The role of the sales team has always been to develop relationships in order to strengthen the pipeline of new customers. As technology advances there is an ever-increasing pool of resources that can maximize sales and improve customer relationships. In 2015, every single Fortune 500 company and millions of SMEs are employing such tools and following these data trends closely.

Customer analytics have been collected since the dawn of the CRM, providing a massive boost to revenue in the process. Today, businesses understand that through social media, web analytics, customer prospecting and even in customer service, exists a massive landfill of consumer data just waiting to be analysed. The trick is finding relevant insights from this explosion of data. Here’s how enterprise sales teams can use their data as a guide towards success.

First, be certain that you will be uncertain.

The best sales professionals and their managers understand that they can’t predict the future and data analytics are not a crystal ball. Be comfortable with the ambiguity that the sales process inevitably produces and instead pour your energy into constant improvement. When managing your sales pipeline, look for patterns and weak links where past sales have fallen through, but also allow for a relatively high level of variance at the beginning for potential risk factors.

Second, recognise the value of high quality data and invest in better data collection methods. 

An enterprise-wide commitment to a data-driven culture is necessary for buy-in. Make sure management is leading the charge and enforcing best practices in data collection. When it comes to data collection and the consequent decision making, you get what you give. In other words, if bad data goes in, inaccurate information comes out which leads to poor decision making. To ensure the most accurate data is being collected, the entire sales force must be aligned and consistent in their data entry. Managers should always be evaluating their methods and investing in new tools that capture data automatically, such as wearable CRM tracking devices.

Third, collect as many diverse data sets as possible.

In sales, you never know what can make or break a successful quarter and the winds of fortune can change in an instant. The most experienced sales managers realise that nothing should be taken at face value. Everything can be broken down and segmented to look for specific clues into recipes for success. Data can be collected and analysed in an endless amount of ways, but no stone should be left unturned. Have you run correlation between overall revenue growth and personal sales standouts? Did a new team member with a new approach shorten the team’s sales cycle on average? Did last year’s extended drought season have an impact on your numbers? Asking these types of questions, and searching for the best data to answer them, will help drive useful and actionable insights that make an immediate impact on top-line growth.

Fourth, build predictive models in order to optimise potential business outcomes. 

While it’s critical to ensure the data collected is as accurate as possible, the data alone is worthless. What really matters are the insights data can provide. In order to tap into the value of your data and pull out golden nuggets of intel, it’s necessary to build models that predict sales outcomes with improving level of certainty thereby improving performance. Hypothesis-driven models can generate accurate potential outcomes and help managers and sales reps predict which prospects are worth pursuing over others. Be careful not to get too carried away by statistical analysis and predictive modelling. In short, aim of the least complex model that would improve the performance of the sales team.

Last but not least, learn from your mistakes. 

You know that data is not an all-seeing-eye, but if your focus is on constant improvement your sales team will avoid falling into the same bad habits as before. Data give sales teams a do-over switch, it shows managers the particular areas where sales are falling through or prospects are mismanaged and gives sales reps a chance to redeem themselves going forward. This is particularly effective at the individual level. By studying each sales rep in the context of their specfic sales funnel, managers can pull insights that will help that rep improve quickly and dramatically. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for any team or individual sales rep, but data analysis gives us the chance to break down each persons performance into customised reports in order to spot weaknesses.

Our experience tells us that it’s best for enterprise sales teams to adopt a data-driven culture now and not wait for a massive implementation. This is a step-by-step revolution for any sales team and shouldn’t be seen as a one time event. Understand that the data collection tools, methods of analysis and even the information itself will constantly be changing and evolving as time goes on. Don’t fight it. Create a corporate culture that rewards data-driven decision making and keep the emphasis on constant learning and improvement. That’s how you’ll build a superior sales team driven by data.

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