Business intelligence blog

    How to get every sales person in a data mindset


    The leading organizations know their continued success relies heavily on their sales team making data-driven decisions. Time is tight, competition is fierce, and data is the differentiator.

    But when your team is in a “that’s the way we’ve always done it” mindset, how do you make a shift to a more data-driven approach? It’s a question that’s especially crucial to consider when nearly a quarter of salespeople report data entry as their biggest complaint about working with their customer relationship management system (CRM).

    To transform a potentially negative outlook on using data into your sales team’s standard way of operating, follow these guidelines.

    Step 1: Onboard a business intelligence tool

    Business intelligence (BI) software is essential to shifting to a data-centric approach because it makes data more accessible to more team members than ever before. And accessibility, or rather a lack thereof, is one of the biggest factors that typically holds teams back from using data.

    BI software reads data that is typically stored and forgotten about and even takes the pain of working with data out of the equation by automating data retrieval and reporting.

    Reports are customizable to individual needs, and many tools offer data visualization features that make data much more digestible than it would be in a simple spreadsheet.

    Step 2: Sell the value of BI up front

    You can’t just bring on a new software tool and expect everyone to be excited about it. Sales people are busy. There’s nothing more frustrating to them than being told they need to start working with a new tool when they don’t understand why. To get them to be willing to give up their time to learn and onboard software, they have to understand the value — it’s a trade-off.

    Before you ever introduce a new tool, start with “why.” Collect recent pain points from your sales team and use case studies to explain how the data from a BI tool will solve them. Explain how your organization plans to use the data being collected and be transparent about the expected time commitment. Incorporate your organizational goals into the discussion and talk about how better data will help you achieve them.

    Step 3: Find your early adopters

    Early adopters of a data-driven mindset are those who’ve either worked in that environment before, or those who’ve been asking for better data for years. You can also look for your most tech-savvy team members to be the early adopters of your BI tool. These individuals will ask a lot of questions, learn quickly, and see the value early on.

    Getting early adopters involved in the training process will help create buy-in from the rest of the team. Ask them to assist in the selection of a BI tool; invite them to the initial demos and trainings from the provider; and ask them to peer-train other sales team members.

    It’s important to encourage your early adopters, while being patient with those who are taking a little longer to come around.

    Step 4: Start simple

    There is a lot of data you can tap into once you have the right BI software in place to access it. However, it’s critical to avoid information overload. Just like a teacher wouldn’t give start the first day of school by giving students a book they won’t have the skills to read until the end of the year, you can’t give your sales team all the metrics at once.

    Start with simple dashboards, then build up as time goes on. You may even consider creating a library of data-centric trainings in your learning management system so that sales people can advance on their own schedule.

    Step 5:  Solicit their ideas

    Your sales team is closest to your customers and that direct connection makes them uniquely positioned to have critical insights. Once they understand your BI tool’s functionality and the data available, they might have interesting, innovative ideas for how to take advantage — use cases not even your leadership team was able to think of.

    When those ideas are valued and put into play, you’ll have more eager adoption. Set aside time for your sales team members to provide regular feedback on the shift to a data approach and submit their unique uses. Ask team members who have really great ideas to present to the rest of the group.

    Step 6: Showcase the results

    For your sales team to get on board, you’re going to need to make this personal. Most sales staff’s individual goals are already tied to monetary rewards. Wouldn’t they be excited to adopt an approach that could help them earn more commission?

    Tie sales goals directly back to the data so sales people can clearly see the results in action. You can even gamify the experience by creating a leaderboard that showcases sales results alongside data-adoption metrics. Chances are, the sales professionals who lean into the data will also be the one knocking their numbers out of the park. Watching their progress will be a great motivator for everyone else.

    Data can transform your sales team’s productivity, strategy, and results. But you can’t expect everyone to be immediately convinced. Onboard the right tools, get and maintain buy-in, slowly scale growth, and make the results exciting. Soon every sales person on your team will be clamoring for more data.  

    -- 

    Jessica Barrett Halcom is a writer for TechnologyAdvice.com, with specializations in business intelligence and human resources. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay and currently lives in Nashville, TN. 

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