Prescriptive Analytics Is the Next Evolution in Sales

Transformational changes have taken place in sales over the past two decades.

One, B2B buyers now research online—meaning sales organizations don’t have the same visibility into their problems and pain points, or where they are in the purchasing process. Two, data has exploded: In 2013, 90 percent of the world’s data had been generated in just the previous two years. And three, inside sales is outgrowing field sales by a factor of four.

Global 2000 firms are spending a whopping $2.4 trillion on digital sales channels and tools to address sales changes, according to CSO Insights. Yet, despite this astonishing investment, organizations are not experiencing the full value of sales technologies.

Analytics—the Missing Link

Analytics are essential to navigate this new sales landscape. Salesforce Research predicts a 58 percent increase in sales analytics use from 2015 to 2016, and 74 percent of sales leaders are using or planning to pilot sales analytics in the next 12 to 18 months.

With knowledge about your buyers, your team’s performance, and your sales processes, you get a competitive advantage—so that you can make smarter decisions and drive bigger and better sales for your organization.

However, getting this information hasn’t always been possible and—even today —most sales analytics don’t give you the real-time insights that you need from the top to the bottom of your funnel.

Sales Past—Subjective Analysis

How do sales leaders know if their team is going to make quota? How do sales leaders know if their pipeline has enough quality leads? How do sales leaders know if reps are doing all the activities they need to in order to close deals?

When I started in sales, we manually filled out weekly activities—on triplicate carbon copies. You could see the number of cold calls, the number of follow-up calls, and the number of physical meetings. Copies were given to the manager and the administrator, and you kept one for yourself.

That was how sales analysis was done—highly subjective, based on gut instinct and what reps told you, or wrote down.

There were no analytics. There was no Internet, sales meetings were done face-to-face, and my day was scheduled in a physical diary.

Sales Present—Rearview Mirror Analytics

Fast-forward, and today that’s changed. There are analytics. But for the most part, these analytics are descriptive—reporting on what has already happened, like looking in a rear-view mirror after the fact.

How many deals you closed in the last quarter, how many reps made quota, which rep is closing the most deals and which rep is closing the least, and whether any new business was generated with existing customers. 

Rear-view mirror analytics don’t strengthen processes. 

Forward-looking analysis—about the expected percentage of attained quotas and closed deals, the best leads to pursue and what activities are needed to successfully close them—is still frequently based on gut instinct or, in the case of predictive analytics, algorithms rather than actual behaviors.

While you can get more insight into activities and activity levels in your CRM, the benefit of this still depend on having reps input the data, accurately and in a timely fashion.  But there are three problems: (1) This doesn’t always happen; (2) data entry generally isn’t a good use of reps’ time (and is not their favorite task); and (3) information still remains—albeit to a lesser degree—subjective.

Furthermore, the sheer number of disconnected sales tools today diminishes the ROI for most sales analytics.

Sales Future—Prescriptive Analytics

Prescriptive analytics tell you what course of action should be taken based on actual data-derived intelligence. Prescriptive analytics are objective rather than subjective—and let you be proactive rather than reactive.

Using prescriptive analytics, you can identify what type of sales activities, and what activity levels, are needed to successfully close deals for your organization.

Prescriptive analytics show you what should be done based on actual data patterns, such as the following:

  • Which rep has the best and least likelihood of making their quota based on activity levels—so you can make adjustments in behaviors before the end of the quarter.
  • Which sales process gets the most results for the team—so you can repeat the winning ones.
  • Which opportunities have the highest potential—so you can prioritize team efforts where they’ll give you the greatest return

By seeing which prospects are most interested and in what areas, sales organizations can better understand where team efforts should be focused. This knowledge supports a faster and more targeted sales process. Organizations using prescriptive analytics to qualify opportunities are increasing their quality connection rates by a factor of four.

The Value of Sales Intelligence

Applying a prescriptive approach tells you what responses will have the most success based on behaviors and interests. According to Aberdeen Group research, organizations using analytics capabilities that link historical data to current scenarios perform better. They have better lead conversion and more upselling opportunities.

Analytic haven’t changed sales processes. Analytics simply provide the opportunity for businesses to manage these processes better—from prospecting to qualification to demo to close.

Using analytics, companies can take a journey back from the closed sale to the original point of discovery—gaining intelligence and methodologies to create a repeatable, successful sales process. Organizations get a more complete picture of their business and can engage more effectively with customers, speeding the sales cycle and driving more revenue, faster.


Graham Curme is CEO of LiveHive, Inc., provider of an open and extensible sales acceleration platform that powers businesses to drive higher sales growth and deliver greater customer value. Curme is a senior business executive with 25 years of experience in technology sales, including senior management roles at both multinational public and private start-up companies.

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