Why You Need A Data-Driven Sales Team—And How To Build One

A guest blog by Josh Brown (Marketing at Helpjuice)

Photographer: Marvin Meyer | Source: Unsplash

We’re just gonna come right out and say it:

Sales is a numbers game.

Hold on, hold on… we don’t mean that in the traditional sense.

(In fact, we’d argue that a wide net, “spray and pray” approach to sales definitely isn’t the way to go by today’s standards.)

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What we mean is that, if your goal is to maximize your sales productivity, your first step should be to look to the numbers. This means the myriad data available to your team regarding your customers, your team’s performance, and more.

Your next step: dive in headfirst.

 

1. Defining the Data-Driven Sales Team

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, we need to nail down exactly what it means for a sales team to be “data-driven.”

Let’s start with a more overarching (and admittedly vague) definition:

A data-driven sales team is one that has integrated the analysis and use of data into any and all sales-related processes and activities.

As you might imagine, organizations that have become truly data-driven typically outperform their competition—by a pretty wide margin, too. High-performing sales teams are 3.5 times more likely to have used a data-driven approach than their under-performing counterparts. And companies that have “injected” data into their daily operations are 5% more productive and 6% more profitable than their competition.

Now, there are a few key words we want to call attention to: “integrated” and “injected.” That is, truly data-driven sales teams don’t just “use” data: they find ways to “integrate” and “inject” the data into their daily activities. Essentially they put data at the center of everything they do. For such teams, data and hard evidence is never an afterthought. In fact, it’s more often the catalyst that leads the team to make a certain decision or take a specific action.

In this article, we’ll discuss everything that needs to happen for your sales team to become truly data-driven in its everyday operations.

Before we dig in, though, let’s talk about some of the more specific benefits of becoming data-driven.

 

2. Three Key Advantages of Being Data-Driven

As we just mentioned, data-driven sales teams are more productive and profitable than their under-performing competitors.

But these are really the byproducts of becoming data-driven. You become more productive and efficient not by simply becoming data-driven, but because of what becoming data-driven enables you to do.

Let’s dig a bit deeper into that, shall we?

 

1. Enables Standardized (and Optimized) Sales Processes

Simply put:

Most sales teams and organizations end up wasting a ton of time, money, and energy, because they haven’t truly optimized their various processes.

For starters, sales teams waste a lot of time doing “legwork” rather than actually being productive.

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As the image above shows, nearly one-fifth of the average salesperson’s day is spent searching for pertinent information. Not “putting collected data to use”; just searching for it in the first place.

As we’ll get to a bit later on, one of the first steps to becoming data-driven is creating a central data hub that your sales team (and other employees) can access as needed. The easier it is to find the information they need, the quicker your sales team will be able to get to work.

Another issue that comes along with not being data-driven is that you run the risk of wasting resources without even realizing you’re doing so.

For example, Altify found that an astounding $591 billion is lost in the US (and $1.4 trillion lost worldwide) from sales teams chasing less-than-stellar leads that end up going nowhere. This aligns with data collected by MarketingSherpa showing that only 27% of leads that get passed on to sales are actually qualified leads in the first place.

In such cases, it’s clear that the marketing team’s qualification process differs wildly from the sales team’s processes. Chances are, the data each team is looking at throughout these processes differs just as wildly. Because of this discrepancy, it would simply be impossible for each team to get on the same page moving forward.

However, by centralizing all incoming data (for example, through the use of a CRM)—and collaborating to determine which pieces of information are most vital to a given process—your marketing and sales (and other) teams can begin creating a more systematic approach to creating a funnel that sells.

 

2. Allows Your Sales Team to Get Personal(ized)

On the customer-facing side of things, becoming more data-driven also makes it much easier for your sales team to engage with prospects and customers on a more individual level.

As you probably know, this personalization is becoming more and more in-demand nowadays. According to data collected by Evergage:

  • 63% of consumers think highly of brands that provide personalized and relevant offers and content
  • 77% of consumers choose, recommend, and pay more for brands that provide a more personalized service
  • 78% only engage with offers that are tailored to their needs, based on their history with a brand

For our purposes, here’s the big one: Most consumers are perfectly fine with companies using their private and public data in order to provide them a more personalized experience.

Needless to say, the more data you collect on your prospects and customers—and the more focused you become on what this data actually “means”—the easier it will be for your sales team to engage with them and nurture them toward conversion.

Along with this, a comprehensive collection and understanding of data can take the guesswork out of approaching relatively unknown prospects. For example, in recognizing similarities between a new prospect and your most-valuable customer segment (in terms of persona, behavior, etc.), you’d know exactly what to do at a given point in time in order to get them to convert.

For a prime example of all this in action, look no further than easyJet’s 20th anniversary campaign. Essentially, the travel company used individual customer data, along with automation software, to develop a dynamic email campaign showcasing each customer’s experience with their brand.

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The results were nothing short of outstanding. First of all, the team created and sent out over twelve million unique emails—and saw a massive 100% increase in open rates throughout the campaign. What’s more, the campaign earned a 25% higher click-through rate than easyJet’s typical average.

So…yeah. If your goal is to provide a more personalized experience to your audience, your first step should be to go to the data.

 

3. Unearths Major Opportunities

Earlier, we discussed how being data-driven allows you to recognize and shift away from dead-end leads and the like.

The other side of all this is that you’ll in turn uncover and recognize a treasure trove of opportunities you may have otherwise overlooked.

Again, it all comes down to personalization, and offering exactly what a specific consumer wants at just the right time. A few examples:

  • Knowing which exact product or products a new prospect would find valuable
  • Providing upsell and cross-sell offers to customers based on current and past purchases
  • Sending timely reminders and further offers to recurring customers leading up to their average time of purchase

In each of these scenarios, data is at the center of the sales team’s ability to follow through.

Without a huge focus on data, the team might:

  • Lose sales by showcasing products that aren’t best-fit for specific prospects
  • Miss out on additional revenue by overlooking upsell and cross-sell opportunities
  • Risk losing recurring customers by leaving their return up to chance

Obviously, you want to avoid these scenarios as much as possible. A sharp focus on data will make any and all opportunities clear as day to your sales team.

When it comes down to it, becoming more data-driven is just good for business:

  • Streamlined processes ensure maximum efficiency and resource usage
  • Personalized engagements lead to increased conversions
  • Enhanced data visibility shines a light on major sales opportunities

Now that we know all this, the question becomes:

How do we become more data-driven within our own organizations?

 

3. Building a Data-Driven Sales Team

As we made clear earlier, there’s a huge difference between merely collecting and using data in a more surface-level manner, and truly integrating data into your overall operations and processes.

Here, we’ll dive into all that goes into creating a sales team (and overall organization) that is truly driven by data.

Without further ado, let’s dive in.

 

1. Facilitate a Cultural and Organizational Shift

If your team isn’t on board with the shift, it’s simply not going to happen.

There are a number of things you need to do to generate this buy-in amongst your sales team.

First, it’s essential that you frame this discussion in terms of what it means for them. As we talked about earlier, this is all about becoming more productive and efficient—and overall more successful in their efforts as salespeople.

On that same token, it’s also important that you explain why becoming more data-driven will allow your sales team to become more successful. Tap into some of the frustrations your team likely has revolving around data (or lack thereof), such as miscommunication, down time, and wasted opportunities—and show your sales team exactly how a focus on data will help alleviate these pain points moving forward.

Finally, in terms of cultural shift, you’ll want your team to begin operating with a “data first” mindset. That is, your sales team should begin looking to data to inform the next decision they make—not to retroactively rationalize decisions that have already been made. While this might sound like mere semantics, the reality is that taking a “data first” approach to sales will all but ensure your sales team focuses on making improvements that actually matter.

Now, in addition to the cultural and mental shift that must occur throughout your sales team, you’ll also likely need to facilitate a shift in how your sales team interacts with your organization’s other departments.

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First, you need to be sure cross-team communication and collaboration is possible, let alone practical. Obviously, if it’s too difficult—or actually impossible—for your sales team to communicate with your marketing and other departments, it’s just not going to happen.

Once cross-team communication is possible throughout your organization, you need to ensure it actually happens—and is done so correctly. Basically, this means systematizing what data and information certain teams are responsible for communicating to whom at certain points in the sales funnel.

We’ll get more into this in a bit, but for now just know that the better your sales and marketing teams communicate, the more aligned they’ll become. By focusing on and communicating the data and information that really makes a difference, each team will gain a more consistent understanding of what a “qualified lead” really is. In turn, your sales team will be able to nurture these high-probability candidates through the sales funnel with relative ease.

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But, again, none of this is possible unless you facilitate the shift throughout your organization.

 

2. Define and Prioritize “Quality” Data

We’ve danced around this topic throughout this article, but let’s lay it right out there:

Part of being truly data-driven is knowing that some data is simply more valuable than other pieces of information. In that same vein, it’s also in knowing how to discern a so-called “vanity metric” from a metric that truly matters to your company’s bottom line in some way or another.

Of course, if you don’t have a specific definition or criteria for what your team considers “quality data,” you’re going to run into problems pretty quickly. As we alluded to earlier, if your marketing team is passing through leads based on one set of data, and your sales team is looking at something completely different, there’s little chance that those prospects will end up converting.

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As shown above, a lack of focus on data quality can actually be the reason a business shuts up shop for good. On the other hand, companies that do focus on data quality tend to experience a major growth in sales.

Now, for our purposes, there are two overarching types of data to focus on, here:

  • Customer-related data
  • Employee and team performance data

In terms of customer-related data, we’re talking about segmentation and persona information, combined with a specific customer’s individual history with your company.

To be sure, each piece of information you collect on a given customer is important in some way or another. However, it’s important to explicitly define and prioritize specific data to be used at given points in time for sales-related purposes. Not only will it ensure consistency between your marketing and sales teams, but it will also ensure your sales team has exactly what they need to make an informed decision regarding a specific prospect.

In defining these data points, you’ll want to consider a variety of questions such as:

  • What data does the marketing team collect that the sales team needs to know?
  • When scoring leads, what information should you put the most weight on?
  • How will having x piece of data affect the sales team’s approach?

We’ve said it before:

The more aligned your various teams are in terms of being data-driven, the more productive your sales team can be.

Speaking of that, the other side of defining “quality” data is in looking at the performance of your sales team overall.

Again, our focus here is on the metrics that truly make a difference to the overall productivity and efficiency of your business. More specifically, we’re looking at data points such as:

  • Lead Conversion Rate: Obviously, a salesperson’s job is to make sales. If their overall conversion rate is relatively low, you’ll need to dig deeper to determine where the leak occurs, and what the problem actually is.
  • Sales Cycle Length: Simply put, the longer it takes your team to make a sale, the less time they have to focus on making other sales. Similarly to the above, it’s important to get granular in determining what, exactly, needs to be improved to shorten an all-too-lengthy sales cycle.
  • Average Order Value: The probably goes without saying, but the more your sales team can sell at a single time, the better off your business will be. Digging into changes in AOV and other related metrics will give you better insight into what, specifically, presses your target customers’ buying button.

Again, this isn’t to say these are the only metrics that matter; far from it, in fact. The point is that you need to define the metrics that tell a more overarching story about a certain aspect of your business, then dig deeper to decipher the details. The more granular you get, the more information you’ll have on-hand to make improvements in the future.

You can keep track of these exact metrics and more using a CRM like Salesflare. Check out our product tour for more info.

 

3. Integrate Tools and Technology

Hey, you didn’t think you’d be tracking all this data by hand, did you?

All kidding aside, technology is essentially at the heart of your ability to collect and use all this information in the first place.

While there are, of course, a plethora of tools and software to choose from to serve your data-driven needs, you’ll at least want to invest in the following:

  • Customer Data Scrapers, such as Datanyze Insider, enable you to quickly collect customer information from various databases with ease. You can then parse your collected list based on specific criteria for further customer research.
  • Customer Relationship Management software like Salesflare make it easy to keep track of customer profiles and track engagements with prospects throughout their personal buyer’s journey. The more information collected and stored within your CRM, the more personalized your sales team’s approach can be.
  • Knowledge Bases such as Helpjuice allow you to create, store, and share important information regarding processes, products, and other internal data. You can also create customer-facing knowledge bases, allowing your customers to engage further with your company, and get more value out of your products.
  • Sales Performance Trackers like Ambition make it easy for your team to assess the effectiveness of their sales processes on both a macro and micro level. In turn, your team can focus on making specific improvements that will allow them to operate more efficiently.

The “best” software for your company depends on your company’s current needs, bandwidth, and other such factors. Before you commit to using any one specific tool or service, make sure you’ve found the one that will integrate most seamlessly into your operations, and that will provide the most value in return.

 

4. Make Continuous Improvements

As you can probably tell, shifting toward becoming more data-driven isn’t something that will happen to your sales team overnight.

And, in a sense, it’s not something that ever fully “happens,” at all. That is, there will always be ways for your team to become more data-driven, and to become more efficient and effective in their overall processes, as well.

The good news is:

The more data-driven you become, the easier it will be to become even more data-driven.

For one thing, once your sales team begins to see the positive impact of becoming more data-driven, they’ll inherently want to dive deeper into this “new way” of doing things. Soon enough, your sales team will begin seeing this “new way” will as the normal and natural mode of operating.

With this increased buy-in from your sales team, making continuous improvements will essentially become part of the process, overall. The truly data-driven sales team not only understands the importance of injecting and integrating data into their processes, but they also begin to think critically about how to best do so, as well.

As you look to make improvements, you’ll want to think about the answers to questions such as:

  • How has becoming more data-driven enabled us to improve in xyz area?
  • Which pieces of data have we determined to be most essential or informative in improving in xyz area?
  • What other data or insights might we be able to use to further improve in xyz area?

Of course, these questions are merely jumping off points to help your team dig deeper into a specific process or area. Needless to say, your line of inquiry will differ greatly depending on your area of focus.

Regardless of your focus, though, with data at the heart of your inquiry, you’ll easily be able to dig up the information needed to make your next steps crystal clear.

A little about Josh:
Josh Brown is part of the marketing team at Helpjuice. Helpjuice provides easy-to-use and fully customizable knowledge bases designed from the ground up to help you scale your customer support and collaborate better with your team.

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