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Five Habits of the Data-Driven Sales Department

December 07, 2015

A truly optimized sales department has made these five key tasks and processes a way of life.
These days, the most successful sales organizations across all verticals, geographies, and company size have evolved to be more data-driven than ever before. Sales leaders know that just a few more meetings, demos, or deals can make the difference between a business that reports flat revenue or significant growth. Fortunately, each of these actions or results generates data that can and should be harnessed to give insight into ways to optimize the sales process and improve the overall strategy.

Yes, TARGIT is a BI company, so we had better be doing this and doing it well. But let’s agree that we are all in this together — not just those who eat, sleep, and breathe BI. Here are my tips for the habits that can help you to manage a data-driven sales department. Everyone—from the VP of Sales down to the Business Development Representative who sets meetings for the sales reps—should make these habits a part of their daily work flow.

Want the expanded version of these best practices? Download the free eBook. Spread some inspiration and print some copies to distribute to your team today.

Habit # 1: Track every action

Data-driven sales departments share a drive and capacity to track every action of their daily operations. Every action that a team member takes in the process of converting a lead, response that a prospect triggers through their interaction with the company website, conversation that a customer has with the support team—everything 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. And patterns are the key to figuring out what works, what doesn’t, and how to improve.

Fortunately, many of the industry-standard tools can handle tracking 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 rep. This frees up the team to focus exclusively on developing relationships and closing deals, rather than logging actions.

Habit #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 that 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. Personally, I have a rule of thumb to track no more than 5 KPIs daily. Any more is too much noise. 

Narrowing down the most important KPIs isn’t typically an easy task for any company, so we’ve created this guide to help you establish the metrics that really matter.

It’s critical that a business’ 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 their insights. They have real-time access to the analytical tools they need to get it immediately. And they rely on notifications from their tools to alert them when something needs their attention, rather than sifting through a lengthy list of reports each morning.

Read what happens when you have the data at your fingertips to go from observation to action faster in this free eBook.

Habit #3: Stay current

Data-driven sales organizations commit themselves to staying current with their technological solutions. It can be tempting for a functional team 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 that 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.

Habit #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. It’s critical to deliver that data in a way that makes sense to those who need to see it. 

It can be tempting to design complex visualizations and hyper-detailed analyses that try to explore every element of a particular question. According to studies, the average attention span is eight seconds (and probably less for us in sales). That means if it takes much longer than that to comprehend what’s happening in a dashboard, it’s not a good dashboard. 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, learn what they need to learn quickly, 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.

This eBook explains the different BI user types within a data-driven organization and how to best design dashboards and analyses to their needs.

Habit #5: Prime the pump

The best data-driven sales departments don’t just learn from and act on the data that 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.

I suggest 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 contributed to the overall results or to learn why the company’s performance may not have been as expected.

Mix in illustrative metrics and dashboards that apply to the industry or culture of the company. Data-driven sales representatives will respond to the information on these dashboards as a challenge and strive to get their own name listed at the top of the rankings.

The below video shows you how storyboards can make a difference. Thanks and good selling! And don't forget, you can always download the expanded eBook version of these best practices. Print out some copies and distribute them to your sales team today.

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