<img src="https://ws.zoominfo.com/pixel/4z2e82sWyhmveGlCzuJa" width="1" height="1" style="display: none;">
Untitled presentation (1)

Introduction to Best Practices for B2B Sales - Data Access

Authored by Ric Ratkowski on February 11, 2020

With all the advances in sales technology and analytics, you would expect sales teams to have all the data they need about each sales opportunity to accurately forecast sales.  However, that isn’t the case.  Research by Bohanec, Kljajic Borstnar and Robnik-Sikonja in the study “Integration of machine learning insights into organizational learning, A case of B2B sales forecasting” found that:

“typical CRM implementations are missing sales opportunity’s attributes reflecting relationship dynamics, individual and organizational attributes and thus a context of particular case is not described in a suitable way for machine learning techniques to perform adequately as the existing CRM attributes have low information and prediction value”.  (Bohanec, Kljajic Borstnar, Robnik-Sikonja, 2015)1

Types of Data to Be Collected

Before reviewing best practices for collecting data, we need to review "what" the data looks like.

We define what the above quote calls “(1) relationship dynamics, (2) individual and (3) organizational attributes” as: (1) Sales activity dynamics; (2) opportunity attributes; buying team members and roles; and (3) company attributes.  The following provides a description of each area:

Sales activity dynamics

Sales activity dynamics include all interactions with the prospect.  Information should include interactions between members from both the buying and selling team including the detailed content of the interaction and the ability of the sales rep or system to be able to  ranking/ indicate the quality of the interaction. Sales activity dynamics include things like:

  • Emails from the prospect and content detail
  • Emails to the prospect from the seller and content detail
  • Scheduled and completed meetings including meeting summary/content
  • Scheduled future meeting from the calendar
  • Summaries from phone calls
  • “Check-ins” from the sales rep to help summarize sales activity not contained in an email

Opportunity attributes

Opportunity attributes vary based on the selling company, the industries they sell, the customer categories they sell, the sales cycle and the products they sell.  They include things like: 

  • Prospects Pain/Why are they looking
  • Employees/roles involved in the buying process
  • Use case(s) the prospect is trying to solve
  • Prospect buying process
  • Prospect’s current sales environment 
  • Prospect’s readiness for the product
  • Key sales milestones in their purchase process
  • Descriptors that could be used as part of the ideal customer profile
  • Descriptors of the sales opportunity (size, number of users, expected start date, revenue breakdown) that determine pricing
  • Reasons for close/lost of an opportunity
  • Lead Source
  • Competitors
  • Buying team members and their roles (more about this in the next area)

Opportunity attributes are any attributes, either standard or custom that are required to accurately describe the opportunity

Buying team members and roles

Although this is really part of the opportunity attributes it is broken out separately because of its importance.  Our customers have found that having the right buying team members at the beginning of the sales cycle is critical to an efficient sales process.  Results show, not working with the complete buying team up front, and having members added to the team towards the end of the sales cycle generally restarts the sales cycle. 

Company attributes

Company attributes help describe the company and include things like:

  • Industry
  • Revenue size
  • Geographic location
  • Funding
  • Specific company attributes as it relates to your product (employees, developers, locations, etc.)

Company attributes are any attributes, either standard or custom from the account record in the CRM application

In summary,  the type of data to be collected is “any attributes at any level that impact the sales process”.  It could be transactional in the form of interactions during the sales process(sales activity dynamics), or it is attribute based to describe the opportunity or company (opportunity attributes, buying team members and roles, company attributes. 

The Beatings will Continue Until Morale Improves

It is easy to define and theorize about the data needs.  Collecting it is the real problem.  

Having sufficient, timely and accurate information about all the sales opportunities and storing it in the Sales Force Automation platform [SFA] comes at the expense of the sales rep’s “selling” time.  

The easy answer is to hold sales reps accountable for accurate and timely updates, but that fails on implementation.  The choice generally gets down to, do you want accuracy in your SFA platform or do you want sales.  

SiriusDecisions has done significant research via a sales activity assessment and time productivity study on sales reps, sales development reps and sales managers.  Its objective was to understand the real issues impacting the sales group’s daily activities and the root causes when time is used inefficiently and limiting sale effectiveness.  

The research found artificial intelligence and automation embedded in sales planning/sales force automation solutions can: simplify activity management; eliminate the manual tracking and reporting of sales activities such as emails, phone calls, face to face meetings and web conferences in the CRM solutions.  In summary it can help optimize time spent direct selling by reducing administrative time entering and managing the data.

General Guidelines For Data Access Best Practices

Before we dig into tactical best practices for data collection I want to set the general guidelines of the best practices:

  • First automate the data collection process wherever possible
  • Second, if automation is not possible, make it as easy as possible for the collection process as part of what the sales reps do now, not in addition to what they do.  Work where they work, don’t require them to log into a computer to perform updates, let them dictate into their phone.
  • Third, make sure there is something in it for the sales rep when they keep the information accurate, give it back to them in a form that helps them do their job.  Typically updating the CRM is for the sales manager.
  • Fourth, the data collected needs to be delivered in a highly intuitive, easy to use format that is consistent with how the sales reps use the information.

Where Do We Go From Here

The next couple of blogs will drill into specific tactical best practices for each of the four data categories identified above.

If you are new to this blog series, check out our first blog in this series:  Best Practices for B2B Sales Pipeline and Forecast Management.  


1Bohanec, Marko. Kljajic Borstnar, Mirjana. Marko Robnik - Sikoja. “Integration of machine learning insights into organizational learning, A case of B2B sales forecasting”. 28th Bled eConference, June, 2015. https://domino.fov.uni-mb.si/proceedings.nsf/Proceedings/B12ECF2381AB59EEC1257E5B004B39B7/$File/2_Bohanec.pdf


Subscribe to our newsletter!

Lists by Topic

see all

Leverage these best practices with automation and AI driven by TopOPPS

Learn how our customers are winning with artificial intelligence in their CRM:

  • Predictive Sales Forecasting
  • Automated Pipeline Management
  • Significantly More Updates from Reps

Watch Videos

More Recent Posts:

March 26, 2021

Best Practices for B2B Sales - Sales Analytics

The next four blogs focus on best practices related to sales analytics to support an accurate sales forecast.  The previous four best practice blog series of:  Data Access and Enrichment, Sales Pipeline, Sales Opportunity Management and Sales and Sales Management Process set the foundation for accurate, timely, and relevant sales analytics to support the sales forecast.  This is the fifth category of the blog series “Best Practices for B2B Sales Pipeline and Forecast Management started on January 21st of 2020.  The ultimate goal of the analytics is to provide fact-driven information, interpretation and insights  across the four key sales roles: ...

Sales Automation, Sales Operations, AI for Sales, sales best practices, Sales Analytics, Sales Metrics

March 10, 2021

Xactly Acquires TopOPPS to Revolutionize Revenue Operations

Xactly and AI forecasting company TopOPPS set a new standard fordata-driven decision making throughout the Revenue lifecycle SAN JOSE, Calif., March 10, 2021 — Today, Xactly, the leader in revenue intelligence solutions, announces the acquisition of TopOPPS, a company focused on artificial intelligence (AI), sales pipeline management and forecasting. With this strategic acquisition, Xactly is expanding beyond Sales Performance Management to deliver a first-of-its-kind, end-to-end platform for Revenue Operations (RevOps). The combination pairs Xactly’s rich empirical data set and purpose-built AI with TopOPPS’ capabilities in one platform to advance the quality and scope of data-driven decision making throughout the revenue lifecycle. By introducing behavioral data driven forecasting and pipeline management, a new standard of intelligence is redefining revenue performance and shattering status quo thinking. ...

Webinars & events, Sales Process, Artificial Intelligence, Sales Pipeline Management, Xactly Acquires TopOPPS

February 22, 2021

Best Practices for B2B Sales - Quarterly Business Review

This blog focuses on the fourth part of the Sales Management Process, the quarterly business review[QBR].  These meetings are held at the beginning of each quarter and in lieu of the monthly sales strategy meeting discussed in the last blog.  These meetings are an integral part of the sales management cadence described by this blog series..  The QBR meetings are individual presentations by the sales rep.  Each rep is given 30 to 60 minutes to review their performance for the previous quarter and their game plan for the new quarter.  The previous quarter review should include a few opportunity postmortems of both close-won and close-lost opportunities.  The QBR meetings are usually done within the first two weeks of the new quarter and set the stage for hitting the current quarter goals.  ...

sales technology, Sales Process, Sales Tools, Sales Pipeline Management, sales best practices, QBR, Quarterly Business Review

January 15, 2021

Best Practices For B2B Sales - Monthly Strategy Review

This blog focuses on the third part of the Sales Management Process, the monthly strategy review.  These meetings are held on a monthly basis, usually twice a quarter, at the beginning of the months when the quarterly business review[QBR] is not being held.  This is a team call with the sales manager and his/her sales team, plus sales support and marketing.  While it may not be feasible to invite marketing to all the one on one’s and sales forecast calls, they should attend the monthly sales meetings and the QBRs.  This will help align marketing and sales. ...

sales management, Sales Process, best practices, sales best practices

December 14, 2020

Best Practices for B2B Sales - Sales Forecast Call

This blog focuses on the second part of the Sales Management Process, the sales forecast calls.  The last three blogs focused on Sales Coaching and One-on-Ones, the first part of four parts that make up the Sales Management Process.     A Word of Caution Both One-on-Ones and Forecast Calls are weekly meetings, but don’t make your One-on-Ones the forecast call.  One-on-One time is for the sales rep.  This is the sales rep’s  sales development time.  It is your time to help them become  A-players.  The Sales Forecast Call is all  ...

Sales Calls, Sales Forecasts, sales best practices, Sales Forecast Call

November 21, 2020

Best Practices for B2B Sales - Sales Rep Coaching-Performance Reviews

This is a continuation of the previous two blogs on sales rep coaching.  This blog focuses on reviewing the sales rep’s overall performance during a one-on-one.  In a series of weekly one-on-one meetings this topic typically comes up once every four weeks.   ...

sales management, AI for Sales, best practices, sales best practices, Sales coaching, Sales One-On-Ones

October 30, 2020

Best Practices for B2B Sales - Weekly Pipeline/Opportunity Review

This is a continuation of the previous blog on sales rep coaching.  The prior blog reviewed how sales rep coaching fits within the sales management process and outlined best practices related to “call coaching”, one aspect of sales rep coaching.  This blog focuses another aspect of sales rep coaching --  sales pipeline reviews and detail opportunity reviews.  The next blog will focus on the third aspect of sales rep coaching, sales rep performance one-on-ones.   ...

sales management, Sales Process, Sales Pipeline Management, AI for Sales, automated sales rep coaching, sales best practices, Sales coaching

October 16, 2020

Best Practices for B2B Sales - Sales Rep Coaching and One-on-Ones

Sales rep coaching and sales manager/sales rep one-on-ones are the catalyst for sales optimization and sales growth. They are also the tool for increasing the sales rep proficiency and converting C and B quality sales reps to B and A players.  Some supporting research from CSO Insights reveals a correlation between quota attainment and coaching.  The study found the better the sales manager coaching the higher quota attainment.   ...

Sales Executives, Sales Tools, AI for Sales, sales best practices, Sales coaching, Sales One-On-Ones