ImageAt the dawn of the 21st century, there were roughly 17 million websites online. Today, there are over 1.1 billion. Consequently, today’s buyer now has the power of information at their fingertips.

Success in this modern business environment requires the ability to provide customized solutions to buyers at a similarly accelerated rate. Closing the deal today hinges on the ability of sales personnel to get on the customer's side of the table and exceed their expectations. Those expectations are often a moving target, making sales excellence more difficult than ever to achieve.

Not only are customer demands more fluid than they were even five or ten years ago, but failing to meet those demands in the market can have more severe consequences for a business. From the customer’s view, moving on to the next competitor is easier than ever. Retargeting-based ads, paid and organically optimized search results fill their desktops and mobile platforms with competing offers, generated based on their personal search and browsing histories.

In both B2B and B2C sales, meeting customer demands with speed, relevant information, and the correct price point are critical to achieving sales excellence. Increasingly, organizations both large and small are learning how to leverage big data to achieve impressive sales results.

The Role of Data in the Pursuit of Sales Excellence

Hiring the right sales people, and getting the most out of them makes a huge difference on top-line growth and bottom-line performance. In a recent post on sales excellence, a McKinsey senior partner shared how one insurance call center increased its sales by 30% after identifying sales issues using basic data analysis.

For companies of all sizes, using Big Data is the key to finding where the “business is today.” Using a hockey analogy, the post also describes how the world’s 2nd largest company uses Big Data to get the most out of their sales efforts:

“A great example of skating to where the puck is going is Google. It monitors about 140 million businesses on a real-time basis. It’s also done the analytics to figure out what variables are associated with a propensity to buy digital advertising. Google then monitors those variables, and when it sees an increased probability of purchase by a customer or by a potential customer, it targets them specifically. This method has led to massive sales productivity for the company over the last few years.”

For small businesses, the common perception that big data only benefits large enterprises is a misnomer. As SAS explains in their summary of why big data is important, “The importance of big data doesn’t revolve around how much data you have, but what you do with it.”

Survey Data Shows Increasing Prioritization of Big Data

Big data helps sales and marketing departments make better strategic decisions, gain a complete understanding of customers, and improve operations. A 2015 BARC Research global study indicated that sales (23%) and marketing (25%) were the two departments most likely to report already using big data analysis in operations, mainly for customer insight purposes.

The best part? Organizations able to quantify their gains using big data reported an average 8% increase in revenue and a corresponding 10% reduction in costs.

Another recent survey of over 500 senior sale executives revealed that "sales performance" was a top goal compared to other business objectives. Respondents overwhelmingly reported that data was a common barrier and the ones who were finding the most success (97%) indicated that they were using real-time data tools.

Putting Big Data to Work in an Organization

Below are a few of the most common applications of big data for achieving sales excellence:

  • Identifying opportunities. Too many companies focus on where their business is today and fail to map out new opportunities. Big data allows sales teams to gain better insight into their customers and identifies new market trends.
  • Improved sales coaching. Company results largely hinge on the quality of the sales team. Sales coaching is important, but training that is backed by real data is much more valuable. In fact, one study showed that data-driven coaching could increase revenue by as much as 20%.
  • Better sales efficiency. Whether it is perfecting the sales pitch, matching the right sales opportunities to the best-suited salespeople, or ensuring real-time follow-up with potential clients, big data has been shown to improve performance.

Sales excellence in an organization is much more than just trying harder to reach sales goals.  Giving a company's sales team access to big data tools enables them to implement some strategic initiatives that are sure to impact the company's bottom line.