insights into what is working and what’s not. Sales activity tracking lets you keep a keen eye on your data. If you’re not currently leveraging sales activity tracking, you’re essentially flying blind when it comes to identifying what exactly drives success in your sales organization.

Sales Activity Management: The Stakes

New buyer preferences are forcing sales organizations to rewrite their B2B sales playbooks. Customer preferences are shifting away from in-person sales interactions toward digital channels. According to Gartner, B2B buyers spend a mere 17% of the entire buying process meeting with sales reps. What does this extremely limited window mean for sales organizations, particularly sales teams?

For one, teams need to optimize the effectiveness of forward-facing sales activities sales reps take part in within this window. Furthermore, insights into the impact of particular actions preceding and during these interactions are decisive in determining the best approach, and ultimately the outcome of a deal. This is where the sales activity tracker comes in.

Sales Activity Tracking in a Nutshell

Guidance and selling tools such as the sales activity tracker help salespeople manage tasks, assess performance and learn what about the sales process is working in their favor. (CC0 Public Domain/Unsplash - Isaac Smith)

Sales activity tracking involves measuring each individual component of your sales process in order to determine the broader impact these have on outcomes. The question sales leaders need to ask is thus: Which actions contribute to the best possible outcomes, and in which processes?

Sales activity tracking may also sound like another form of micromanagement. Sales activity trackers have little to do with tracking the sales reps. There are other methods and metrics for that. Instead, it’s much more about tracking and taking strategic action based on their sales activity data.

Before sales activity tracking software, sales reps made calls based on previous experience. This employed a significant degree of educated guesswork to close deals. Times changes, and the amount of sales data available to sales reps today leaves little room for guesswork. Effectively implemented, sales activity trackers of today can leverage this data—and a lot more.

Sales Activity Tracking: Data Tells the Full Story

First, sales leaders determine which sales activity metrics they want to track. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. However, these metrics don’t paint the full picture. Activities measured on satisfaction can also play a crucial role in understanding outcomes.

Qualitative and Quantitative Tracking Data

Successful sales activity management involves tracking two types of activity data: Quantitative and qualitative data.

Quantitative data makes up the hard facts, the raw numbers you can derive from sales activity results. These encompass common key sales activity and results metrics. Some examples may include number of new contacts, lead time, churn rate, win rate, sales cycle length, quotas, monthly or annual revenue.

Qualitative data provides context for each sales outcome and paints a bigger picture of how customers view your company. It delivers insights into individual customer interactions, e.g. why customers do or don’t end up purchasing your product or what your prospects’ goals are. Further examples of qualitative data could also include customer objections, brand awareness, company promotion, overall customer satisfaction, credibility, trust or productivity. Unlike quantitative data, these are the insights you can’t always easily extract from a CRM. Rather, analyzing tracked activity data in your CRM can help you pinpoint these key takeaways.

Qualitative data gives quantitative data its meaning. Effectively tracking qualitative activities is what helps you make sense of your quantitative goals. When broken down, qualitative data represents “what” your teams need to be tracking (i.e. what is happening throughout your sales process). On the other hand, qualitative data strives to explain “why” your results or outcomes are the way they are and “how” they’ve come about. Tracking one without the other won’t get you anywhere.

Optimally, an effectively implemented sales activity tracker should capture the “complete picture” of your sales activity.

Sales Activity Tracking Methods: Past and Present

Prior to the sales tech we’re familiar with today, sales reps’ decisions were based on previous experience and their general understanding of the customer. (Photo: CC0 Public Domain/Unsplash - Jon Tyson)

Before there were CRMs and sales activity tracking software, there were spreadsheets. Today’s sales reps know that any type of manual data entry is prone to inaccuracies. Not only that, but the input process is time-consuming and takes away from other proactive activities which move the sales process along.

The pre-sales tools era was also one marked by intuitive selling. Sales teams were selling based on their personal understanding of the customer. Here, prior experience together with first impressions of what customers needed formed the basis of how salespeople approached the sales process. If sales reps weren’t simply guessing their way through the sales process, it’s sure they were relying on gut feeling more often than not. In essence, “what always worked” worked—until it didn’t.

The CRM: The Core of Any Data-driven Sales Process

Today’s fully digitalized sales processes have resulted in more data and the growing need to leverage it effectively. Innovations in sales tech such as automated CRM data entry, social selling tools and improved account intelligence help locate, monitor and evaluate data on potential and existing customers.

Nowadays, sales activity data is logged consistently and accurately in CRMs through automatic data input. Good CRMs, like Hubspot and Pipedrive, possess an integrated sales activity tracker which automates tracking and even alerts sales reps when they start to fall behind. Other integrated sales activity tracker options provide structure for sales reps by managing tasks.

However, the scope of actionable insights on activity data sales leaders ultimately pull from these analyses is limited. This is one challenge future sales technologies aim to overcome.

Existing Sales Tech is Limited: Current Challenges in Tracking Sales Activities

Traditional sales activity tracker technologies have not yet taken the next big steps towards combining results analysis and actionable guidance. (CC0 Public Domain/Unsplash - dongsh)

According to Gartner, traditional forms of guided selling methodologies and technologies are quite limited in their ability to help sales reps win deals. The bulk of traditional sales activity tracker technologies deliver insights on past results which can no longer be immediately influenced. Especially in today’s agile B2B sales environment, depending on the action implementation timeframe, these results may already be irrelevant.

Furthermore, guided selling software’s ability to effectively evaluate results has fallen short of providing statically relevant recommendations for action, Gartner states. CRM evaluation of sales activity data generally still remains at a relatively low level, leading sales leaders to act primarily on gut feeling. Evaluation, if any, usually takes place in the form of result management which often employs a bit of educated guesswork. This involves enacting incremental changes to the sales process based on CRM data in the hopes the changes result in improvement. Result management also takes up time, and basic evaluations can only yield basic improvements.

Within the scope of guided selling, current sales tech capabilities remain disjointed. Existing technologies focus primarily on data, automation and tasks. While CRMs may assist in structuring these in an efficient way, deriving actionability from their sales activity tracker data is near impossible. According to a Dealcode survey of 100 sales reps, an overwhelming majority stated they cannot measure the impact of their activities and had no clue what impacted their last deals. There is simply too much data to analyze efficiently and effectively.

Shortcomings in sales tech capabilities such as these are driving forces behind a shift towards future-proof artificial intelligence based selling solutions. Here’s what the future has in store.

The New Era of Sales Activity Tracking: AI Guided Selling Software

75% of B2B organizations are projected to implement AI Guided Selling solutions into their existing sales operations by 2025, according to Gartner. The report further states that mounting pressure to leverage massive amounts of data available to sales organizations combined with revitalized budgets are pushing sales leaders to invest in AI and machine learning (ML) technology.

AI Guided Selling bundles sales activity tracking, evaluation and guided selling into one, opening up a new realm of possibility for SaaS and B2B sales. While existing sales tracking technology often serves as a tool for analyzing past results, artificial intelligence provides this analysis in real-time and delivers actionable insights on the next best steps to take towards closing the next deal. Guided selling software powered by artificial intelligence bolsters sales rep productivity with tailored recommendations on what to focus on and when. This way teams don’t just get more done, but focus their time and effort on the steps that count.

While AI guides sales moves teams forward, the software sets the stage for the future of sales activity tracking by rendering previously unmeasurable results trackable through comprehensive data-driven analysis of past sales outcomes. However, AI and ML solutions still need your valuable experience, knowledge and input to reach these new heights. It takes CRMs tracking the right sales activities and qualitative data to make ML models work for you.

Dealcode’s Free eBook provides an in-depth summary of how your team can remain a decisive step ahead of the competition on into the new era of high-tech, “future-proof” data-driven B2B sales. Click here to Download the eBook as a PDF.

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