You’ve heard the hype: Big Data and the potential insight generated from more, and more granular, information about customers and partners will help generate targeted and executable strategies, improved decision making and, ultimately, superior sales force performance.
At least that’s the promise. As it was for each new “big” sales innovation: solution or value-based selling, sales force automation (SFA), CRM, mobility, etc.
The reality: Each of these innovations has become ubiquitous across sales organizations and the competitive advantage offered has either gone unrealized (because of misalignment with strategy or poor implementation or execution) or has been quickly matched (and sometimes surpassed) due to better execution.
A mastery of the fundamentals of sales force effectiveness, and the ability to implement leading best practices, is required to take full advantage of insight as a sales effectiveness driver. Otherwise, the only fulfilled promise will be that salespeople will feel overwhelmed, or disillusioned by the “silver bullet” of Big Data. Our point of view is that Big Data—and the potential for increased insight—can offer competitive advantage under these three conditions.
1. The insight generated must be believable, delivered consistently and at the right time and in the right context to drive action specific to the individual salesperson's situation.
As noted in our Sales Force Insights blog, Big Data must arm salespeople with invaluable information to be successful. This information must then empower salespeople to make smarter decisions—from selecting which customers to target and determining which offers maximize value for each customer to how to spend their overall time. In particular, Big Data must help the salesperson understand the best way to engage the customer: how do they learn, shop and buy and who are key influencers, etc.
2. The salesperson must be coached, or better yet apprenticed, on how to take full advantage of the insight to improve customer and partner engagement.
The secret sauce for gaining full advantage of Big Data (and other sales innovations—value-based selling, CRM, mobility) is really not a secret at all. It’s at the core of each winning sales organization, but often a forgotten or underinvested resource: the first-line sales manager (FLM). In fact, as our founders point out in Building a Winning Sales Management Team: The Force Behind the Sales Force, winning sales organizations get extraordinary returns by appropriately investing in FLMs to help them become exceptional people and customer and business managers.
3. Truly effective sales teams must determine the most important drivers of sales effectiveness to meet growth objectives.
Some organizations take on too much because they haven’t prioritized the two or three most critical productivity drivers for growth. In other cases, sales organizations address the wrong area because their leaders focus on what everyone else is doing versus what they should be doing to meet their company’s growth objectives. These organizations focus on the new big thing (Big Data?) versus the most important thing that may not have created as much buzz.