The words “sales data strategy” can seem overwhelming to even the most seasoned sales executives. The right sales data strategy can provide sales leaders, managers, and salespeople with insights to make more informed decisions and drive better results.
A sales data strategy is a documented plan that provides a structured framework for sales organizations to effectively manage and use data to proactively make better decisions. But through my years of experience and research into the sales performance and habits of hundreds of organizations across the U.S., I can tell you this: a sales data strategy should include technology, but it should not be about technology.
It’s not something you just toss to IT to manage – sales data is a business problem supported by IT. It starts with sales and executive leaders taking end-to-end ownership of sales data, and deciding what data and reporting are important and making the systems work in a way that enables the sales organization to excel.
To better understand the data challenges that organizations face, Performance Insights partnered with a number of industry experts to research the sales performance and habits of 300 banks (more than 3,800 branches). We combined the analysis with dozens of interviews with sales executives and IT leaders. Here are some of our findings.
Sales stack growing, data trust shrinking
Having access to data is one thing – having trust in the available data is another. Without a well-thought-out approach to ensuring data quality across the systems in your sales tech stack, confidence in the data can suffer. These challenges lead to an erosion in support for a more comprehensive data strategy, making it more difficult for the organization to take even minor steps forward.
Our research found that barely one in five organizations agreed that their sales tech stack effectively addresses selling challenges, while the confidence level in the sales tech stack data (including the customer relationship management system) was only marginally higher.
One key to having quality data is to have a sales CRM that salespeople actually use. Accurate data is the starting point to developing comprehensive solutions that can help take financial institutions to the next level of sales performance.
Data ownership and other issues
Making sense of all the data in multiple systems is not easy – it takes a lot of time and effort to aggregate data from the sales tech stack and connect all the dots.
To resolve these challenges, sales leadership needs to think differently about data – who owns it, how to maintain it, and how to use it, along with what to measure and how to measure it. From our research and interviews, certain key elements are found in a well-defined sales data strategy:
- Executive ownership: For sales data to be a strategic asset, your data strategy cannot be delegated. Executive sales leadership must own data strategy data from end to end;
- Business rationale: Executive sales leaders should first identify which business problems they are trying to solve. This will determine what data is needed to compile and calculate the required insights, and drive organizational alignment around what to measure and how to use the data;
- Structured approach: With so much data from so many sources, organizations need a structured approach to store the data, manage its quality and integrate it into the sales stack;
- Monitoring and fine-tuning: A final, critical step is to establish mechanisms that allow for continuous monitoring and refining of the sales data strategy. This involves setting up a data-governance committee comprising cross-functional leadership.
Change always begins at the top
As sales organizations introduce new technologies, the amount of data they collect increases exponentially. Executive sales leadership needs to develop clear strategies for how best to use these data to drive their sales organizations to greater success. This begins with taking end-to-end ownership of sales data and partnering with IT.
It is important to note here that “taking ownership” does not equate to being an executive sponsor for an initiative or project. It simply means being invested every step of the way – being 100 percent engaged not only in defining the strategy, but also in driving alignment to make decisions, communicating within the organization, and staying on top of monitoring to make necessary strategy adjustments.
Buy-in and the effective use of data strategy won’t happen overnight. It is a change journey for everyone that will require a change management plan. Demonstrating commitment with words and actions is the surest path to success.
Ron Buck is founder and CEO of Performance Insights, a company designing and implementing sales transformations at financial institutions.
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