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CEO and Co-Founder at RevenueGrid.com.
We’ve been talking about big data for almost a decade, but it’s taken until the past few years for automated data collection to finally make its way to sales.
As it replaces manual data entry, sales organizations are facing rivers of new data, but data alone doesn’t bring value. In response, sales operations and revenue operations roles are becoming prevalent as organizations take on the challenge of analyzing sales and marketing data to optimize selling. But that won’t be enough.
Sales and rev ops guide high-level goals and strategy. To see real transformation, organizations will have to move further, taking data out of an advisory, supplementary role and putting it in the driver’s seat. That means informing everyday decision making on the front line with insights that help win deals, increase deal size, reduce churn and accelerate deal cycles.
That sets up two major tasks: developing insights and delivering insights.
What’s At Stake
So, what do sales organizations at the beginning of their digitization journey stand to gain from scaffolding decision making with data-based insights? According to the research, a lot:
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• In a 2019 survey, Deloitte found that, “Organizations with the strongest cultural orientation to data-driven insights and decision-making were twice as likely to have significantly exceeded business goals.”
•A McKinsey survey of 2,500 B2B companies found that, “Those willing to shake up their sales models and embrace next-generation capabilities are growing revenue at twice the rate of GDP.”
• Accenture says, “A recent study revealed that digital leaders (the top 10% of companies leading technology innovation) achieve 2–3x revenue growth as compared to their competitors.”
The list goes on. All major research organizations agree: Those that dive into this new data-driven era and commit to excellent execution are racing ahead while laggards fall behind.
How To Get It Done
“OK,” you’re thinking, “how do I go about making such a fundamental change in my organization?”
The first thing to recognize is that technology is core to digital transformation in sales or any other department. As businesses go digital, business strategies and technology strategies are starting to merge. That means that achieving specific goals requires specific tools — a company’s tech stack determines its capabilities.
Top companies prove this trend. Companies with the highest levels of digital transformation and revenue growth have digital and corporate strategies that are closely linked. In short, keeping the tech stack on the cutting edge is no longer about “keeping up with the Joneses”; rather, it’s becoming a competitive necessity.
Sales is no different. There are no data-driven sales without powerful technology to mediate between human workers and an ocean of inscrutable data. So, what’s the strategy-tool pair that will revamp the sales org? Digital coaching with guided selling is one path to success.
We mentioned that there were two major necessities to drive sales with data: developing insights and delivering them.
Digital coaching with guided selling addresses both. Collected data is analyzed with AI to find patterns that drive wins and losses, then those insights are turned into contextual guidance. Individual sellers receive in-time coaching about the deals they’re working on to improve outcomes.
Just as the research indicates, digital coaching blends methodology and technology. Sales managers and leaders get powerful tools and analytics to boost their in-person coaching, their teams get AI-based guidance that requires little time investment from leadership, and coaching and training are reinforced with automated reminders for maximum retention. As a result, incremental skill improvements, eliminated human error and more informed moment-to-moment decision making drive more wins and faster deal cycles.
Depending on the organization you work in, coaching may be a vague, legacy expectation or even a politically-loaded term.
But think about it, everything that frontline sellers do (or don’t do) has an impact on revenue generated. Abraham Lincoln said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I’ll spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Frontline reps are the proverbial axe of revenue generation. Coaching is the whetstone.
Sharpen reps’ skills and connect them to effortless, real-time insights, and you’ll have better odds in every deal; but leave them dull, and you’ll continue making blunt strikes on every swing.
The numbers don’t lie: Companies that lead in revenue generation “ensure that top managers are top coaches, with structures and incentives that make this possible,” according to McKinsey. They commit to 79% more coaching than their competitors, and they’re 57% more likely to tailor their learning programs to individual sellers, improving specific skills and strengthening weaknesses.
Better coaching builds better sellers and better sellers sell more — it’s that simple.
Sounds great: Get the tools, sharpen the axe, go to town on the money tree, right? Well, as you’ve no doubt guessed, it’s not that easy.
We’ve already seen hints of the biggest roadblock. Remember how strategy and technology are becoming inextricably linked? There’s one more link in the chain: successfully implementing strategy is deeply dependent on culture.
As Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” For data in sales, this hits hard.
Sales is traditionally experience- and intuition-based rather than analytical and data-driven, and many sales leaders and executives of today earned their chops in an experience-based world. Buy-in from those executives is key to success. Companies where the CEO champions the use of analytics are 77% more likely to significantly exceed their goals and 59% more likely to turn the analytics they’re tracking into actionable insights.
But those companies are a minority compared with 67% of leadership from the same survey who admitted that they’re uncomfortable accessing and using data from their tech stack. Pushing new tools and strategy on the bottom of the sales org alone is not enough. An effective transformation must start at the top. Sales leaders and executives have to commit to change and join in for reskilling.
It’s a big task, but the rewards are great. To circle back to the statistics, excellent data usage could double your revenue.
Data collection is history. Set your sights on actionable sales insights.