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How Data Can Help You Build and Manage a Sales Organization

Meet Charles he’s got a big job to do. The problem: how do you build and manage a high-performing sales organization the right way?

It’s a medium-sized computer software company, around 50 employees. About three months ago Charles was headhunted to come in as the new Chief Operations Officer. He was recruited with a very specific purpose: build and manage a high-performing sales organization.

And therein lies the problem. Growing a sales organization is more than just a matter of hiring more salespeople, it’s about looking at the big picture and ensuring that your sales organization is growing the right way. For Charles, this meant discovering a way to grow the sales organization without compromising performance or cutting corners. Simply hiring more salespeople can actually hurt growth and compromise future performance if the overall structure of the sales organization is bad to begin with. According to Micheline Nimjeh “Sales reps spend nearly two-thirds of their time on activities that don’t generate new deals. As sales leaders grow their team, maximizing rep productivity is a key priority to avoid losing lost opportunities.”

So how was Charles supposed to ensure that he didn’t perpetuate the unsuccessful practices of the past while still growing a high performance team? The answer lies in the artful use of data. If you are like Charles and are tasked with growing a sales organization but aren’t sure the best way to go about it, read on.

Data analysis can show you how to grow effectively

Charles began to solve his problems by doing what any competent C-Level would do: he dove into the information. He spent hours analyzing sales reports, market analysis, individual performance reviews and historical data from the company to find the best practices to build and manage the sales organization effectively. But this is where he hit another snag: he is spending too much of his time reading reports. And it’s understandable- there are hundreds of them coming from all different directions. The company’s CRM gathers some, but marketing has more. He has a hard time digesting all of the information and making important connections. He is stressed because he fears missing a line on a buried spreadsheet that holds the actionable intelligence he needs to spot the problem areas that are hurting his bottom line. All the while the clock is ticking and he brings more and more of his work home with him. 

And Charles isn’t alone- plenty of CEOs are drowning in data. According to Forbes, “on average, companies use only a fraction of the data they collect and store.” As a result, “many companies risk becoming data rich but insight poor. They accumulate vast stores of data they have no idea what to do with, and no hope of learning anything useful from.” That is exactly what Charles’ real problem is- he has plenty of data, but no insights into it. It simply takes him too long to get anything actionable out of the data, and as a result his company’s sales continue to suffer, forcing him to rely on outdated methods.

So how does Charles solve his problem and start using data analysis to grow his sales organization?

Use a comprehensive, actionable data analysis tool

The answer to Charles’ problem is easier than he is making it, and it starts with understanding the state his sales organization is in right now. But, instead of meticulously analyzing reports for hours on end, Charles can work smarter by using the right tool for the job.

But which is the right tool? According to small business expert Kate Gluck these tools “must be a comprehensive, actionable repository of valuable client and prospect information.” And therein lies the most important part: comprehensive and actionable. In order to be of the most use in growing a sales organization the data analysis tool you use must gather data from all of your sources and then analyze and present it in a way that anyone can understand and use to improve.

A comprehensive approach links revenue and performance data

But why does Charles’ data need to be comprehensive, gathering all of the available data sources into a single source of information? Because if he wants to grow his sales organization in the right way then he is going to need to identify the crucial link between revenue and performance data. That way, when growing his sales organization, he can look at the big picture and identify how marketing moves downstream to affect closed deals, or how certain sales activities consistently result in faster sales cycles. These sorts of insights are only available when you look at the data as a whole, rather than splitting it into discrete chunks or silos of information. Now Charles can make decisions on which aspects of his sales organization to focus on and grow, knowing that he is making efficient moves that work for his particular business and industry.

Having a comprehensive approach to data does more than just show Charles the most efficient way to grow his sales organization, it also helps manage the sales teams once they have grown. According to Bob Marsh, “A CRM system with a robust business data solution provides that single place for your sales teams to collaborate, sell, and acquire new customers, building a solid platform for your growing business.” This comprehensive data solution doesn’t just show Charles what works for his business and what doesn’t, it encourages all the moving parts to work together rather than individually. This sort of teamwork and cross-departmental collaboration is greatly facilitated when teams are working from the same source of information.

Actionable data visualizations increase efficiency in time spent analyzing 

The downside with a comprehensive data approach is that, as Forbes pointed out, companies run the risk of becoming data rich but insight poor. All of that data gathered in one place can be overwhelming, and the time spent analyzing those mountains of data means more time lost for your sales organization.

The answer to this problem lies in choosing the right data analysis tool that makes the actionable intelligence jump off the screen, taking the mental burden of data analysis off the CEO and putting it onto a tool that can do the grunt work of analyzing the data for anomalies and then presenting that information in a visually appealing manner. According to Richard Marr “A company’s ability to compete will increasingly be driven by how well it can leverage data, apply analytics and implement new technologies.” That’s why a data analysis tool with intuitive, actionable output in the form of visualizations is so important: it’s new technology that ensures organizations are leveraging data and applying analytics efficiently.

Put simply, data visualizations make growing and managing your sales organization easier than ever. According to big data analyst Brian Gentile “Surveys have found that organizations using visual data discovery tools are 28% more likely to find timely information than those still relying on managed reporting and dashboards. Furthermore, 48% of users were able to find the information needed without the help of IT staff.” This is exactly the kind of intelligence that Charles needs- no IT to work through and he can quickly find the information he needs to grow his sales organization in the right way.

Growing and managing your sales organization can be done, and it can be done the right way. All you, and Charles, needs is a comprehensive approach to the data you are already collecting and the right tool to analyze and visualize that information in a way you can act on. Combine these two aspects of data analysis and you will be able to identify what is already working for your sales organization and strategically focus on those positive aspects to grow your information in the right way.

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