Big data seems to have become the new be-all and end-all of business:

“Secret Sales Success Formula Revealed!”

“Top 10 Metrics You Must Know!”

“Big Data for Sales– The Next Silver Bullet!”

The rise in data analytics, sales ops and CRM systems has without a doubt changed business…especially for sales. We’ve come to expect that if we can mine it, we can win it. As a metrics guy, I love data. But, if my early career in commission-only sales taught me anything, it’s this:

Data is a salesperson’s support arsenal, not a silver bullet. Good data analytics support the sales process; it doesn’t replace it. It can’t – and never will – because sales is not robotic. B2B, services sales and complex B2C are consultative discussions that require high EQ and problem solving skills.

While data provides valuable insight into efficiencies and where effectiveness lies, sales leaders should be careful not to allow the excitement around big data to exaggerate its primary usefulness. From prospecting to negotiation and close through retention, the intuitive skills of salespeople are central to navigating the process and closing the deal.

So what can you do when the shiny penny of big data attracts your organization away from performing great sales work? Revisit your leadership fundamentals. These five sales leader must-dos are timeless and can ensure your team’s success:

1. Habitually evaluate pipelines – However your pipelines are segmented (territory, industry, target size, etc.), it’s critical that salespeople regularly examine them to identify imbalances of designated segments and pipeline stages. Just like an investment portfolio, this dual-prong approach helps mitigate the roller-coaster effect of selling.

2. Role-play real situations – This is one of the most effective ways you can build sales skills within your team. I know, pretending to be someone else during a role-play can feel odd or unnatural. Laugh and do it anyway. Like anything else, the more you practice, the better you’ll perform. Even the greats like Rory McIlroy or Peyton Manning have a coach.

3. Be the fly on the wall – As leaders, we’re often quick to jump in and give advice. I urge you to step back, listen and observe. Sit silently during phone calls, listen in on voicemails and review some email communications. Pay attention to how your team actually conducts its day-to-day business. Allow them to perform without interruption so you can truly gauge their consultative calls.

4. Coach, coach and coach some more – Part of evaluating performance is sharing what you’ve witnessed. A strong sales leader provides next-step coaching that offers advice and ideas, while allowing for individual delivery. Your goal is not to dictate the details, it’s to build personal capabilities within each of your team members.

5. Be your team’s wingman – Get out of your office, ride along and participate in the process. Businesses change and customers change, and if you’re not “out there” with your salespeople, you’ll quickly lose the market’s pulse.

Big data is a powerful tool. Analyze data. Leverage metrics. Incorporate statistics, but don’t let data science and sales ops distract you from doing great sales work. Better yet, help your data-blinded colleagues get a fresh perspective too. Invite them to visit your team in the trenches. A real-life sales call or ride-along can help them recognize that big data is still only one piece of the big picture.

What sales leadership fundamentals do you hold as critical to success? Share in the conversation here.


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