Is too much data hurting your sales performance?

Is too much data hurting your sales performance?

Long ago, in a time before the internet, sales organizations struggled to gather enough quality data. Activities were manually logged in spreadsheets or on paper and CRMs didn’t exist as we know them today. Decisions based on guesswork or intuition were the norm. It was a dark time.

Today, we have the opposite problem. We wear “data-driven” like a badge of honor, but in truth, many B2B sales professionals simply suffer from data overload. Sales organizations are bombarded with so much data that we struggle to efficiently filter and analyze it all.

57% of sales organizations do not view themselves as effective users of advanced analytics.”

According to a McKinsey study

Overcome data overload by helping your salespeople choose the right metrics to focus on and being intentional about the software and systems in your sales operations.

Define data-driven

Is your organization data-driven or driven by data? We use the term ‘data-driven’ to indicate that we are strategic and forward-thinking. But are you able sift through all that data to actually use it? Let’s define data-driven.

‘Data-driven’ refers to a process or activity that is spurred on by data, as opposed to being driven by intuition or experience alone. It’s the intentional gathering and utilization of data in a way that guides decision-making.

How can the data you collect result in greater forecasting precision, more effective sales reps, increasingly objective performance measures, higher funnel conversion rates, faster revenue growth, and improved pipeline visibility? To have a valuable impact on a sales organization, data has to be applied in a way that enhances sales processes.

Moving to the (data) driver’s seat

If you’re reading this, you probably already collect vast amounts of sales data. One of the most common problems organizations have is that this data is siloed — even within sales teams — limiting knowledge-sharing and correlations. This makes it difficult to extract meaningful organization-wide insights.

Traditionally, each department or team has its own responsibilities, priorities, and goals with different metrics and KPIs. If an organization is to work toward a common goal, that has to change.

To actually be data-driven, leaders need to get in the driver’s seat. They need to connect the dots and interpret them in aggregate. Sales leaders will do well to keep both sales and marketing data close. Draft off of each other and enjoy better alignment and relationships across the functional areas. It will only make you better at your job and your life easier.

Establishing data-driven sales processes

Everything within the sales organization, from training and lead prioritization to forecasting and sales performance optimization, can be optimized with data. Data is how we know what’s working and where there are opportunities for improvement.

How do you start weeding through all the data to get to the good stuff?

Here are 5 ways to establish a data-driven sales process for your organization:

1. Cultivate a data-driven culture

Data can only do so much on its own. You need people to take action on learnings and drive change. Make sure you have the right sales managers in place to set clear goals, define success, and ask the right questions.

What are the larger goals for the organization?

What does success look like?

How will you get there?

The leadership team should share a common vision and gain buy-in from employees. A data-driven culture requires action to promote processes based on data and integrate the right habits into day-to-day activities. High-performing sales organizations have a culture that is drinking the data and analytics Kool-aid that drives organizational goals.

2. Invest in the right technology

For many industries, the adoption of advanced analytics has begun to differentiate the winners from the rest of the pack. It’s imperative to have technology in place that can deliver accurate insights out of vast amounts of data in a timely manner. Extracting the greatest value from the information is half the battle. As such, organizations need to invest in the infrastructure to support a data-driven culture. Without the right tech stack in place, it’s almost impossible to collect accurate, meaningful data.

It’s 2019 — think bigger when it comes to capabilities. Seek technologies that combine predictive and automated capabilities to enable data-driven efficiencies and integrations. Insights from dialers and email tools help uncover optimal times to make phone calls or send communications. Sales engagement technologies align processes and goals, arming sales teams with the right tools and content at the right time. It’s easier than ever to improve sales execution and drive revenue… if you have the right technology in place.

Help your sales managers set up the right sales dashboards to visualize trends and gain valuable insights around rep activity. Monitoring performance will help to drive a sales process where the behaviors of top performers can be identified and replicated through high quality, well-informed coaching.

3. Define your data-driven strategy and processes

Having a tech stack that compiles data doesn’t mean people within the sales organization will automatically know how to act on that information. Before beginning any data initiative, you need to have a clear understanding of what metrics you’re tracking, why they’re important, and how they will guide your sales strategy. Ask yourself and your managers if the information you aim to capture impacts your larger goals.

Start by defining your sales processes, identifying the KPIs you want to measure, and determining how you’ll use this data to optimize outcomes and drive change. What questions do you seek to answer? What problems need to be solved?

Then, determine how you’ll organize that data and make it accessible and actionable across your sales organization and beyond.

4. Enable sales coaching with data to guide reps

Your sales managers don’t have ESPN ESP. Data-driven sales coaching uses technology to provide dynamic sales training content and just-in-time coaching, determine which materials are most effective, recommend best practices to sales reps, and outline the next steps to advance an opportunity. Leaders can use data points collected by the sales engagement platform to identify areas for improvement throughout the purchase process.

Traditional methods still have a place. Data simply enhances sales coaching to yield faster results, shortening sales cycles and reducing time-to-productivity.

5. Make data-driven decisions

Data means nothing if you don’t turn it into action. Use the insights from the data you’ve curated to make informed decisions about next steps for the sales organization. When leveraged correctly, your sales tech stack can provide you with data to help you develop repeatable processes and continuously optimize them to scale your sales operations.

Data-driven sales insights allow leadership to be proactive by enabling informed, evidence-based decisions about sales strategy and process. The value derived from KPIs like connect rates, marketing influence, win rates, average deal size, and sales cycle length is key to understanding what factors impact sales success.

The bottom line

History proves that companies who are truly “data-driven” are more profitable and more productive. Sales leaders can better understand the sales funnel, improve forecasting accuracy, and scale effective processes with the most impactful data, reported in a transparent way.

Yes, there is a lot of data out there. Put it to work for you and focus on the end goal. When used correctly, data will help you be smarter about prospecting and hitting your numbers.

Laura Hall is the Senior Manager of Marketing Communications and Content at SalesLoft. She spent the first half of her career in sales before moving into sales effectiveness consulting and, finally, marketing strategy. Laura holds an MBA from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a "retiree" jacket from Atlanta's roller derby league.

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