Drowning in Data: New Research Reveals that Sales Reps are Struggling to Keep Up

August 27, 2012
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Good data does not guarantee good sales results.

Good data does not guarantee good sales results.

Image courtesy of Miller Vintage

The best reps I know are great sales sleuths.  Before calling on a prospect, they do their homework by sleuthing through annual reports, LinkedIn, their CRM and lots of other places.   In fact, the average sales rep spends 24% of their time researching to prepare for sales calls.

But is all this research a good thing?

Lattice Engines and CSO Insights wanted to find out.  We interviewed more than 200 sales executives to find out if Big Data was working for reps or against them.   The results really surprised me.  The top findings about sales productivity included:

  • 82% are challenged by the amount of information available and the amount of time it takes to look through it
  • Sales reps do not give up easily.  They search as many as 15 different internal and external data sources in the course of their research
  • 89% believe that despite their lengthening searches, sales reps are missing opportunities because they can longer keep up with the torrent of information now available

The data deluge is real.  Spending more time “looking for a data needle in a haystack” is an increasingly dysfunctional activity:

  • 52% of sales reps in the US do not achieve their sales quota (CSO Insights)
  • 94% of all marketing qualified leads (MQLs) will never close (Sirius Decisions)

The research from CSO Insights also revealed that existing technologies, like CRM, are not designed for a Big Data world and have failed the sales rep.  Of the companies that have implemented a CRM system, 80% believe it is ineffective at helping them find external information on prospects.

The Evolving Data Story

The Big Data story for sales is an evolving one.  It started as a pure data story – the availability of data on companies and individuals.  In this phase, reps enjoyed searching for information that they might find useful.  The amount of information was manageable.  This period came to an end around 2006 when there was an explosion of data from two places:

  1. Internal systems such as CRM and marketing automation; and
  2. External sources such as social networks, blogs, and product review sites.

The new era of selling is less about the raw data and more about insight. The best sales organizations are beginning to apply predictive analytics to all that is knowable about customers and prospects, identifying patterns, and serving up those insights to their sales reps.

In our survey, 90% of respondents foresee huge benefits to sales if Big Data were harnessed and insights delivered to reps in a single technology system.

Drowning or swimming along with the current?  Please post a comment sharing your own experiences.

Learn why Big Data should be a big deal for sales by downloading your copy of the CSO Insights Report: 2012 Impact of Big Data on Sales Performance.  Review a guest blog from CSO Insights President Jim Dickie offering critical tips in planning for sales growthin 2013.