Sales analytics’ return on investment has taken many sales leaders by surprise, coming in significantly higher than expected. Gartner’s State of Sales Operations Survey found that 42 percent of sales leaders rate their ROI as above expectations, and this was the case no matter where sales analytics is located within the organization—whether it is in sales operations or outside of sales and in a shared department such as marketing, product and finance.

“Sales leaders today recognize how important analytics is to success, but many continue to struggle to move beyond simple reporting and tap into its full potential,” says Craig Riley, senior principal analyst in Gartner’s Sales practice. “Nearly one-third of sales organizations have their analytics outside of sales under a shared structure. This number is likely to grow as data is centralized to better improve compatibility with other functions. Not to mention the high cost of technology solutions are more easily justified when shared across multiple teams.”

Gartner’s survey gathered data from nearly 300 respondents responsible for the sales operations function at complex business-to-business sales organizations across a broad range of industries, including manufacturing, professional services, banking, energy/utilities, insurance and health care.

The survey revealed that sales leaders feel sales analytics offer the greatest returns in skills development and coaching. This is followed closely by salesforce sizing, opportunity qualification, pipeline forecasting, lead scoring, compensation planning, and territory and account planning. Quota setting, territory planning and territory design have proven to be overlooked areas where Riley suggests sales leaders have yet to tap into the full potential of analytics. He says, “As more organizations successfully use analytics for areas such as skills development and salesforce sizing, the sales teams that truly succeed will be those that leverage analytics across the entire function—including quota setting, territory planning and territory design.”

Gartner recommends that sales leaders looking to capitalize on analytics’ ability to add value to these untapped areas should consider data collection and integration, as data collection and quality is not an area where success can be bought. Successfully integrating any analytics solution will require a foundation of accurate and complete data, a culture of fact-based decision-making and the skills to leverage the solution integration.

Gartner also points to data literacy as an untapped opportunity, as success here will require creating a culture where “information as a second language” is the expectation. In order to fully embrace the value of collaboration and common language in these three areas, sales operations will need to take deliberate steps to align all of their stakeholders in their understanding of the underlying purpose of analytics, the sources of the data and the definitions of the metrics and the interpretation of the analytics.