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Helping an Industry Leader Embrace Data and Supercharge Their Sales Decision-making

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In today’s fast-paced business world, evidence-based decision-making is more important than ever. Increasing competition and rapidly accelerating technological disruption mean that nothing can be taken for granted anymore. The tried-and-true sales strategies that have served an organization well for decades could easily become obsolete by tomorrow. 

Instead, the only way to stay afloat is to follow the data. Data-driven decision-making allows organizations to proactively respond to emerging trends in their industry, rather than reactively scrambling to catch up after being caught on the back foot.

Leveraging data also helps to ensure that organizational decisions won’t be clouded by cognitive bias. Even the most experienced salespeople and executives are, ultimately, human — and we humans are prone to thinking irrationally. Organizations who incorporate objective data points into their decision-making (“taking the outside view,” as it’s known in behavioral science) can reduce their risk exposure while also gaining a competitive edge. 

​​A new horizon for salesforce development

TDL was approached by one of the world’s leading motor vehicle manufacturers for help taking their sales strategy to the next level. Over the past several years, they had developed and implemented a brand-new sales model that completely transformed the way they did business, including the way they trained and evaluated sales staff. Initial results were extremely promising — but they wanted a way to be sure that salesforce success was due to their development efforts, and not due to chance or other factors alone. In other words, the client wanted to better understand the return on investment of their program.

TDL was brought in to conduct a more rigorous evaluation of the new sales model’s ROI. We leveraged data science methodologies to get an objective look at how the new program was performing across the client’s major markets. These techniques let us separate the signal from the noise, separating the real impact of the new model from external variables that might have been affecting sales (including everything from seasonal trends to the COVID-19 pandemic). 

We also sat down for in-depth qualitative interviews with members of the sales team, which allowed us to build out holistic user journey maps. These maps identified key sources of friction and behavioral barriers that were hindering team members’ success under the new model. They also highlighted how certain cognitive biases were impeding onboarding and effective implementation of the sales model.

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Building a flexible evaluation system

Our work culminated in a set of evidence-based recommendations for creating a sustainable evaluation system that would remain relevant for future salesforce development programs. Our recommended interventions were grounded in decades of behavioral science research, tailored to fit with the client’s strategic priorities and culture.

One key insight from our journey maps, for example, was the fact that systems for evaluating the new sales model’s success lacked continuity with other programs within the organization. As district sales managers were onboarded to the new model, they were being assessed for their proficiency with the new sales system specifically. 

This narrow way of evaluating sales staff was making it difficult to assess the true ROI of the new model. It was also inadvertently undermining employee motivation: it put the focus solely on succeeding within the context of this one new program, but not on how those core skills could be generalized and further developed for long-term sales force development.

Based on all of this, we recommended that the client augment their sales program assessment with a new skills-based assessment. After identifying the key skills that employees needed in order to succeed, they could create a standardized set of tools to measure these skills directly. These tools could be carried beyond their original context into subsequent sales development programs, while also addressing the sales team’s appetite for more targeted professional development. 

Helping the sales team hit the ground running

The insights and recommendations we delivered to our client are continuing to shape their business strategy. And our work didn’t end here: after our initial project was completed, they tapped us to build out a custom data visualization tool to help them further embed data into their organizational decision-making practices. 

Data-driven decision-making has become a business buzzword — but there are still relatively few organizations who have been able to effectively implement it in their operations & strategy. In our work on this project, we didn’t just provide an initial assessment of the client’s sales force program; we also generated actionable, evidence-based solutions to help them act on that knowledge, and to embed data-driven insights into their decisions going forward. 

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