5 min read

Increasing sales accuracy in uncertain times

Jason Loh

Global Head of Sales Solutions

“Past performance is not indicative of future results.” We’ve all heard that disclaimer recited or printed in ads, mutual fund prospectuses, or nearly any investment advice. And the more we’ve heard it, the easier it was to tune out. But the shocks from events like global pandemics have demonstrated that it’s practically a universal truth.

Some activities, including sales planning, are fraught with uncertainty even in the best of times. But that doesn’t mean finding likely prospects is now purely a matter of chance. Data-enriched predictive tools can help you identify and reach out more effectively to future customers. We at Anaplan believe in the power of predictive analytics – so much that in 2019 we acquired a leading AI vendor and adapted its flagship product as our Predictive Intelligence platform. And the events of the past year have proved its value.

Sales planning has changed—for good

When the pandemic hit in early 2020, many sales organizations saw an immediate drop in demand. And because revenue — as the lifeblood of organizations — drives every other decision, their companies were unable to make the same investments they had been considering just weeks earlier.

Overnight, the world of growth and opportunity that we had experienced since the Great Recession ended around 2009 transformed to a world of austerity and self-preservation. And data that businesses have been collecting from CRM and ERP systems for decades became obsolete. That meant relying on historical sales patterns and seller intuition to provide projections and forecasts would make the sales pipeline stale, misleading, and useless at a time when businesses needed it most.

Going forward, organizations need a different approach to sales planning that incorporates a variety of real-time data to deliver a clearer picture of demand.

Better revenue decisions start with third-party—or “outside-in”—data signals

According to an April 2020 Gartner report  titled “Top CRM Sales Technologies for the New Realities of Selling in the COVID-19 World”:[1] “Now more than ever sales organizations are faced with the imperative to assess their forecasts and adjust for the economic impacts of COVID-19.”

The report states: “Predictive forecasting solutions that incorporate third-party market data have the uncanny ability to consider the current economic situation in their forecast adjustments. The current crisis has brought about severe anxiety and unease for many people and businesses, which present the perfect opportunity to embed decision-making capabilities that marry first and third-party data, not just intuition and historical data alone.”

Anaplan delivers on this need for improved revenue targeting and planning through our intelligence pillar, called Predictive Insights. Using the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, Predictive Insights provides deep insights into who your ideal customers are.

By connecting your internal, first-party data with a vast global database of third-party account data, Predictive Insights generates a holistic view of the market so you can uncover new opportunities and prioritize efforts. Armed with this intel, your organization can optimize its revenue engine across sales, marketing, and customer success.

As Anaplan’s Chief Data Scientist Tal Segalov explained at the recent Digital CPX 2020 conference, “Data is at the core of every AI use case, and the best way to improve AI pipeline results is to add more relevant data. It’s a much more cost-effective way than tweaking algorithms or changing anything in the modeling.”

These insights enable you to make more data-driven decisions when creating your growth strategy by revealing: (1) who is likely to buy, (2) which product to offer, and (3) when the best time to engage is.

For instance, to help you decide which prospects to focus on for future revenue, Predictive Insights assembles millions of pieces of data into useful insights, such as which high-propensity accounts you should prioritize or what net-new and green-field accounts you should target.

“We uncover thousands of attributes on tens of millions of companies worldwide and use technology to scale this massive intelligence-gathering operation,” Segalov said. “It’s really exciting to see this platform that we’ve built get in the hands of the biggest and most advanced revenue teams in the world.”

AI helps you answer the most important questions for sales planning and forecasting

The ability to merge historical data with third-party, outside-in data helps you get a better handle on the sentiment of your prospects and customers, driving accuracy in both sales planning and sales forecasting.

An AI-powered solution can enhance sales productivity and optimize sales performance by focusing sales resources on markets and opportunities with the highest propensity to buy.

You can use Predictive Insights to segment and score your markets across the total addressable market, or even identify the right target markets for your go-to-market strategy. This feeds your territory plans, informing how you align resources to carve up each segment so you can more accurately set your targets, goals, and quotas, and deploy resources in a way that maximizes returns based on the realities of your market.

Knowing your customers’ propensity to buy can stabilize the pipeline and remove bias within your CRM data. That helps you focus in on the right customers, determine if the value propositions of the goods and services you’re selling are still relevant to buyers, and assess whether the deals you’re working are winnable. And that’s a strong foundation for sales success.

View the CPX session Increasing sales accuracy with predictive insights to learn more.

[1] Source: Gartner, Top CRM Sales Technologies for the New Realities of Selling in the COVID-19 World, 3 April 2020, Tad Travis, Mark Lewis, Ilona Hansen, Melissa Hilbert, Adnan Zijadic.
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