Shifting to a Data-Driven Sales Culture

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Data Analytics
Sales
Old school salespeople like to pride themselves on their ability to close the deal through their interpersonal skills and sales savvy. They're often the first to admit that they've done their homework to gain a deeper understanding of the needs and interests of a particular client or prospect in order to deliver on what the client is looking for. But increasingly, forward-thinking sales leaders and their teams are relying on customer and prospect data along with the use of analytics to fine-tune their sales strategies and take the next best action with each customer or prospect.

Old school salespeople like to pride themselves on their ability to close the deal through their interpersonal skills and sales savvy. They're often the first to admit that they've done their homework to gain a deeper understanding of the needs and interests of a particular client or prospect in order to deliver on what the client is looking for. But increasingly, forward-thinking sales leaders and their teams are relying on customer and prospect data along with the use of analytics to fine-tune their sales strategies and take the next best action with each customer or prospect.Fact-based decision-making has been catching on with sales teams, especially over the past 24 months. Sales leaders are recognizing that if they can have each of their sales reps achieve closer to their top-performing reps, the overall performance of the sales organization would be significantly higher, says Andres Reiner, president and CEO of PROS.

Sales leaders are increasingly recognizing that gut instinct and schmoozing aren't enough to seal the deal in today's competitive markets. Meanwhile, research reveals that data-driven selling delivers the goods. According to a study conducted by Aberdeen Group, best-in-class companies (the top 20 percent of companies evaluated) have achieved a 12.3 percent year-over-year increase in overall team attainment of sales quotas compared to just a 1 percent increase for the average company.

Sales leaders who gather and act on the behaviors and interests that customers and prospects share in their omnichannel interactions are able to engage with customers and prospects more effectively and drive higher conversion rates. Plus, data and analytics can be used to track and analyze the performance of individual salespeople and sales teams more effectively, enabling sales leaders to step in and offer coaching quickly if one or more sales associates are encountering performance issues.

"We're seeing that companies are interested in leveraging more and more types of data to increase the effectiveness of their sales processes and to understand customers and their behaviors better," says Jonathan Gray, vice president of marketing at Revana. But there's still room for improvement, cautions Gray. For instance, many companies continue to struggle with aggregating customer and prospect data from various sources in a usable format.

Still, the use of data and analytics among sales leaders and their teams represents a sea change from the approach that most organizations were taking even just a few years ago.

As we look ahead to 2014, what trends and challenges in the use of data and analytics do you foresee for sales organizations?

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EXPERT OPINION