How to choose the right attribution model to assess your sales enablement programs

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When your sales team scores a conversion for your company, it’s rarely an event that occurs in isolation. Sales professionals may dream of a perfect one-touch conversion with a new client, but the reality is much more complex: multiple touches, multiple channels, and an organizational headache when it comes to assigning credit for the victory.

Think about the core tenant of sales enablement: providing the sales team the tools they need to be more successful in their engagements with prospects.

If you have a sales enablement program up and running at your organization, you need to have an attribution model in place to measure success in not just your marketing campaigns, but in your entire funnel.

While opinions abound, there’s no one-size-fits-all option when it comes to choosing an attribution model.

Instead, organizations have to pick an attribution method that aligns with their measurement goals, as well as the specific characteristics of their sales enablement program. Struggling to know how to approach this decision? You’re not alone. Let’s review the types of attribution you may want to consider, and the questions you should ask before you commit to a model.


The importance of accurate attribution for sales enablement

Choosing an attribution model is an imperfect science, but it’s a crucial step if you’re serious about analyzing performance and optimizing your sales strategy for better results in the future. When you have an attribution model in place, that strategy informs your sales analytics, helping you place sales performance in context and identify strengths and weaknesses relative to your established KPIs.

It’s important to understand that attribution isn’t aimed at figuring out who deserves credit for what sale. It offers a more holistic value to sales enablement programs, providing data-driven insights not only about the conversion stage of sales, but about the entire sales funnel, and the relationships between these different stages.

Organizations implement sales attribution models because they want to fill knowledge gaps that are inhibiting their understanding, and thus their performance, regarding the sale process. By choosing a given attribution model, you’re essentially indicating that you are seeking a specific type of knowledge about your sales program that will hopefully inspire better results in the future.


5 types of attribution modeling to consider for sales analytics

Each attribution model offers its own strengths and limitations when it comes to gaining visibility into sales enablement program. Here are some common models you may want to consider to give your sales team more detail about how prospects are entering your funnel and what triggers marketing to hand them off over to sales.

1. First-touch attribution

This attribution model gives all of a conversion’s credit to the very first point of contact. While there are obvious limitations created by ignoring all of the other interactions that take place on the customer journey, first-touch attribution is a valuable tool for analyzing performance across your top-of-funnel activities.

If you’re struggling with lead generation, for example, first-touch attribution can help you see which channels and strategies are creating the most opportunities for your sales team. You can then use this information to allocate resources and training in an effort to improve lead generation in poor-performing areas, while also leaning into the success you’ve created through your highest-performing channels.

2. Last-touch attribution

This provides a similar function as first-touch attribution, except instead of delivering insights regarding your top-of-funnel performance, it illuminates your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to closing the deal.

The most common use case for last-touch attribution is when your organization is generating a lot of leads and experiencing multiple interactions with customers, but you’re struggling to generate conversions at a satisfactory clip. With last-touch attribution, you isolate the last point of contact with prospects to see which channels and strategies are effectively closing the deal, and which ones are struggling to make that final push to turn prospects into customers.

Once you’ve identified your areas of struggle, you can start exploring why this is the case, and implement new sales enablement strategies to improve performance in the future.

3. Linear attribution

Curious whether there are any gaps in your full-funnel sales strategy, or whether you’re suffering from particularly poor performance through specific stages or channels? Linear attribution can help identify these areas of weakness. By assigning value evenly across each point of contact with a prospect, your organization can help weed out performance gaps that are inhibiting your sales success.

For example, linear attribution can tell you whether one specific channel — social media, or email — is frequently involved as a point of contact in successful sales efforts. In a long chain of interactions, these interactions can easily get lost in the shuffle, and they get overlooked by a lot of different attribution models. Linear attribution gives them equal credit. While this might not be the most accurate assignment of value per channel, it can improve visibility of steps and channels that might otherwise get lost in the attribution shuffle.

4. Time-decay attribution

This is another type of multi-touch attribution that assigns value to interactions based on their recency. The last point of interaction gets the largest percentage of credit, while the first point of contact gets the smallest.

This can be an excellent attribution model if you’re confident in your lead generation efforts, but you’re struggling with advancement down the sales funnel. Time-day attribution weighs bottom-funnel activities with greater value, placing an emphasis on how your sales enablement program is supporting strategies that target the consideration and conversion stages.

5. Position-based attribution

This model splits 80% of the total credit evenly between the first and last point of contact. The remaining 20% gets divided evenly among all of the interactions in between first and last touch. Sales teams can use this strategy to evaluate the lead gen and closing efforts that are starting and finishing the sales process, while acknowledging that the customer journey in between those interactions can be winding and complex.

In addition to these basic attribution models, sales analytics tools may also offer algorithmic and machine learning-enabled attribution models that are more complex and customized to your organization’s sales enablement strategy. They can also be capable of tracking channels and data points, such as call tracking strategies, that may not be accessible through more basic attribution tools.

While these solutions are more technical in nature and require specialized analytics, they can potentially provide better insights than a general attribution model — although the models listed above are still very useful for analyzing aspects of your sales enablement program.


Questions to ask when choosing an attribution model

As you evaluate your options with different attribution models, you need to take a close look at your current sales performance. A close evaluation of your sales enablement program should help you narrow your attribution options to a few obvious choices.

Here are some questions to ask in this process:

  • What is your No. 1 weakness in the program? In what areas do you feel sales enablement is struggling to uplift sales performance at your company?
  • What is your No. 1 strength in the program? Where have you been most successful in using your program to deliver better results? Consider not just individual salesperson performance but also overall conversion rates, account-based targeting success, and other factors.
  • Do you have data to support those claims? Make sure analytics-driven insights are part of your program review process.
  • What resources do you love to use in the sales process? What about in the marketing funnel?
  • What resources have proven most effective, or get the biggest reaction from leads? What about prospects?
  • Where do you see the greatest drop off in your sales process? For example, does your company have great success with top-of-funnel activities, only to struggle to close the deal? Or vice versa?
  • What communication methods are most effective for closing sales? Specifically, what channels are delivering the best results for your sales team? Offer hypotheses for why this might be the case.

This isn’t a comprehensive list of questions, but it offers a useful framework for understanding your attribution needs, and identifying which types of models might offer the best value for your organization.

When choosing an attribution model, it’s important to consider your present needs. You aren’t locked into an attribution model forever. For that reason, you should focus on finding an approach to attribution that offers visibility and insight to address your current struggles and areas of need.

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