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I'm a partner in the advanced analytics group at Bain & Company, the global management consulting firm. My primary focus is on marketing analytics (bio). I've been writing here (views my own) about marketing, technology, e-business, and analytics since 2003 (blog name explained).

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July 21, 2014

"Lionel Messi Is Impossible." How About Your Salespeople? @skepticalsports #Analytics

Warning: due to author sloth, this post is dated.  Most of you have likely moved on with your lives.  Me, my Heart Is Full for los albicelestes, despite a disappointing outcome, but I still have a lingering case of futbolytics to get over.

Fivethirtyeight.com contributor Benjamin Morris had a fascinating article a couple of weeks ago that examined Argentine footballer Lionel Messi's play in recent years.  Until this year's World Cup of course, Messi had come under some criticism for, against the backdrop of his ethereal play for Barcelona, under-delivering for Argentina in recent years.  The article -- warning, 4600+ words long, with charts and videos and hyperlinks and footnotes, as in "Ask not, Bill Simmons, for whom the bell tolls..." -- explains persuasively that Messi is an outlier among outliers, even in his performances for the Argentine national team.  

The analysis of his shooting is fascinating enough.  But what really caught my attention, was the analysis of his passing and other influences on the game. In particular, here's a fascinating chart from Morris' article that makes the point neatly.

My friends at the multi-channel marketing attribution analytics firm Visual IQ are fond of a soccer metaphor to explain what they do.  "Giving all the conversion credit to the last-touched marketing channel is like giving Mario Götze all the credit for his goal in the 113th minute of the World Cup final," they say (with a zesty cruelty that borders on the sociopathic).

In the sales world, it's a holy grail to get to this kind of dynamic, or even an understanding of where on Morris' chart members of your team would be. It can be a thorny path to get there though, because unlike in Messi's world, a helping hand in sales can be harder to observe, and even if you try to measure it, often it can be (will be) gamed mercilessly and unhelpfully.

One way you can track this sort of thing is through online and offline knowledge sharing by members of your team.  Winning proposals, presentations, good answers to FAQs, and then views of these by others can all be tracked in relatively painless, game-free ways. A number of years ago when I worked at ArsDigita, we worked with Siemens to build ShareNet, a global sales and marketing knowledge management system that for many years was a poster child for applications of its kind (see here for the HBR case study).   The secret behind Siemens' success with ShareNet was the flexibility with which it could adapt what was captured, and how, to make it easy for people to contribute and consume.  Today, fortunately, the tools and costs for building capabilities like this are far more accessible. And now as attribution analysis moves closer to the center of the marketing analytics agenda, we have the opportunity to put the resulting data to work in a way that moves the dominant motivation for this kind of behavior beyond altruism to proper credit.

So if you'd like to improve your organization's gol-orientation, perhaps it's time to compile and publish your own assist chart?

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