Whether it’s your online shopping cart or your refrigerator, everything you interact with these days is capturing as much data as it can. Sales operations should be no different; after all, there’s plenty of internal and external data out there to gather, and practically no end to its usefulness. But how can organizations collect and analyze their data efficiently and effectively?
Start with a plan
It can be tempting to try to quantify and qualify every single interaction, gesture, and breath of your sales force, but not all data is created equal. Moreover, while capturing every step your sales force takes may seem novel, that can lend the impression that you’re babysitting them – not to mention how untenable it’ll be to store and process all that data.
The first step in turning raw information into value for your sales organization is identifying data points that align with your goals.
Try to think outside the box about metrics that can deliver deep insights to streamline your business. For instance, although sales team performance is obviously an important metric, adding context will provide a more profound understanding of that performance. Consider, for instance, how a team’s numbers could be affected by factors like tenure and required travel distance.
Knowing the goals of every stakeholder in your sales process is key to maximizing the value of your data. If you begin collecting metrics that only serve your objectives, you run the risk of leaving your coworkers out in the cold. Nothing makes it easier to expand the scope of your project (whether in terms of business units or verticals) than demonstrating value for your peers.
This may sound like a lot to keep in mind, but there’s beauty in simplicity – so avoid bogging yourself down in an overly complicated data-gathering process. Always balance the effort of gathering the data with the reward of the insights you’ll gain.
Once you know what conclusions you’re trying to reach and what data points you need to support them, your next step is determining the “how.” Generally speaking, automating as much of the data-gathering as possible is well advised. If you can’t automate the collection of a data point, try to require minimal effort to report it – the easier it is to report their data, the more your people in the field will buy in, leading to a more complete data set. Keep in mind that even though self-reported, in-depth status updates are intriguing, they’re useless unless your sales field completes them to a high standard.
In your attempts to automate this data collection, don’t miss out on capturing data that’s already being generated. Perhaps your CRM platform captures the login or behavioral data of your salespeople to correlate logins with performance. Or maybe you can utilize metadata from communications between sales teams to identify a salesperson with high leadership or one who isn’t a team player. Either way, see what you can do with the data that’s currently available before you go and gather more.
Finally, understand who’s best suited to digest this information. Your finance division has little to gain from a deep dive into your sales team quotas, and your sales reps won’t learn much from your organizational revenue data. Meaningful action can’t be taken until you put the right data in front of the right organizational stakeholders.
Put your analytics to work
Obviously, the information you gather is only as valuable as the insights you gain from it. If you only display these conclusions in arcane charts once a quarter, you could be missing out on driving new, more successful behaviors. Whether via newsletters, regular emails, or even presentations to your organization, these shiny new data-driven insights need to be distributed to the people who can act on them.
The quality of the communications themselves is equally important. Telling a story with your data will make your reports clearer and more digestible. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to sharing your findings; utilizing existing company-wide best practices for communication can reduce the effort you have to expend.
When all’s said and done, don’t rest on your laurels. After all, your project isn’t over once you’ve started capturing all your data and turning it into business insights. Moving forward, you’ll still need to schedule regular check-ins to ensure a high level of data integrity. You’ll also need to evaluate what information each stakeholder needs and how you can change your process to achieve more value.
This is the era of Big Data, and it’s full of opportunities to make your sales force stronger. With a thoughtful, thorough approach to gathering and analyzing your data, you’ll put your organization in prime position to succeed.
About the Author
Brian Colubriale is a Consultant at Optymyze. He has collaborated with clients in the airline and oil industry to develop and design incentive compensations analytics and reporting. His experience includes consulting in areas like client training, process automation, contract lifecycle management, and customer relationship management.