Sales OverdriveWe don’t have flying cars. We don’t vacation in space. But when it comes to big data for sales, the future is now.

Maybe some of you predicted it. Maybe you realized that the birth of the internet would eventually allow for seemingly infinite quantities of sales insight – like which prospects read which pieces of sales collateral for how long at what times, or even where your client spent last Saturday night.

But did anyone predict how overwhelming it would be? That business leaders would have so much data they wouldn’t know what to do with it all? That companies would come into existence with the sole purpose of managing all of these facts and predictions and statistics?

An Oracle study revealed that up to 14 percent of a company’s revenue is lost due to challenges in managing and analyzing data. That was a year ago. Since then, Stanford suggests that humanity has produced roughly 1,200 exabytes of data – or enough to fill the number of iPhones it would take to, when laid down end to end, circle the earth over 100 times.

So the question stands: Which data serves as most deserving of a sales leader’s focus? Or: How, in this day of data overload, can one understand what will move their business forward? We asked a few leaders just that. Then, using common themes in their responses, we developed questions that you can answer to ensure you’re tapping into this “future” for all it’s worth.

1. Can you list your data focuses?

 

Impossible – those are your chances of fully realizing the potential in every piece of data available to your organization. So you need to be able to focus on a key number of data points – those that will make a difference. And you should be able to list them.
Stephanie Woods, EVP of Sales and Marketing at sales and marketing training company Huthwaite, says it simply: “The key is to be focused, or else the infamous ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ occurs.”
For example, she focuses on obtaining data in six key areas:
  • Pipeline value by stage of the sales process
  • Performance to quota
  • Number of opportunities that convert into the pipeline
  • Number of opportunities that convert to revenue
  • Time in each stage of the pipeline
  • Loss analysis

Your focuses may vary, but it’s the fact that you can actually compile the list that makes a difference.

2. Is each data point’s success determined by the success of other important behaviors?

 

Football fans will pay more attention to wins than rushing yards this season, because wins are all-encompassing; yards simply contribute. The same mentality should apply when choosing key data points within sales.
Charlie Gillette, founder of e-learning provider Knowledge Anywhere, understands this concept well. After all, his list of sales data for focus consists of just two items, which he relies on for accurate sales forecasting.
First comes the number of live conversations between sales reps and customers/prospects. “The live conversation is a comprehensive indicator of all prospecting activity, as it takes a tremendous number of emails, phone calls, LinkedIn connections and voicemails to obtain a live conversation or meeting,” Gillette explained.

Second, comes the number of opportunities pending final contract approval. “At this point, the customer’s needs are understood, the solution has been scoped, the preliminary vendor process is complete and much of the negotiation is complete,” he added.

3. Does the information captured affect your larger goals?

 

You can encompass both of the guidelines established above, but if your focal data isn’t contributing to your business’ bottom line, you’re wasting time.

Gillette, for example, recognizes that those live conversations not only encompass the success of other efforts, but also contribute to his overall sales goals. “Even in our digital day, no B2B sale is going to be made without at least one live meeting or conversation with the customer,” he said.


4. Do you have one set location to house the data and a plan for how often you’ll visit it?

Seem obvious? Then you should have one clear response. And saying something like, “I’ll use a combination of my team’s predictions and reporting and results” won’t cut it, because when the time comes to analyze your data you won’t know where to look. It’s equally important for you to know how often you’ll visit.
Sarah Perry, Marketing and HR Director at SaaS provider SnapComms, keeps this one simple by relying on two things: weekly meetings and a CRM. “We have configured various dashboards and standard reports in salesforce.com to allow us to manage and report on how the business is performing,” she said. Her team reviews this reporting in comparison to clear monthly and annual targets in weekly meetings.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that in managing big data, there’s no big solution; the information deserving your focus probably won’t be the same as that for other companies, even including competitors. What’s important is your ability to define those data points and then actually do something with them to better your business. Oh — and you should probably start today. Then when we hit a whole new level of sales “future” you’ll be ready for it.

 

Summary
Turning Data Overload into Sales Overdrive
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Turning Data Overload into Sales Overdrive
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We're at a time when sales leaders can easily find themselves in data overload. Here's how they can turn that to scenario into sales overdrive.
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LevelEleven
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