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I was listening to a sales podcast recently when one of the guests said he’d like to Moneyball his sales operations.
Moneyballing is a goal that is often discussed, but in my experience, most companies don’t know how to do it right.
In case you don’t know, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, is a 2003 book by the amazing Michael Lewis (The Big Short, Liar’s Poker, The Blind Side) and a 2011 film. It starred Brad Pitt as Billy Beane, General Manager at the Oakland Athletics baseball team, and Jonah Hill as Peter Brand, a young Yale economics graduate who has a revolutionary way of analyzing player selection using sabermetrics. (Brand is a composite character based largely on Paul DePodesta.)
Moneyball tells the gripping real story about how the economically challenged Oakland A’s baseball team used statistical data mining to hire a team of under-valued players that beat the benches of much better-financed teams.
Because the A’s were so successful (they broke an American League record by winning 20 games in a row, ultimately clinching the American League West championship), the insights of Moneyball were immediately applied by the other baseball organizations. In baseball, the Moneyball advantage evaporated quickly.
Moneyball became a touchstone, a rallying cry for everyone who can build a spreadsheet. But in practice, it was a lot harder to apply.
AI is how you Moneyball your sales operation.
Sales Operations Moneyball Tip #1: Create a Data-Driven Culture
Beane was fighting a century-plus of baseball culture that was literally the storied stuff of song. Resistance was fierce, vocal, and coming from all sides.
But once he was committed to the data-driven course, the team started to win. Eventually.
Insight doesn’t immediately translate into results. But Beane kept at it.
As his approach started getting results, he kept using data to improve hiring and individual player performance.
Sales Operations Moneyball Tip #2: Data Will Show You the Way
Your revenue operation produces performance data about your team, your products, your markets and your methods. The data is already there. You just need to know how to use it.
A data-based approach means you need to break apart the silos so that you can see the entire revenue process throughout your organization.
If you have data in different spreadsheets in different departments, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
The first step is to transform your CRM into a seamless performance data machine. You don’t need “big data” to find the answers, you just need to put your small data in the proper format.
We do this every day.
Sales Operations Moneyball Tip #3: Let AI Discover The Metric That Really Matters
If you operate based on what you valued in the past, your revenue operations aren’t likely to improve.
Here’s where Moneyball changed the game of baseball and could change how you hire too.
Before, baseball scouts superficially scanned a player’s stats, but the ultimate hiring decision was based on subjective measures. That pitcher throws funny; this one has an unattractive girlfriend.
In the movie, Peter Brand says “People who run ball clubs, they think in terms of buying players. Your goal shouldn’t be to buy players, your goal should be to buy wins. And in order to buy wins, you need to buy runs.”
Brand’s sabermetrics made on-base percentage (OBP) the key metric. Getting on base meant ultimately getting more runners across home plate. More runs equal more wins.
Focusing on OBP reduced the complexity of baseball to one key performance indicator.
So what is the unique winning secret metric for your sales team?
Sales leaders need to use AI to discover what “getting on base” is for each of their products and reps.
AI’s machine learning uncovers each product’s different buying path.
Sales Operations Moneyball Tip #4: Hire for the Skill
Your hiring needs to focus on the salespeople who can deliver what is needed for each product. One size doesn’t fit all. While most sales skill sets are generalized, there are some that are specialized.
Some sales specializations are based on channels. For example, the pet food company Hill’s Science Diet, which was originally sold exclusively through veterinarians’ offices, hired consulting veterinarians as their salespeople so that they could talk shop peer-to-peer with the vet in charge of the office.
Some specializations are based on targeting specific people within a large organization at a specific stage of the sales process. Many tech companies, once a prospect company gets into the consideration phase, will add a “solutions engineer” to the sales process to talk to the lead tech person.
AI can help you track who gets “on base” at each stage of the buying process.
Sales Operations Moneyball Tip #5: Whom to target?
In sales operations you can hire the best, but what do you tell them to do?
One key area to Moneyball is with target/product prioritization. You need to target the right product ot the right customers. That’s where white space analysis really comes in handy.
You need to figure out where your sales reps need to spend their time within any given eight-hour day.
Target/product prioritization is the secret lifeblood of revenue operations. AI can show you success rates segmented by product, size of the company, buying decision influence paths, etc. If you have an AI installed on your CRM like Salesforce, AI can update in real-time as the market changes.
Markets change in real-time, your sales operations need to as well.
Sales Operations Moneyball Tip #6: What to Do?
These days, most sales operations aspire to do account planning. Account planning (making your prospect’s needs the center of your interactions with them) is something sales superstars do.
Account planning is a lot like exercise. People make all kinds of New Year’s Resolutions, but don’t do anything past February 1st. That’s regrettable for most individuals, but for a sports team, neglecting gym time is deadly.
If you’re a sales operation, everyone needs to do account planning. Period.
(And exercise, too.)
Here’s where AI can come to the rescue. AI can look at your entire sales process and highlight which account planning activities have worked in other locations. It can then show you how to deploy those insights across your entire operation.
We built an application, Account Plan Navigator, just to help large sales organizations use AI to guide their account planning at scale.
Sales Operations Moneyball Tip #7: Don’t Let Winning Ruin You
As the Oakland A’s started their historic 20-game winning streak, Beane kept his players focused on the fundamentals of the next game.
Data drove yesterday’s winning game, but today’s game is against a new opponent.
Your approach should adapt, too.
They say generals are always fighting the last war. Circumstances, beliefs, and market dynamics change in an instant. You need to have real-time information to adapt nimbly and automatically.
Sales Operations Moneyball Tip #8: See Beyond a Snapshot
Before Moneyball, baseball players were often judged based on their former glory. Some were overvalued, while others were undervalued.
Revenue operations sometimes does the same by prioritizing new prospects over old clients.
While existing clients don’t offer the excitement of chasing and landing a shiny, new client, an older client’s lifetime customer value can mean more to the bottom line.
Prioritizing boring older customers gets renewals, upsells, cross-sells, and referrals. AI can show you the way.
For example, the AI-derived recommendation engines you see at Amazon or Netflix do an excellent job of matching the prospect with the product. AI can do the same for your company.
Sales Operations Moneyball Tip #9: Adapt or Die
In the movie, the Oakland A’s longtime scout doesn’t approve of Beane’s new way of hiring players. Beane tells him to “adapt or die”. The scout won’t adapt, so he’s fired.
On the other hand, once the ballplayers understood their own personal metrics, they were able to change their behavior to achieve the desired results.
It isn’t the strongest who survive, it is the quickest to adapt. Your competition is using AI right now to sell better than you can.
You have a choice: adapt or die.