Is Big Data Helping or Hurting your Sales Reps?

October 11, 2012
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Recently there has been a lot of debate on whether or not the influx of Big Data is a help or a hindrance to sales reps.

Some studies show that sales reps are spending up to 24% of their time researching information on their accounts.  This is clearly cutting the amount of time they could be spending on their primary responsibility – selling.

Recently there has been a lot of debate on whether or not the influx of Big Data is a help or a hindrance to sales reps.

Some studies show that sales reps are spending up to 24% of their time researching information on their accounts.  This is clearly cutting the amount of time they could be spending on their primary responsibility – selling.

A recent blog on the Harvard Business Review from Rick Reynolds cites the “trend for B2B companies to rely more on Big Data and less on information gathered from one-on-one personal interactions.”  But the blog also argues that successful selling can’t rely on data alone.

So how can Big Data help?

The HBR blog describes Big Data as “critical to sales success.”  In addition, Harish Kotadia of Infosys Technologies has shared four case studies highlighting the ability of Big Data to drive ROI within organizations on his blog.  The examples he shares range from an energy company trying to reshape demand to a transportation company trying to optimize its fleet, but the most salient example in terms of Big Data for sales is the T-Mobile example he shares:

T-Mobile USA has integrated Big Data across multiple IT systems to combine customer transaction and interactions data in order to better predict customer defections. By leveraging social media data (Big Data) along with transaction data from CRM and Billing systems, T-Mobile USA has been able to “cut customer defections in half in a single quarter.”

This ability to predict can be really powerful within sales organization.  By predicting which accounts are likely to churn or purchase, sales leaders can help their reps focus on the most important accounts, just as T-Mobile had.

When does Big Data get in the way?

In the HBR article, Reynolds also points out the other extreme of Big Data when he cites our CSO Insights study – how it can lead to missed opportunities due to information overload.  90% of survey respondents indicated as such.  If there is too much information, what is a sales rep to do?

Big Data often covers quantitative data rather than qualitative data.  Reynolds explains that there is more to selling than just the “quants” – there is context, connection and strategy to name a few critical “qual” components.  For true sales success, there needs to be a balance between the art and the science.