Companies and sales teams that rely on data to help them make their decisions are more profitable and productive (MIT Sloan) than companies that ignore the data or rely on their gut. This is even more pronounced during times of uncertainty.
As humans, we tend to make decisions out of fear, concern for safety and a desire to eliminate risk. We are deeply wired to react chemically when confronted with stress/danger (Fight or Flight Response). And while corporations and sales teams are living organisms too, the importance of relying on DATA instead of GUT is higher than ever.
During the initial throes of the pandemic most of us defaulted to “go with our gut” to make decisions – in spite of our intellectual desire to rely on the data. The world’s reaction to COVID has shown us that Nations, Political Leaders, Corporations and Individuals proved we all react differently based on our perspectives and views on data. Some ignored the data while others embraced it to help them make decisions. The results are self-evident.
Today, because of COVID, sales teams have experienced layoffs, tighter budgets and are facing uncertainty. Amongst our customer base, we’ve found that companies that have adjusted the best and who have succeeded in the face of the pandemic were those that turned to data (instead of their gut) to identify what’s working well and why.
When entire sales teams were sent home to work remotely, many sales leaders lost “the pulse” of their sales organizations. Pre-COVID, sales leaders were able to informally check-in on their sales teams simply by walking the floor, doing joint face-to-face meetings with clients on the road, meeting-up at conferences or corporate trainings. Today – those opportunities are gone. Instead, we are relying on Zoom meetings and conference calls to “check the pulse” of sales reps, deals and customer sentiment.
There has got to be a better way. Where should you start if you want to be more “data driven” in your decision making?
Start with sales activity tracking. Here are Five Ways Sales Activity Capture can help:
- Make CRM Your Priority
You already spend thousands of dollars annually for your CRM – make sure you are using it! Many companies use their CRMs as they come “off the shelf.” They don’t customize or configure it for their business – and therefore it doesn’t get used. Your CRM is supposed to be your system of record for all of your sales contacts, opportunity management and forecasts. A good CRM that is being used by the sales organization will have a plethora of data that can be mined to help you make decisions. Create a culture of CRM so that your sales organization actually use it – instead of relying on spreadsheets to track their customers and pipelines.
- Capture Sales Activity Data
Most sales reps either forget or simply refuse to enter information into the CRM. If you want to rely on data to drive your decisions you need your sales team to enter every detail about every email, meeting and call into the CRM. If you are a small company you can probably enforce this or even use spreadsheets to track key metrics. But if you are a larger organization, no matter how good you think you are – you are not going to get 100% compliance from your team.
- Fully Automate Activity Capture
To solve this problem – there are ways to automate the activity capture for your sales teams emails, calendar events, meetings and calls. BE CAREFUL THOUGH – not all of these activity capture tools write the data to your CRM. They often hold the data in their own proprietary databases. Be sure to find a solution that either writes the data directly to your CRM or that gives you direct access to their data warehouse for you to query. Another thing to keep in mind is that many tools still require some kind of manual intervention by the sales rep (through a prompt of some sort) to tag and associate the activity with a CRM record. Look for tools that FULLY automate this process to ensure 100% compliance.
- Analyze the Data
While it sounds obvious, capturing the sales activity data is not good enough – you need to analyze the data. Look for patterns in the data sets that might shed light on trends about Sales Cycles, Rep Activity, Opportunity Management, Meeting Frequency, Email Frequency, etc. By analyzing the captured activity data you should be able to extract patterns of communication for deals that close quickly or too slow. Is there an association between meeting frequency and pipeline movement? Are your remote reps actually doing any work? How do you know? Are you really aware of what your reps are doing on a daily basis?
- Create a Dashboard Culture
Now that you are capturing the data and analyzing it – you need to create dashboards that help you stay on top of it all. Analyzing the data one time isn’t going to be good enough. You need to visualize the activity data in a business intelligence (BI) tool that gives you the ability to see the data as it changes over time. Popular BI tools like Domo, Tableau, PowerBuilder, Google Data Studio, Amazon QuickSight or even Salesforce Einstein Analytics are good tools to visualize your data. Use these dashboards to manage your sales meetings, 1:1 meetings, team meetings and even board meetings. Use them as communication tools to your sales organization to show them how and why you are making certain decisions – BASED ON THE DATA.
Relying on our gut in times of uncertainty FEELS like its the right thing to do. Our biochemistry almost demands it of us. But when our pipeline starts to die, when we get pressure to cut costs and readjust our priorities – we need our decisions to be informed by the data, not our gut instincts.
The business uncertainties and long term impact created by the COVID virus are here to stay with us for some time. Rather than trying to navigate the fog by instinct, instill a culture of data-driven decision making that will help you weather the storm based on cold hard facts and statistics.