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It’s no secret that businesses are now highly focused on providing a consistent customer experience throughout the sales cycle. To do that effectively, sales and marketing staff need to work together to best anticipate and adapt to customer needs, making visibility and accountability top priorities at every step of the sales process.

This is no small feat – many sales teams consider visibility to be both a necessity and a challenge. That’s why companies are increasingly turning to sales tools (such as CRM systems) and strategies to keep everyone informed and aware of sales progress.

 

What’s the Problem Here?

According to Salesforce’s State of Sales Report, 21% of the sales teams that struggle with ineffective internal processes cite “limited insight into issues until it’s too late” and “lack of timely insight into the sales process” as the primary causes. This suggests that inadequate visibility is a common problem that can lead to a number of issues for the sales team, ranging from missed opportunities and difficulties identifying what went wrong with a certain lead, to wasted time and resources.

 

Here are a few examples of how these issues arise:

 

One-track Thinking

In her article in Forbes, Christina Hall points out that marketing teams often forget that the sales funnel is a two way street. While “the  best sales teams know how to reverse the funnel and [...] determine how many sales leads they need to hit their quota,” the other leads are not always considered.

Job roles can often seem compartmentalised, making it easy to lose sight of the big picture when concentrating on a particular aspect of your work. Unfortunately, such siloed thinking can also compromise efficiency and effectiveness when it comes to making sales, no matter what team you’re on.

 

Disconnected IT Infrastructure

In addition to sales tools like CRM, many companies also communicate, store data, and automate a wide range of other processes. With so much happening at once, it can be time-consuming to get everyone on the same page.

Operations Director Scott Chesworth explains how RAM Tracking struggled with poorly streamlined IT infrastructure: “Every time an engineer installed a new tracking device, they had to contact the team to carry out various tests … As a result, around 70% of the calls being handled each day were not actually from customers at all.” Here, the lack of visibility created more work, stealing time away from sales.

 

Sloppy or Inadequate Reporting

If sales reps aren’t accurately logging all of the necessary information, visibility will be a challenge, even with perfectly streamlined sales tools. It certainly doesn’t have to mean that your sales team is neglecting their responsibilities.

In fact, it’s more likely that the opposite is true – nearly half the respondents to the above-mentioned report cite that excessive administrative tasks create significant time constraints. Often, salespeople are forced to prioritise certain elements of their workload over others.

 

What Can We Do to Fix It?

In order to prevent such issues, it’s important to establish good communication practices, streamline internal processes, and move away from siloed forms of thinking.

Visibility and accountability are paramount to reaching sales goals, but should not be limited to the sales team: According to the State of Sales Report, 73% of sales teams consider collaboration across departments to be absolutely critical or very important to their overall sales process.

The following tips are designed to increase sales cycle visibility within and beyond the sales team.

 

6 Practical Ways to Increase Visibility and Accountability

 

1. Create structured processes and welcome input

In his article for Entrepreneur, Tony Parinello says that you should “take personal responsibility for ensuring that each step of your sales process unfolds in a timely fashion… [ A good process is] predictable and yields a certain result when followed.”

Creating a well-defined plan and setting goals for sales managers gives everyone a sense of what’s coming next and increases accountability. Encouraging input in the planning process can enhance that awareness while encouraging open communication.

 

2. Meet face to face in different contexts

Face to face communication doesn’t just happen at meetings in the office – regularly offering employees the opportunity to observe and participate in each other’s responsibilities and tasks gives everyone a broader understanding of what goes into every step of the sales cycle.

Once people are accustomed to communicating about their job with their peers, they will also become better at communicating with customers in the field.

 

3. Streamline processes using the cloud

Remember the example with RAM tracking above? They consolidated their wide-range of IT processes on one cloud-based platform which helped their company grow by 50%.

Having everything in one place makes the sales process more visible and accessible to everyone involved, and minimises time spent on administrative tasks, allowing sales to focus on selling.

 

4. Let AI handle some of the burden

An AI enabled CRM can increase visibility in a variety of ways. With features like account insights, opportunity insights, and activity capture, AI provides an overview of sales progress, as well as a centralised analysis of everything that goes on.

Team members from different departments can access real-time analytics and information without having to contact sales or wait for reports. AI can also help automate a range of sales tasks to reduce the burden on sales personnel.

 

5. Use sales analytics to keep track of everything - from trends to individual performance

Incorporating metrics, dashboards, and business intelligence can facilitate wide-ranging visibility throughout the sales cycle. As Paul Garner told Salesforce: “We don’t just have better visibility of sales performance, pipelines, and progress towards targets—we’re also able to identify key internal and market trends and course-correct appropriately.”

 

6. Help your CRM live up to its potential

According to recent research, businesses only use about 50% of the CRM features they purchase. Making the most of your CRM’s capabilities is just as important as regular updates with accurate information.

Modern CRMs can integrate the needs of multiple departments, track communications, and manage and track sales teams. Knowing and accessing all of these features can help provide 360-degree visibility into the sales process.

 

Increased Visibility for Greater Sales Success

Although it may seem like a challenge, sales cycle visibility can be achieved through a handful of useful practices. Fostering communication and understanding across teams produces greater insight and accountability, while also making internal processes more effective and leading to greater success.  

This post is part of our Navigating the Sales Cycle series. Download the e-book and discover the 7 steps to sales success