Data Can't Assess Itself. At Least Not Yet.

We’ve become obsessed with marketing and sales data. A couple of years ago we called it big data. We now call it predictive data and even that word is getting old. So, we have come up with new words like machine learning and AI. This all sounds cool and it really is. I love technology, but technology can’t replace experience. At least not yet.

Data can’t assess itself. Like many executives, you are probably getting new figures regularly dumped on you – with little or no explanation or insights into what the data means to your business. Simply put, we have an ocean of data and a desert of insights.

What do I mean by insights? It’s the ability to translate data into actionable plans that you can successfully implement based on your existing sales team, priorities, process and technology. This is a people problem that is not solvable yet by technology. Until technology can implement a solution to solve a pin-point sales challenge, we must rely on the brains and skills of our sales team.

Who on your team today has the experience to know how to correlate the right data points to tell the true story of your sales challenges? Better yet, does your team have the experience to know exactly what to do next? Do you, and your team, know how to translate your invaluable data to drive near-term revenue performance, as well as create predictable revenue for the quarters ahead?

If you answered yes to most of those questions and your company has been enjoying impressive quarter-over-quarter revenue growth, then no reason to read further. For the rest of us mere mortals, here’s what we can do to improve sales performance.

Step 1: Determine what matters and stay laser focused on it

Easier said than done when nearly everyone is dropping data on you. Everyone needs to get on the same common ground. Stick to 5-to-7 main metrics that you are going to measure and hold the executive team and everyone involved in revenue generation accountable to the quality of the metrics.

Step 2: Make sure that you have rigor around the collection of the data that matters

Only require your users to enter the data that relates to the 5-to-7 metrics. As an example, if one of your metrics is sales activity, only ask the sales team to enter the key activity in each stage that confirms that the opportunity has the right to be in that stage. Make is easy for your sales team to enter data and, most important, make it about them. They need to see and believe in the benefits.

Step 3: Translate the data into impact and align solutions

Your metrics must matter. For them to matter, you must translate the data into action. Having a data analyst on your team is great, but if that person does not have the experience to tell you what the data means AND what you need to do to solve the challenge or capitalize on success, then see step 4.

Step 4: Encircle yourself with “partners” that can help convert data into action

There’s a Farmers Insurance commercial that has a great quote “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.” Surrounding yourself with key internal stakeholders, mentors and partners who have experience in converting data to action is no longer a nice-to-have. We are all on very condensed timeframes to make improvements and show results.

Step 5: Communicate to everyone involved

Make sure everyone is focused on the 5-to-7 metrics that will drive revenue performance and predictability. Train your team on the benefits and outcomes achieved by inputting the right information. Measure the accuracy of the data. Create an open communication channel to all key sales data stakeholders and drive the behavioral changes of your sales team to adopt and own the accuracy of the data.

Sales and marketing technology has allowed us to do amazing things, but in some cases it has accelerated the pace of our jobs beyond our capacity to do our jobs. More data means more distractions. Stay laser focused on what matters and hold everyone accountable to rigorous execution. At least until technology can do our jobs for us.