Hiring Reps? Get Them a Digital Research Assistant: Sales Intelligence Systems Help Shorten Ramp-Up Time

Article excerpt

AS PART OF CSO Insights' annual Sales Performance Optimization (SPO) study, we asked the more than 2,000 participating sales organizations to share their hiring plans for 2011. Seventy-eight percent said they would add sales-people. Of that group, nearly half intend to grow their sales teams by more than 10 percent.

That companies are willing to expand their sales teams is a sign of optimism that the economic recovery will continue. However, let me inject a dose of pessimism: Hiring new reps is one thing; making them fully productive is quite another. A metric that we track as part of the SPO study is new-sales-rep ramp-up, defined as how long it takes a new salesperson to generate the same level of revenue as an experienced one. In 2003, our study found that 60 percent of sales organizations had ramp-up times of less than six months. Today, that number has dropped to under 40 percent.

This year's study data showed companies that give new reps access to sales intelligence (SI) systems have significantly shorter ramp-up than those that do not. The differences are reflected in the chart below.

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SI systems originally focused on giving reps information about contacts in the accounts into which they are trying to sell. Often integrated directly with the sales system the company employed, SI solutions populated and updated contact data in the CRM application. To a new rep, this is a crucial service in informing him about whom to call.

However, during the past few years, the level of insights coming from a new generation of SI companies, such as FirstRain, InsideView, OneSource, and Zoomlnfo, has expanded dramatically. …