By Miller Heiman Group | Modern Learning | September 5, 2019
If your sales data strategy consists of pulling a report from your CRM and using it to analyze your salespeople’s performance, you’re missing a critical opportunity to guide decisions that go beyond performance. A formal sales data strategy is a documented framework that collects information from sales technology tools—and it should have executive sales ownership and buy-in.
Organizations with a formal data strategy position themselves to better manage and mine their sales data for useful insights that inform their business decisions, whether it’s:
- Designing coverage and territory models
- Building talent profiles
- Optimizing pricing
- Focusing their coaching and selling efforts
As a result, these organizations achieve higher quota attainment, deal rates and deeper customer relationships than those that don’t, according to the 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study from CSO Insights, the research division of Miller Heiman Group.
Yet only 30% of the organizations that participated in the study had a clear strategy for using data as an asset for their organization (compared to 88% of the top sales organizations). This is a critical shortcoming to address now: organizations that embed digital tools into their sales practices are more likely to succeed in an economic downturn.
These four steps outline how to build a framework that enables your sales organization to compete now and in the future, despite uncertain economic conditions.
1. Know Who Owns Data Strategy and Ask for Help
Sales data should be the responsibility of the sales team, not IT. Executive sales leaders need to take ownership of the end-to-end data strategy. Specifically, they should:
- Assign ownership of different elements of the strategy
- Define how data will be used
- Create a structure for the data strategy
- Adjust the strategy to meet changing business and organizational needs
That’s not to say that sales leaders have to shoulder the burden y alone. IT should support them, focusing on maintaining data integrity and security. Sales operations teams should play a role, analyzing the data and working with sales leaders to decide which sales technologies they need to gather the required data for analysis.
2. Decide What Data You Need and How to Use It
The first step in meaningful data collection is for sales leaders to identify the business challenges they want to solve. This enables them to decide what metrics to measure, how to collect their data and what technology they need to analyze this information.
Depending on your needs, gaps in technology may exist: A CRM on its own likely isn’t sufficient to understand and analyze sales data. But a predictive analytics tools fueled by artificial intelligence, such as Scout, adds context to sales data by highlighting the methodology-backed actions that correlate closely with higher win rates, larger deal sizes and faster close times, allowing organizations to replicate best practices across their sales teams. Other systems in the organization, managed by customer service, finance or marketing may also hold the data you need, such as customer churn or lead conversions.
3. Take a Structured Approach to Managing Sales Data
On average, sales organizations use 10 different sales technologies and plan to implement four more this year. Without a framework to manage all the data that these systems generate, the value of this data can be overlooked or lost. To corral their information, organizations need a data governance process that:
- Sets responsibilities for day-to-day data ownership and management, such as data entry and updates
- Defines where the organization stores the data (in single or multiple systems)
- Manages data quality, through steps such as deduplication, cleansing and augmentation
- Chooses the tools and resources to invest in (such as dashboards or predictive analytics)
Effective data governance improves data quality and, in turn, the quality of insights and the success of the overall data strategy.
4. Monitor and Refine the Data Strategy Continually
Creating a sales data strategy is not a one-and-done endeavor. Ensure ongoing success with a formal process that periodically reviews each element of the strategy, including systems and technology, processes, data roles and responsibilities, data quality and data usage. Establish a data governance committee, composed of cross-functional representatives, to oversee this series of reviews. The team should meet quarterly to assess progress and address gaps that surface as a result of changing customer, competitor and market conditions.
Start Your Sales Transformation With a Clear Sales Data Strategy
To optimize selling decisions and business results, your organization needs to gather and analyze the right sales data. The Sales Performance Meter evaluates your organization’s sales data strategy and gives you insights into how to improve your strategy and build a supporting sales technology stack that yields deal success.