“You can’t manage what you don’t measure.
– Peter Drucker, father of modern management theory

“If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.
– Lord Kelvin, famed mathematical physicist and engineer

The B2B selling space has seen a digital transformation in recent years, where the power of data and analytics can no longer be ignored. Data is how you know what is working, areas you can improve, and opportunities for new sales strategies. Everything within the sales organization, from training and forecasting to lead prioritization and sales performance optimization, can be improved with data.

The Value of a Data-Driven Sales Strategy

Sales is becoming more data-driven, and leadership is beginning to consider metrics above and beyond just revenue – they want to measure those activities that are responsible for revenue increases. But 40% of organizations indicate that scattered information and limited visibility into data impair their sales organization, and 56% of sales executives are dissatisfied with their ability to offer valuable data-driven insights (CIO Insights). And in such a competitive space, making decisions (such as sales predictions) that are based on guesswork, gut feeling, hunches, instinct, intuition, or whim just won’t cut it anymore.

Data shows that companies regarding themselves as ‘data-driven’ perform better financially and operationally (i.e. they were more profitable and productive). Because of data, managers 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.

How to Develop a Data-Driven Sales Strategy

A data-driven sales strategy results in more accurate forecasting, more effective sales reps, more objective performance and improvement measures, higher funnel conversion rates, faster revenue growth, smarter decisions, more precise predictions, and improved pipeline visibility. But many companies are unsure of how to proceed with a data-driven sales strategy, or even where to begin.

Follow this 6-step plan to get started!

Step 1: Embrace a data-driven mindset

Recent years have seen an explosion of digital data in the B2B space. The term ‘data-driven’ refers to what data you collect, how you collect it, and then what you do with it once you’ve got it. McKinsey proposes, “To make analytics part of the fabric of daily operations, managers must view it as central to solving problems and identifying opportunities, [as well as] possess the muscle to transform the organization so that data and models actually yield better decisions.”

Data means nothing if you are not willing (or able) to turn it into those actionable insights. Ergo, you need the ability to capture the data, a strategy for how you will use it, and the power to make organizational changes, if merited. Metrics, measurements, and data are essential to keeping the sales team performing at the level needed to hit and even exceed sales goals.

Step 2: Provide access to the right tools

A modern selling strategy requires modern sales tools – those technologies that combine predictive and automated capabilities to permit data-driven efficiencies. An organization cannot be data-driven without having the tooling in place to collect trusted, accurate, and meaningful data. Invest time and money in the resources that will make your sales reps successful. Empower your sales team with the right tools to help them do their job efficiently and effectively. Having the right sales technologies in place to collect and analyze the proper data can quickly uncover opportunities for improvement and allow for more-informed decision making.

Research from SiriusDecisions shows that sales enablement tool spending has jumped 69% in the last 2 years, triggered by the realization that companies can make individual sales contributors significantly more productive without a heavy investment. A sales enablement platform, such as Seismic, aim to align marketing processes and goals and then arm sales teams with the tools and content needed to improve sales execution and drive revenue. Sales leaders can use dashboards to visualize trends and gain valuable insights into sales rep activity. This type of data-driven sales strategy will replicate the behaviors of top performers and help the average performers improve.

Step 3: Establish shared organizational goals

Everybody in the sales organization, from the VP down to the individual sales rep, should share a common vision with buy-in from all employees. What is it that the organization is trying to achieve? What is the end goal? How will the organization hit that goal? Unfortunately, more than half of B2B executives indicate that their employees don’t understand their company’s strategy, according to research from Harvard Business Review (HBR). But, how can you execute on sales strategy without knowing what the goal is?

HBR asserts, “Companies succeed in the big data era not simply because they have more or better data, but because they have leadership teams that set clear goals, define what success looks like, and ask the right questions.” McKinsey continues, “Many initial implementations of big data and analytics fail because they aren’t in sync with a company’s day-to-day processes and decision-making norms”. Indeed, you don’t want to gather data just for data’s sake. Before embarking on any metrics mission, make sure you have a solid understanding of what you are measuring, why it’s important, and how it affects your strategy and sales processes. For it to be effective, leadership must have an idea of how data will help to predict and optimize business outcomes.

Setting a precedence for data can also improve communication across the organization, as well as help employees to build a business case for functions such as new hires, new technology, or different processes. According to HBR, “High-quality data makes it easier for others to follow the decision-makers’ logic and align to the decision”.

Step 4: Offer continuous training and coaching

Less than 45% of companies have a formal sales training process. However, continuous training can yield up to 50% higher net sales per sales rep (Accenture). To be top reps, your team needs to be challenged, educated, and supported through the sales process. Sales reps rely on training, guidance, and coaching to learn how to sell and how to do so effectively.

Data-driven sales coaching can yield results even faster than traditional methods, with a shorter sales cycle and faster rep time-to-productivity, according to Aberdeen. Data-driven sales coaching uses technology to provide dynamic sales training content, to determine which training materials and content are most effective, and to outline best practice next-steps for sales reps. Tools such as sales playbooks allow sales leaders to provide their teams with just-in-time coaching and best practices to ensure they have what they need to further the deal. Information such as talk tracks, training materials, kill sheets, and persona-based selling tips can be instantly accessible to reps for any given sales situation.

Sales leaders can use also use data to identify areas for improvement. For example, you can analyze the conversion rates of sales reps at different stages in the sales funnel. A rep with high conversion rates in the top of the funnel but lower conversion rates in the bottom of the funnel may need additional coaching on closing deals.

Step 5: Empower reps with winning content

Many companies do not have data on the performance of their content, i.e. which pieces are the most viewed, downloaded, engaging, etc. Therefore, it comes at no surprise that over 1/3 of buyers say the content they see is neither relevant nor useful (Content Marketing Institute).

The best way for companies to increase their bottom line is to work smarter; use metrics to determine which pieces of content are most effective in extending the reach of your message and have the greatest success in helping to close deals. Perhaps most importantly, sales and marketing need to maintain a continuous feedback loop. This ‘shareconomy of knowledge’ depends on sharing rather than hoarding both content and feedback.

A sales enablement platform like Seismic can offer insight into what works and where there are gaps in the content library, as well as help marketing to better focus their time and optimize efforts.

Step 6: Make data-driven decisions

Sales leaders have to track the right metrics and then be able to gain actionable insights from that information. With appropriate and relevant data, they can make more informed decisions about sales strategy and sales process.

Sales organizations can derive value from KPIs such as conversion rates, call rates, win rates, marketing collateral usage, average deal size, sales cycle length, and deal response time. Also consider questions such as what content is most effective at progressing deals and generating the highest ROI? How many calls does it take to get a conversation? What talking points are most effective?

These data points are essential for any sales team to understand what factors impact successes and advance sales, how to deliver the right content at the right time, and what changes will improve performance.