Sales is equal parts art and science and one of the keys to success is leveraging sales incentive data to increase performance and ROI.
Jason Atkins is the founder of 360 Insights, a software platform that enables large brands to execute all of their channel incentive strategies. Jason’s company works with tens of thousands of salespeople who work for major brands and helps them get smarter and make data-driven decisions.
Many people believe that sellers must be born with the skillset to succeed. We believe that anyone with a desire to sell can succeed and get the proper training. Understanding data will help tremendously.
The art of sales deals with the relationships, the conversation handling, and dealing with objections. The science of sales revolves around data and activities.
Jason recalled hearing that we’ve created more data in the last year than in all of mankind combined. That kind of growth is exponential. Think about how much data that represents.
So how do you mine through the data and leverage the insights contained within it? How do you make the data actionable?
Many companies believe that consumers buy products become of promotions or rebates. Jason’s company doesn’t believe that’s always accurate. Their response to these situations is that they’ll track the data and the consumer purchase information, and they’ll figure out why the consumers bought what they did.
What they found was that the promotion was the fourth reason the consumer purchased. The number one reason was “because the sales guy told me to buy it.”
The question becomes why are you so focused on the promotion when you should be focused on the key drivers to the relationship?
Consider how you’re educating the buyer about your product. How are they ensured that you’re the trusted advisor?
Purchases are a big decision, and people often buy based upon advice from others. How are you leveraging that to ensure that you provide great advice?
Many of us make choices based upon the status quo. Zig Ziglar tells a story that his wife always cut the ends off of the meatloaf without really knowing why. Turns out her mother did the same thing because the meatloaf was always too big for the pan she had. But no one knew that’s why she did it. Zig’s wife just always cut the ends off without knowing why.
In sales, we often do things because that’s how our company has always done it. Instead, we should look at the data and determine what is actually most effective.
Jason’s company always deals in context for the data. In the case of the meatloaf, no one had context for why the ends were cut off.
Determine the context for decisions that were made in the past, then look at the hypothesis of what we should be doing in the future. Then we can execute against that and then measure it.
Executing sales incentives
One of the first keys is to understand why people sell what they sell. Jason’s company started by interviewing 1,500 sales reps to determine why they sell what they sell. They determined that sellers do so because of quality, because of price point, because of brand, because they’ve been educated, to ensure happy customers, because they want to know what’s in it for them, and because they of the relationship they have with the brand.
People don’t want to sell something that isn’t great. They like to buy something they’ve heard of before, so new brands often struggle.
Creating sales incentive
Focus on building data around the data you have, and building context so you can get to better decisions.
Start by understanding the customer journey and the decisions that are made throughout that journey. Then align the incentives across the journey. At the end of the day, an incentive is just a motivation tactic to get to a specific action.
Incentives might include rebates that are perceived as price discounts, sales incentives that motivate a seller to keep a specific brand top of mind, or volume incentives to drive sales into locations.
If you want to run an incentive program, don’t think about the incentive. Instead, think about the customer journey and identify opportunities to use incentives to drive actions.
Many silos exist in larger companies. Certain teams in the company understand different components of the buyer’s journey. It’s really important to bring all those silos together to understand the complete journey.
In the early days of incentives, many companies intentionally made rebates difficult to submit in hopes that consumers wouldn’t actually send them in. But in a digital and social age, that kind of program is problematic. Brands realized that this kind of program could backfire.
Jason’s company saw a huge opportunity to step in and create an unbelievable experience for the consumer. Instead of a rebate being the last touch point a brand had with its consumers, the rebate should now be the basis of the next journey they have with you.
Many organizations have people now that understand all of the customer touch points so they can actually start to map them out.
Looking back and forward
Think about insights and data in terms of looking backward and looking forward. Most companies look backward on a monthly or weekly basis. Jason’s goal is to encourage companies to forecast so they can start to optimize as a company.
If someone comes to us with $1 million we can help them figure out what to do with it to drive sales.
Then imagine being a salesperson who has a conversation where you’re talking to your customer about what’s happening in his competitors’ businesses. You can demonstrate the results the competitor is getting and the things they are doing. That’s unbelievable data that can help your clients make better decisions.
There’s plenty of material to read about leveraging data. Attend webinars and then model the masters. Find the people who are doing this the best and then model the activity they are doing.
When Jason launched his company, he discovered that there was one seller who earned more than $1 million in sales incentives from about five or six different brands over the course of a year. The person was crushing it because he saw a huge opportunity to move traditionally brick-and-mortar sales to online selling.
Look at the people who are doing things differently. Find those who are challenging the status quo. It takes tenacity to be successful as a seller.
Understand the customer journey from beginning to end. Understand the data that happens through the journey and then figure out how to leverage that.
“Leveraging Sales Incentive Data to Increase Performance and ROI” episode resources
You can connect with Jason at 360Insights.com. He and his team love to talk to people and have great conversations about sales.
If you haven’t connected with me on LinkedIn already, do that at Donald C. Kelly and watch the things I’m sharing there.
You can take it on your own or as part of the semester group.
If you and your team are interested in learning more, we’d love to have you join us. Call (561)578-1729 to speak directly to me or one of our team members about the program.
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Donald is the host of the popular sales podcast,"The Sales Evangelist". He is the founder of The Sales Evangelist Consulting Firm where he helps small companies develop killer sales process to scale their business and increase growth.
Donald is also an award-winning speaker, sales trainer, and coach. He's a big fan of traveling, South Florida staycations and high-quality family time. Donald has a belief that “anyone” can sell if they have the desire and receives the proper training.