Today’s post is by Michael Muhlfelder, TARGIT vice president of sales, Americas.
Success in sales requires a fine balance of sharp people skills and good information. Sometimes, though, we find ourselves relying more on our gut instincts than informed data to make a business decision. For example, we might choose to work with a company because of a flashy brand name – not because we are sure that doing so will be a profitable choice. It might work out some of the time, but why stress about whether the right decision was made when you could use data to support your experience and increase your probability of making a sale?
Currently, leading sales teams are considering adopting a modern business intelligence (BI) solution to better enable salespeople to know where to focus their time. (For example, should they focus on relationships or new account penetration?) The entire company benefits from sales sorting out the facts about where and what to sell and ensuring the right data-backed decisions are being made.
Here are five steps to make your sales team data driven.
Step #1: Track every action
Data-driven sales departments share a drive and capacity to track every action of their daily operations. Every action a team member takes in the process of converting a lead – from a prospect triggering a response through their interaction with the company website to a conversation a customer has with the support team – needs to be recorded in order to be tracked and analyzed. There are patterns in the behavior of the sales team, the management team, and the customer base.
Patterns are the key to figuring out what works, what doesn’t, and how to improve. Fortunately, many of the industry-standard tools can track these actions automatically. Logging emails, notating phone calls, even dialing the phone – all of this can be done without any time spent on the part of the sales representative. This frees the team to focus exclusively on developing relationships and closing deals rather than logging actions.
Step #2: Define KPIs and provide the tools to learn more
Making something out of massive amounts of data is a different challenge than collecting it. If everything is being recorded, how do you know which actions are the ones worth paying attention to?
Every sales department is managed, in large part, by their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) – the specific metrics managers use to determine if the sales team’s performance is on track. The most data-driven sales departments think long and hard about the KPIs they use to measure their sales team, and they make adjustments as needed to reflect the reality of the sales team’s circumstances.
It’s critical that a business’s chosen KPIs are visible, well known, and reviewed by everybody on the team. High-performing sales organizations don’t wait for automatically published reports to get insights. They have real-time access to analytical tools and they rely on notifications from these tools to alert them when something needs their attention – rather than sifting through a lengthy list of reports each morning.
Step #3: Stay current
Data-driven sales organizations commit themselves to staying current with their technological solutions. A functional team may be tempted to try to retain the status quo, but that mindset prevents businesses from taking advantage of the features and functionalities available in the updates to each platform they use on a regular basis.
Sometimes that means not being married to a platform the organization has been using for ages. Data-driven sales departments are inherently agile and flexible, and – if there’s an alternative solution out there that’s better suited to what the sales team needs to accomplish – managers can’t be afraid to pull the trigger.
Step #4: Keep it simple
The fourth habit of the data-driven sales department is to keep things simple. Specifically, don’t let dashboards and analyses spiral out of control. Collecting the necessary data is just the first step in becoming data driven. Delivering that data in a way that makes sense to those who need to see it is also critical.
It can be tempting to design complex visualizations and hyper-detailed analyses that try to explore every element of a particular question. Keep analyses limited to one question. Don’t overcomplicate them in an effort to answer everything – and don’t be drawn in by complex visualizations. The data-driven sales team can look at dashboards and analyses, quickly learn what they need to learn, overlay their experiential learning, and move on to putting a plan in action. Overcomplicated, poorly-designed analyses – not to mention page-long, static reports – stand in the way of that goal.
Step #5: Prime the pump
The best data-driven sales departments don’t just learn from and act on the data they generate; they use that information to inspire the team members to continue to succeed. It’s only a small jump to use analyses and reports as tools to foster a healthy competitive spirit among the sales team.
One way to do this is displaying key dashboards on storyboards throughout the organization. Storyboards are designed to display top dashboards and KPIs on monitors and television screens in the sales bullpen. This gives the entire team the opportunity to understand how each member has contributed to the overall results – or why the company’s performance may not have been as expected.