Top 12 World-Class Sales Practices | Data Strategy for Sales

With an ever-growing sales technology landscape, making sense of available sales data can be challenging for sales organizations without a well-thought-out data strategy for sales. As highlighted in our 2018 Sales Operations Optimization Study, on average, organizations use 10 different sales technologies, with four more planned within the next 12 months. With each system housing its own data, process and system integration as well as data flow considerations need to be taken into account if organizations want to use data more strategically as an asset.

Only 30% of participants in our recent 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study said they have a clear strategy for leveraging data as an asset for their organizations. However, for those we identified as World-Class in the study (organizations that excelled at all of the Top 12 World-Class Sales Practices), this was a much more common practice (88%). To read more about the Top 12 practices, click here.

Before we explain what we mean by sales data strategy, we first need to take a look at how we define data. According to BusinessDictionary.com, data is defined as “Information in raw or unorganized form.” The keywords here are raw and unorganized. Data without context for what you want to use it for is raw. And it’s unorganized if you don’t know what analysis to compile because you aren’t clear on what you want to use it for.

So what does it mean to have a data strategy? If you answered this question with, “We pull reports and compile analyses and use them to review sales performance, go-to-market, etc.” or “We already have sales operations and IT manage data quality and system integrations,” then you are missing the mark.

A sales data strategy is a documented plan that provides a structured framework for sales organizations to effectively manage and use data so that they can compile insights to make data-driven business decisions. And it starts with executive sales leadership owning it end to end.

World-Class Organizations have executive sales leaders take ownership of data strategy for sales, instead of managing it as a problem for IT or sales operations to solve. (Click to tweet)

With the complexity that comes with a growing sales tech environment, executive sales leaders need to take a more proactive role in defining a clear strategy around how their sales organizations will use the available data.

Here are four things to keep in mind as you look to define a clear strategy for leveraging data as an asset for your sales organization:

#1. Before you start building reports, know what business problem you are trying to solve. (Click to tweet) Having a report without a valid context in which to use it is like having a list of ingredients without knowing what it’s for. Executive sales leaders should first identify the business problem they are trying to solve with data. This, in turn, will determine what data is needed, what analysis needs to be compiled, how to use the new insights, and what technology and resource investments might be required to pull it all together. It starts with executive sales leaders determining how to use available data so that the organization can make proactive decisions to help solve its business problems.

#2. CRM may not be the only data source that you need. (Click to tweet) Depending on the business problem you are trying to solve, the analysis you need to compile will vary and, as a result, so will the data you need. While CRM is most commonly the “source of truth” for sales data, there may be data you need that also resides in other systems. Sales operations can help determine what systems the data is stored on, including – but not limited to – CRM. For example, if you need to compile analysis on a “customer,” depending on how you define “customer,” marketing, customer success teams and even finance may have pieces of what you need. So don’t presume all of the data you need is in CRM alone; look beyond sales.

#3. Clarify roles and responsibilities around data management. (Click to tweet) Data management is an important part of using data as an asset. It focuses on the day-to-day management of available data (i.e., data entry, updates, cleansing and augmentation), and having clarity on who is responsible for data management is critical, as there may be multiple functions involved depending on what data you need and where it is stored. Looking at where the data is stored is a good starting point to find out who owns it and distinguish it from who needs it and uses it.

For example, customer contact information resides in CRM, so the primary owner and user is sales. But if the CRM is connected to a MAP, then marketing also is a user of the data and owner of the customer data captured in MAP. And if CRM is used as a support system or connected to a client success system, then support and client success teams also are part of the user and owner groups. Differentiating who owns, needs and uses the data you need will help clarify data management roles and responsibilities – who captures it, who updates it and who maintains it.

#4. Identify technology and resource gaps that need to be addressed. (Click to tweet) As you start your journey toward defining a clear data strategy for sales, make sure you identify technology and resource gaps you might have. Too often, organizations either hesitate or delay getting started because of limitations in technology or resources, or they start their change journey without accounting for how to address those limitations. Being clear on the gaps or limitations across technology and resources and developing a change plan to address them will not only ensure you can uphold your data strategy for the long term, but it also will determine how long it might take and set appropriate expectations with your organization. Without taking gaps and limitations into account, organizations will be challenged to continue the momentum and sustain it on an ongoing basis.

 

While it’s tempting to assume that data strategy is within the purview of the IT department, World-Class Organizations view it as the responsibility of executive sales leadership. (Click to tweet) They are clear on what business problems they want to solve and have a structured approach to managing and leveraging data so that it is an asset – not just raw and unorganized information – for their sales organization.

 

Questions for you:

  • Do you have a clearly documented plan for how you want to use available data as an asset for your sales organization?
  • Who is responsible for defining a sales data strategy at your organization? Is it IT, sales operations or executive sales leadership?
  • When was the last time you looked at what reports are available, who is using them and for what? Are you clear on the business problem you want to solve with the help of the reports?

 

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