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Beyond the Forecast: Selling More with Analytics, Part 2

In Part 1 of this article, we covered the limitations of relying largely on forecast reports, the advantage of managing sales activities over sales objectives, and the traits of a mature enterprise business intelligence (BI) strategy—one that’s capable of unveiling insights locked within the intersection of leading and lagging indicators. In this follow-up, we dive one level deeper into how an organization can make its BI environment agile, robust, and trustworthy. 

Embedded Analytics

Let’s begin with being agile—specifically, through the use of embedded analytics. According to a recent study by Forrester, embedded BI, such as BI that sits directly within a sales automation system, is key to making enterprise BI environments agile. This gives analytics users greater access to insights by pulling directly from the application’s transactional system, and permits data entry and visibility within the same interface.

Unified Customer View

The next key point here concerns becoming robust, meaning that the scope of information available to sales reporting extends beyond data that exists within the customer relationship management (CRM) system.

Recently, I was in front of a room of 20 executives and managers at a midsize financial services institution demonstrating a CRM solution, and the single software interface that took up the bulk of the conversation showed how a relationship manager could access a 360-degree view of a client.

On the side of the sales rep, it’s hugely important to have access to this 360-degree view. This allows salespeople to have insight into service tickets, email clicks, form submissions, and products and services owned, and they can use this information to mitigate risk of a pre-existing customer service issue, focus on the most engaged customers, identify cross-selling and up-selling opportunities, and even perform predictive analysis on the likelihood a customer will buy more.

Frontline managers can focus their team’s efforts on potential customers that are likely to buy, customers with the highest satisfaction ratings, and customers who are shown to be the most profitable. Integration with CRM provides a single location for this critical data, which makes it easier than ever for leaders to make data-driven decisions that otherwise would have been based on a gut feeling.

Building Trust in the Data

The final key point is trustworthy reporting. A digital strategy focused solely on embedded analytics and integration can provide insights that might be as murky as a cup of joe with too much cream and sugar. Essentially, incomplete, incorrect, and/or duplicate data yields analyses that are difficult to understand. Two best practices can help increase the reliability of data in a sales CRM system: data cleanliness and user adoption.

In Gartner’s recent report on sales analytics, it recommends that clients focus on data deduplication, cleanliness, and accuracy before proceeding with an analytics transformation. Deduplication can be achieved in multiple ways, including using systems that can automatically remove duplicate records. And of course, accuracy and completeness of data improve when reps actively track their activities and opportunities in their CRM, and are further enhanced by bringing in customer information from 3rd party sources. 

Gartner has found that most early adoption is stunted when new reps learn and leverage the CRM system during training and then see seasoned reps using spreadsheets once they get into the field. However, when organizations focused on getting top performers on board with using CRM, other reps looking for similar levels of success followed suit, ensuring greater completeness of CRM data.


Let’s summarize from the bottom up on leveraging analytics to achieve value. Beginning with a complete and clean CRM database, sales administrators can integrate data from external sources to give reps and managers a 360-degree view of the customer. Embedding analytics tools directly within the CRM system makes enterprise BI more agile and usable. And with the insights garnered from these tools, reps can make quick, informed decisions on how to close more business. From a more strategic perspective, managers can learn what sales activities correlate to increased performance across key sales objectives, ultimately speeding up the sales process and increasing revenue from their sales organizations.

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