Sellers that don’t have good data will struggle to repeat their success so we must recognize the importance of data in sales.
Kyle Morris operates a company called SifData which features an application that sits on Salesforce to help companies track job changes.
Sales reps are very intuitive. They understand things well and many people assume that anecdotes and data are the same. They assume that, because they closed a deal with a company similar to the one they are interacting with, the information constitutes data. Because a tactic worked previously, they may assume that they can use that information as data moving forward.
In other words, they assume that if a tactic worked once, it’s solid and they should continue using it.
Kyle points out that the plural of anecdote isn’t data. We must stay objective and make decisions based upon actual information rather than sticking our finger to the wind to determine which way it’s blowing.
Data is objective information about people, companies, or whatever your data set is that helps you make informed decisions. One of the easiest ways to identify the companies that could buy your product is by identifying the companies that have already bought your product. Figure out what’s common among them and then use that as a template to decide who to sell to in the future. If you’re selling to companies that are unique, you might find another market that also has that same commonality.
The two biggest problems common to data are that companies use data sources that are inconsistent and that they have too much data that isn’t actually valuable.
Consider Uber as an example. If you’re trying to sell to Uber, some sellers might consider it enterprise while others view it as mid-market since they only have a couple of thousand employees. LinkedIn might reflect that the company has 35,000 employees, including drivers. If companies aren’t careful about where they are choosing data, it can create confusion.
Be consistent about where you get data, even if it isn’t perfect, because you’ll at least be consistently wrong. Limit the number of resources you use to make classifications, especially for things like territories or number of employees or revenue.
Many CRMs have a full page of information that reps never use. It doesn’t add value and it actually becomes a burden to them. Approach this with the same mentality you use when designing your website: what’s above the fold is critically different than what’s below the fold. It’s impactful where things are placed, and if reps have a bunch of unnecessary information at the top of the form it burdens them.
If the reps don’t absolutely need it, then remove it. Streamline your process. Develop a discipline around reducing the amount of noise that your reps see based on the information they need. If the data won’t actually impact how they work through the sales process, it should be removed since it won’t actually move the needle.
Donald Miller says that if you confuse, you lose. We cannot confuse our reps. If we do, they’ll likely go back to what they’ve always done before, which is guesstimation.
Imagine driving a truck built in 1965 versus a fighter jet built in 2019. The truck likely has a stick shift and two buttons for the radio, so almost any person can use it to get from point A to point B. Put that same person in a fighter jet with a million buttons and they won’t understand how to move forward.
Sales reps must be able to execute and they shouldn’t be asked to fly a fighter jet if all they really need is a 1965 Chevy.
Additionally, more data points mean that some operator has to maintain those fields. You must make sure the information is accurate because inaccurate data will make your CRM less valuable. Again, if that happens, your reps will start using anecdotes to make decisions again.
All those unnecessary fields will prompt your reps to fill them in, which will become cumbersome. If it isn’t a useful data point, they may just plug something in to fill the blank so they can move on. Your reps must be able to trust the fields that are on the page.
Make the process simple and easy to engage. Remove as much as you can from the page layout so that your reps are only interacting with data that moves the needle.
Everything can’t be critical. You can’t have 10 tier-one problems with no tier-two problems. You cannot cry wolf and represent that everything is vital.
Kyle recalls his operations team once telling him that they needed a new field to be added to the CRM. He insisted that the team could add one field if they could identify two that could be removed. He said that it forces them to be intentional about the information they gather.
Words are currency. You must make sure the process is easy. Find ways to break down barriers.
Kyle said he’s a fan of using very specific people in very specific roles. Sales reps are most effective at building rapport, identifying pain and need, and closing deals.If you’re using your sales reps to collect data, you’re probably spending more money for it than you need to. And just as you would never ask your data-entry person to close deals, you probably shouldn’t ask your sellers to crunch data.
Businesses may think they are being efficient by asking sellers to multi-task. They may figure the seller is already going to be on the site anyway so he can just collect the data. Consider the brain change that must take place in that situation. Sales reps must change their entire thought process in order to shift gears into data collection.
Switching back and forth can be tedious because it requires different muscles. Allow the people who are better at data to handle data.
Every minute your seller isn’t selling results in money down the drain. Keep your opportunity costs in mind.
Establish a process to refresh your data. As your company continues to accumulate accounts, you must track which ones are good or bad. Make it part of your cadence and establish a date on which you’ll refresh data.
Consider hiring a team overseas to log into your Salesforce and identify the accounts that haven’t been updated in the past year and then refresh the data. Then track when the fields were updated.
Also monitor duplicate accounts in your CRM which pollute your database. But before you can start eliminating duplicate accounts, you must work to ensure that you’ve prevented the problem of new duplicates. Duplicates create more mental overhead for your reps because two reps may be unknowingly working on the same account at the same time. It’s wasted energy that could be focused toward closing.
Don’t assume that anecdotes and data are the same thing. Be sure, too, that you pick a single source of truth and stick with it. There’s no perfect data source, but at least be consistently imperfect. Allow your sellers to trust what they are working on.
“Importance of Data in Sales” episode resources
You can connect with Kyle Morris on LinkedIn or send him an email at Kyle@sifdata.com.
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