In this new four-part series of articles, we’re going to look at the steps you can take in your own business today to build a sales force that can help you steadily grow your presence in the marketplace in the years ahead.
To keep things simple and easy to read, the seven points we are going to cover are clustered under four themes: data, people, landscape and planning. For each theme, I’ll share an example to illustrate how to implement to get results. So let’s get started!
Make the best decisions based on data
There is a difference between decisions based on what you feel is true and what you know is true: reliable data is your proof point.
A gut feeling can be influenced by many outside factors, and it’s governed by feelings that can be as changeable as the weather. Data, on the other hand, gives you solid evidence as information, and it’s up to you to decide how to turn that into meaningful knowledge.
Despite this, far too many sales leaders and business owners let themselves be swayed by emotions or anecdotal information when making important decisions on territory maps, compensation plans and hiring requirements. Too often, they treat data as a secondary tool to justify their feelings rather than the other way around.
Data is objective. It gives you definitive answers about your business. For instance, where are your customers located? Data will pinpoint the answer, and sometimes-in ways that can surprise you.
To illustrate: one day, I was speaking with a software client in Los Angeles about their sales-force building strategy. I asked them why they were planning on dividing up their sales territory into two halves: east and west. “Let’s have a look at the data,” I said. “What does it say about where your new leads are coming from? Is it really a 50-50 split along an east/west lines?” So together, we went digging.
It turned out that the client’s data showed a very different sales pattern than a simple east West divide. Had they gone ahead with their east/west plan, they would have had their sales team flying all over the country, overlooking the fact that a sizeable chuck of their new and existing business was coming from a cluster of locations that were all in one relatively close area in the Northern Central area of the United States around Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota!
Data can do more than tell you facts about your own business. It also can reveal important information about what’s going on with your competitors in the marketplace. A 2012 study by DemandGen shows that almost half (44%) of executives determine the impact of a solution through other adopters. They also found that nearly 95% of recent buyers said their choice was guided in part by those who “provided them with ample content to help navigate through each stage of the buying process.” Are you using data to help you make the right decisions about your sales approaches?
Data is your friend. In the forthcoming articles in this series, we’re going to look at how it can help shape the decisions you make in how you work with people, how you survey your sales landscape and how you plan ahead for the great success you’re going to have with your sales force.