This post was written by Shelley Cernel of Knowledge Tree, a solution designed to help Marketing and Sales Enablement teams efficiently create, discover, and recommend winning content that sales reps need.

The sales environment is in a constant state of change, and it’s become increasingly important that B2B companies adapt and keep up with the competition. With this pressure to perform, the power of data-driven sales and analytics can no longer be ignored, and decisions based on guesswork, intuition, or whim just won’t cut it anymore.

What Does it Mean to be “Data-Driven”?

The term “data-driven” is buzzing around a lot these days, and is often an indicator of a forward-thinking, innovative company. But is your organization actually driven by data?

The term “data-driven” refers to what data you collect, how you collect it, and what you do with it post-analysis. It means intentionally and deliberately gathering and utilizing data throughout the organization, and then using this information to guide decision-making. It’s not to be confused with “data-influenced” or “data-informed,” where you merely have data for data’s sake, or where you’re aware of the numbers but aren’t always using them to advise your processes and strategies.

Being data-driven isn’t just a passing trend – it is an enduring mindset that can have valuable impact on an organization. Studies show that companies who regard themselves as “data-driven” are both more profitable and more productive. Data-driven sales processes result in more precise forecasting, more effective sales reps, more objective performance measures, higher funnel conversion rates, faster revenue growth, and improved pipeline visibility.


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The Data Problem

You may already collect vast amounts of data on a weekly — or even daily — basis, across almost every aspect of business operations. But one of the greatest problems organizations have is that this data is siloed within individual departments, limiting knowledge-sharing and cross-departmental correlations, making it difficult to extract meaningful insights.

These data silos develop because, traditionally, each department has its own responsibilities, priorities, and goals with different metrics and KPIs. According to Dun & Bradstreet, 80% of organizations report high or moderate degrees of data silos, and only 38% of organizations share insights outside their department. But that’s all changing now that organizations are increasingly working toward a common goal.

To be truly data-driven, organizations need to connect these chunks of information and interpret them simultaneously, producing a multi-dimensional perspective of business operations. Sales and marketing, in particular, need to maintain a close and continuous feedback loop, with better alignment and relationships across the organization, as well as cost savings from improved efficiency.

Steps to Developing Data-Driven Sales Processes

Data is how a company knows what’s working, what’s not, and where there are opportunities for improvement. Everything within the sales organization, from training and lead prioritization, to forecasting and sales performance optimization, can be perfected with data. But many companies aren’t sure where to begin when developing a data-driven sales process.

1) Cultivate a data-driven culture.

Data on its own can only take an organization so far – it requires people to take action and drive change. That means having leadership teams to set clear goals, define success, and ask the right questions. What’s the organization trying to achieve? What’s the end goal? How will the organization hit that goal? This means having a common vision, with commitment from all employees, top-down and bottom-up.

A data-driven culture requires the attitudes, beliefs, and actions of employees to promote habits and processes based on data, and an integration into day-to-day activities. Cultures that buy into data and analytics are proven to drive high-performance organizations.

2) Invest in the proper technology.

With the speed at which companies operate today, and the vast amounts of data collected, it’s imperative to have the technology to deliver accurate insights in a timely manner in order to extract the greatest value from the information. As such, organizations need to invest in the infrastructure to support their data initiatives; they cannot be data-driven without having the tech in place to collect trusted, accurate, and meaningful data. In particular, organizations need technologies that combine predictive and automated capabilities to permit data-driven efficiencies and integrations throughout the various departments.

Insights from dialers and email tools help uncover the best times to make phone calls or send communications in order to optimize communication efforts. And sales enablement technologies align marketing processes and goals, arming sales teams with the tools and content needed to improve sales execution and drive revenue. Sales leaders can then use dashboards to visualize trends and gain valuable insights around rep activity, eventually helping to drive a sales process where the behaviors of top performers can be replicated.

3) Develop a game plan.

Having technologies that compile data doesn’t mean organizations automatically know how to act intelligently with that information, nor does the mere desire to be data-driven. Before beginning any data initiative, you need to have a clear understanding of what metrics you’re tracking, why they’re important, and how they will guide your sales strategy.

First, define your sales processes, identify what KPIs you’re measuring, and determine how you’ll use this data to optimize business outcomes and drive change. What questions do you want answered? What problems do you want solved? Second, determine how you’ll organize the data and make it accessible and utilizable for other departments, like marketing.

4) Implement data-driven sales coaching to guide reps.

Data-driven sales guidance uses technology to provide dynamic sales training content and just-in-time coaching, determine which materials and content are most effective, recommend best practices to sales reps, and outline next-steps to advance a deal. Sales leaders can use the data collected by these tools to identify areas for improvements and optimizations throughout the purchase process.

Compared to traditional methods, data-driven sales coaching can yield faster results, with a shorter sales cycle and quicker rep time-to-productivity.

5) Make data-driven decisions.

Data means nothing if you’re not willing to turn it into action for new business. But because of data, sales leaders have greater insight into the state of business than ever before and can use that information to make informed decisions about next steps for the company. When leveraged appropriately, data and technology can help you scale your sales operations via repeatable methods and continuous improvements and optimizations. Data-driven sales insights allow leadership to be proactive rather than reactive by enabling informed, evidence-based decision-making about sales strategy and sales process.

Sales organizations can derive value from KPIs like marketing collateral usage, call rates, conversion rates, win rates, average deal size, and sales cycle length. These data points are key to understanding what factors impact the advancement of deals, how to deliver relevant content at the right time, and what changes will improve overall performance.

SalesLoft Analytics, for example, gives real-time insights into how reps are performing and what actions they took to get there. This transparency of data allows leadership to better understand the sales funnel, improve forecasting accuracy, and scale effective processes.

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