Over the past decade, sales leaders have awakened to the power of analytics. Enablement tools and software now rule the market in B2B sales — giving businesses access to rich troves of data, powerful insights and huge opportunities to scale revenue, when used in the right way.
The reality is that many organizations don’t scale their revenue with data. Even well-funded business analytics are complex and difficult to interpret, subject to limitations or too thin to draw any real insights from.
For a more complete approach to sales analytics, we argue that organizations need to continually test their process and strategy — no longer a “nice to have” but a necessity in the modern B2B market.
In this article, we explore why you need to adopt a culture of experimentation to drive revenue success.
What is sales testing?
Sales testing is the process of running analytically focused experiments to improve areas of your strategy or sales initiatives. A “test” typically involves tracking data and applying research techniques to validate assumptions on sales performance, with the aim of improving efficiency and results over time.
Testing measures, analyzes and validates your existing processes. It keeps your strategy fresh and your data relevant. In terms of what a “test” looks like, it will be subjective and depends on your current processes.
In theory, a sales test could compare anything in your strategy. This could be small tweaks in email subject lines and calls to action (CTAs), to more extensive experiments, like A/B testing, buyer personas and return on effort.
Why aren't more teams testing?
Testing is nothing new to the world of business. For marketing, it’s been a consistent part of Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) since the turn of the century. In fact, roughly 77% of U.S. businesses conduct A/B testing on their websites and 60% do so on their landing pages. Yet, when it comes to sales, teams across the globe remain behind the pace.
So why aren’t more sales teams doing it? Many companies are hesitant to “mess with” their revenue because they fear failure. Some may be set in their ways and unwilling to allocate resources because they worry it may impact quota attainment and their current revenue generation.
When existing sales programs are yielding positive results, leaders may not see the value in testing, even if there is a hidden, untapped opportunity. However, those that fail to test continually face the risk of strategy saturation or even expiry. No matter how well-oiled, choreographed or even data-backed your processes are, they will always benefit from continuous improvement. You don’t need to fix something that isn’t broken, but there’s always the potential to boost returns or efficiencies.
Why testing is critical to your sales process
Testing helps your sales leaders and strategists keep a finger on the pulse of your operations. It enables them to proactively identify problem areas and new methods for uplifting revenue. It’s really a sophisticated, business-level approach to avoiding saturation and keeping processes fresh, optimized and moving with the speed of the market.
Year-on-year sales and marketing strategies fall short to new demands, expectations and buyer behaviors. Without constant testing, businesses face an ever-growing risk of falling behind. Given the intensity of modern market competition, this isn’t just a threat to quota attainment, but to your entire operational existence.
Without testing, legacy sales techniques that may have worked previously get passed down without any ambition for improvement. Processes become hereditary. They don’t move with the times. The end result is a drop in performance as sellers no longer evolve to satisfy the market, but simply repeat age-old practices out of habit rather than design. At its most basic level, testing removes this uncertainty, giving your leaders alternative routes to market, based on real-time, tangible results, not assumptions or ancient data.
Meaningful sales analytics
One of the greatest limits on business intelligence data is that it can be one-dimensional, skewed or seasonal. Regular testing gives you richer, deeper and cleaner data analytics, stemming from contrasting data sets and multiple channels, rather than a single source. This means, when it comes to reviewing data, your analytics are far more rounded and complete, and therefore more meaningful. These insights take your data analysis from descriptive and diagnostic to predictive and prescriptive.
Increased team effectiveness
Testing pushes leaders and teams to innovate and find more effective ways to generate leads and convert. 79% of marketing leads never convert to sales according to Invesp. This is commonly due to a lack of relevant nurturing. By testing, teams can strategically identify a prospect’s pain points, challenges and behaviors and establish a playbook of best practices. Companies who have such playbooks are 33% more likely to perform better.
Improved pipeline velocity
Sales testing can help improve pipeline velocity by up to 30%, especially at top-of-funnel. Speed is the new currency of business. Buyers today demand a quick first response; it’s no longer a luxury but an expectation in the B2B landscape. Currently, only 37% of companies respond to inquiries within an hour. With an effective testing strategy, businesses can understand the best approaches to handling and qualifying leads, reducing speed-to-lead and speed-to-qualification, and improving meaningful conversations by 7x.
Better resource allocation
By grasping their processes in more detail, your leaders can understand the areas that generate their greatest ROI. This helps your leaders align resources and capacity to where seller time is best spent. Companies successful at sales planning and resource allocation increase sales productivity by between 5% and 10%.
Stronger decision making
Richer, cleaner data can only strengthen decision making. By pulling data from a variety of experiments, businesses can tap into “best practices” that improve ROE/ROI and share this team-wide. This data gives leaders and strategists the insight to drive more effective operational decisions that are backed by data, reducing rep attrition at the same time.
How to conduct sales testing
Not every business has an environment that is conducive to successful testing. A culture of experimentation relies on inside sales reps that actively show curiosity and a hunger to learn, adapt and innovate. This can be impacted by internal factors like team agility, maturity, company culture and, critically, tech stack.
Most organizations will get the most value from simple business experiments. It can be easier to draw conclusions with data generated from A/B tests, rather than historical conversion data. First, managers need to embrace a test-and-learn approach, testing a single control group of prospects. You should interpret outcomes through the lens of Kaizen methodology, and contrast them with existing processes’ performance. This small-scale approach can yield huge improvements in engagement, though it only scratches the surface in terms of testing potential.
For testing on a bigger scale, there are two common methods: building an experimentation department or outsourcing.
Building an internal experimentation department
Internal testing starts by allocating headcount to a “sales lab.” This is a dedicated environment for trying alternative strategies and processes. These sales development representatives (SDRs) execute variations within touch patterns, appointment setting, and the curation of buyer personas that are noticeably different to the strategies used on the sales floor. While effective, this approach may hinder quota attainment at first as you’ll need to reallocate physical selling time to testing, execution and ramp.
Outsourcing to a lab
A more efficient and proactive model for testing is outsourcing to a sales lab. These facilities apply their existing headcount and resources to service your tests, rather than taking away from your internal team. This model is extremely productive as it allows businesses to continue cycling leads through their current strategy and cadence, all while experimenting externally to discover new ways to optimize. Once results are received, the business can then refocus on team-wide coaching and rollout, backed by provable results based on tangible data.
To stay competitive, your teams need to constantly adapt. As established in this article, the goalposts for performance continue to move alongside technology innovation, emerging business trends, and new approaches to connect, influence and nurture.
Originally from Iver in the United Kingdom, Christina has 25+ years in sales and operations, the majority of which has been at board level. Those who have met Christina would agree that she strives for operational excellence on a daily basis, consistently working in her role as SVP of Sales Services to develop the individuals and teams as a whole.