This article is the first in a three-part series on sales visibility. Continue to Part II or Part III here.

Every CRM promises to improve your sales visibility. It’s one of the primary selling points of CRM in the first place. But the meaning of the term ‘sales visibility’ can sometimes be unclear.

That’s because sales visibility can refer to two distinct views from two distinct perspectives: your sales team, and your management team.

Those distinctions are not always clearly defined or even acknowledged when the term is used, and can often be misunderstood as a result. Some of the more common—and harmful—misunderstandings are that sales visibility is an end-goal or cure-all, or that sales visibility is about micromanaging or spying on your sales team.

Neither is true, and both can sabotage attempts to improve your business processes—and improving your business process is precisely what good sales visibility is supposed to allow you to do!

So what is sales visibility, why is it important for your business, and what does CRM actually do for you and your team in terms of visibility?

In Part I of this three-part series, we’ll look at what sales visibility means for your sales team. In Part II, we’ll focus on what visibility means to your management team and the importance of reconciling the two views. And in Part III, we’ll analyze the role of CRM in improving sales visibility and, ultimately, sales processes.


For your sales team, sales visibility at its best is about improving their sales numbers

That’s the bottom line. Virtually every sales person knows the stress of falling behind on, missing, or simply being uncertain whether they will hit their sales targets. Or of living lean after a slow stretch eats into their bonuses and/or commissions.

From the sales team perspective, sales visibility means seeing and understanding what they’ve done, how they’ve done it, and how they can do better.

The first and most basic questions, then are these: Does your sales team use a consistent process for moving opportunities through their sales pipeline? What are the stages of that process? Why do they do things the way they do?

If your team has no sales process in place, then drop everything and get one developed yesterday. The sales process turns the Art of Sales into the Science of Sales. Good sales visibility (and good KPIs!) creates good sales data. But if there is no process to observe, then there is no point analyzing that data, and no progress to be made.


Sales visibility helps your sales team understand the sales process

Assuming there is an established process in place, good sales visibility allows us to break the sales pipeline down into a few important metrics for both you and your sales team. Your company likely tracks other metrics as well, but at the very least, you should be tracking these:

  • Quantity: How many opportunities are in the sales pipeline? How many are at each stage?
  • Size: How large is each opportunity? What is the average opportunity size? What is the average qualified opportunity size?
  • Velocity: How quickly do opportunities progress through each stage? Do they tend to stall at some stages, or move quickly through others?
  • Quality: How many opportunities offer enough value to offset the time and money that would need to be invested in that opportunity? (Translation: Is the juice worth the squeeze?)
  • Close rate: What percentage of active opportunities close each evaluation/bonus period?

These metrics help your sales team allocate their time, understand their results, forecast future results, and—hopefully—adjust their process in hopes of achieving better results. The more clearly and quickly they can see these metrics, the better information they will have, and the more they can do with that information. Good sales visibility helps your sales team see clearly. Good CRM provides good sales visibility.


Sales visibility helps your sales team sell better

Every motivated salesperson wants to sell more. Selling more means lower stress come deadline time, and higher bonuses, commissions, and job security.

Good sales visibility allows your sales team to find the metrics and stages where improvement is most important or would be most impactful, helps them formulate strategies for improving in those areas, and then gives them the data they need to test the results.

CRM is a way to visualize and manage all this information in a way that allows your sales team to set priorities and make adjustments in ‘real time,’ not just “when the numbers come in.”

Of course, any experienced salesperson can tell you that there are no certainties in sales. Opportunities don’t always fall through because your sales team screwed up, and they aren’t always won because your sales team did something special.  But good sales visibility can help your sales team focus their efforts on the activities and opportunities that are most likely to pay off.


For your sales team, sales visibility at its worst is about being under the microscope

The most common concern from salespeople is that efforts to increase sales visibility will result in a whole lot of extra work with little-to-no benefit. That it will be an annoyance at best, and a hindrance at worst. This is not a completely unreasonable concern. After all, if the processes and tools you put into place to increase visibility are poorly planned or executed, your sales team will be the ones most visibly and immediately affected.

An even more troubling fear is that ‘sales visibility’ is just a fancy term for spying. Some members of your sales team may believe that greater visibility means greater risk of being micromanaged, or being subjected to minute-by-minute analysis and penalized for missing unreasonable, real-time sales targets. Others may fear, reasonably or unreasonably, that they will be ‘discovered’ and out of a job.

Let me be very clear: if your goal for improving sales visibility is to spy on your sales team, then you have no business being in business. However, well-intentioned micromanagement is a real risk, and not everything you learn about your sales team will be positive.

So how should your management team address these concerns, risks, and revelations?

In Part II, we’ll look at what sales visibility means for your management team, and how to make sure both sales and management stay on the same team!


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