Analytical Wizardry. The best analytics tools and processes can’t compensate for poor data quality.

Everyone wants data that will help them make better business decisions – big data, small data, any data. That puts pressure on sales and marketing executives to become data wizards and utilize analytics to deliver results. Every marketing and sales team needs business intelligence (BI), consistent processes and efficient tools to gather and report metrics. But it doesn’t matter how good or flashy your BI tool is at slicing, dicing and reporting data. If your data is not accurate, you’ll end up with flashy but wrong results. For quality data and effective decision-making, you are at the mercy of your sales team.

Quality data = people + process + technology.

Quality data is the result of a skilled workforce following well-designed processes, built upon a solid technology foundation. In today’s world, there is plenty of process and technology to go around. Those parts of the equation are known and solutions are available. It’s the people component that wrecks the equation - especially when it comes to salespeople. Selling is a behavior-based profession. Salespeople own their day. They run a mini business and will operate in a way that is most effective based on their will, skills and needs. Their top needs are to be fiercely efficient with their time and to generate as much personal income as possible. These needs will drive specific behaviors - behaviors that create data inaccuracy.

To improve data accuracy through behavior modification:

Focus on fewer metrics – the right ones

Only measure what matters. Avoid data clutter, so you can focus and take action. Requiring too much data will cause your sales team to push back. The data will not be collected, or it will be very poor in quality. Selling time will always be prioritized over administrative time, so keep laser focused on the 5-6 key performance indicators (KPI’s) that make the most impact on your business.

Build your process from the user perspective

Once you know your top KPI’s, build your process and data inputs from the user perspective. Make entering the data very simple and efficient. Make sure reports, forecasts and results are valuable to your sales team. Include sales representatives when developing the data capture process to make sure it works for them and not just “for management.”

Hold everyone accountable

Use your BI tool and your CRM system to track and report behaviors that have a negative impact on data quality. Look for activities that don’t follow the defined sales process, users who aren’t updating their CRM data regularly, or inaccurate data such as zero valued, expired, and stagnant opportunities. Track these items at the sales representative and sales manager levels to pinpoint the teams and the people where behavior modification is required. When you have the facts in hand and a solid, ongoing coaching process in place to improve individual behavior, you will see your data quality increase dramatically.

If you deploy these three activities, your data quality will improve. The magnitude of the improvement will depend upon your sales leadership and their ability to hold team members accountable. Strong managers and sales operations leaders who are laser focused on data quality will make a big impact on your business.

Don’t be the wizard who hides behind the curtain, struggling to gin up flashy looking results via cool analytics built upon bad data. It won’t work. Get out in front of everyone with great results from a well-coached team producing clean, meaningful data.