Do Salespeople need Analytical Skills?
Analytical skills are increasingly becoming essential for B2B salespeople as they help improve sales performance. Analytical skills in salespeople work in two ways. First, they give salespersons a better understanding of customers and their needs, giving them an insight into the right customised solutions. They also help salespersons manage their territory and pipeline more smartly. Therefore, B2B firms can benefit from hiring salespersons with higher analytical skills and training their current salesforce to develop these skills.
The advent of technology, increasing product complexity, and an explosion of information in the marketplace have significantly changed the B2B market in recent times. . In this context, a salesperson’s role is bound to change.
B2B salespersons now enter the sales process at a later stage, when buyers already have substantial product information and are required to provide more customised solutions. In this changing scenario, businesses must hire salespersons with the right skills. Besides traditionally valuable sales skills like listening and follow-up, many employers now seek analytical skills. As a result, analytical skills are the second-most in-demand skills for B2B salespeople on LinkedIn. A study examines the rising importance of salesperson analytical skills to answer the question: How necessary are salesperson analytical skills in B2B sales?
The study found that analytical skills are critical in B2B selling in the current environment. It
defines a salesperson’s analytical skills as the ability to acquire, assimilate, evaluate, and apply customer data. The study found that the same level of selling effort results in higher sales performance among salespersons with higher analytical skills compared to salespeople with low analytical skills. Moreover, as a salesperson’s role changes beyond direct selling responsibilities, the relationship between analytical skills and sales performance becomes stronger.
Analytical skills help salespersons in two ways. First, they help salespersons gain a deeper understanding of the customer and their needs. It allows them to understand their business
model, industry-specific challenges, and dynamics. This understanding becomes key to delivering a customised solution to the customer’s needs and adding value to them. It enables salespersons to move beyond merely selling products and sell solutions based on customer insights. In a time when technology supplies customers with the same information about products that salespersons traditionally provide, providing solutions can give a salesperson an edge over competitors.
In addition to providing deeper customer insights, analytical skills help salespersons improve their pipeline and territory management. They can identify which activities within their
pipeline would be most beneficial and which customers they should focus on the most for the best results. Streamlining pipeline and territory management reduces wastage of time on less profitable activities, optimising their use of limited selling time. Moreover, analytical abilities help salespersons with account planning and forecasting by analysing sales quotas, territory mapping, and time management. Salespersons with analytical skills are also better equipped to utilise the insights from CRM tools.
The study has relevant insights for B2B firms. Since analytical skills are specific, observable
behaviours (as opposed to internalised constructs like intelligence or personality), they can be monitored. For example, it involves asking specific questions when communicating with customers to gain insights or developing solutions onsite during customer meetings to develop a business case and get customer buy-in. Firms can focus on identifying these behaviours when hiring salespersons. More importantly, specific behaviours and analytical skills can be developed in salespersons through proper training and coaching. Firms that invest in such training for their salespersons can benefit from their improved sales performance.