Numbers, numbers, so many numbers. It’s a point of pride that you use data to guide decision-making on your sales team, but at what point does “data-driven” become “data-dependent”? While it is incredibly important to use data strategically, it’s equally necessary not to give in to analysis paralysis – the inability to make any decision without analyzing it to death.
Data can be useful, but it can also waste your time if you spend hours looking at reports for even the smallest decision. Instead of drowning in the numbers and slowing your team’s progress to a crawl, you need to be able to manage your data and not let it manage you.
If you tend to overanalyze everything, here’s how to stay organized and use data efficiently and strategically on your sales team.
What Do You Need to Know?
Before you start to really dig into the data, you need to have a clear goal in mind. If you don’t decide up front what you’re looking to discover, you can get lost in the intricacies of the reports and end up no wiser than before. So instead, be focused and plan out your analysis before you start working. If you want to know why your sales are down this month, decide how you’re going to look for a solution and stick to that plan. Never forget that you’re looking for an actionable insight into your business – something tangible that will help you make a change for the better on your team and improve sales results.
Come Up with a Hypothesis
Part of the plan is coming up with an educated guess as to what you think may be the issue behind that drop you’ve seen in your sales this month. The key to a good analysis is coming up with a hypothesis before you start looking for an answer, and then testing it out. Sales managers should be like scientists – always experimenting and using data to confirm or bust a hypothesis. If you think the drop in sales is due to decreased quality of leads in the past month, for example, you should look into the data to find out whether something has changed in your marketing or prospecting results lately. This helps you to focus your analysis. If that hypothesis is wrong, come up with a new one and look for evidence to support it.
While you do want to start off your analysis with an educated guess as to what you expect to find, data has a way of surprising you with unexpected conclusions. It’s all too easy to be lured from your path by some interesting bit of information and suddenly, you’ve wasted hours of your time. Don’t let this happen! Stay focused and organized, and keep your eye on the goal. This doesn’t mean you should be inflexible – you may end up following a different line of thinking than you expected. But don’t take your eye off your goals – you’re always trying to figure out what’s really happening on your sales team and drive improvements.
Get an Outside Opinion
If you’ve stayed focused, you may have found what you believe is the underlying cause to your problem. However, that doesn’t mean it’s definitely right. Data can be tricky to wrangle, and you may have slipped up accidentally somewhere – forgetting to sort for the correct dates or looking at the wrong reports. This is where you need to bring in another set of eyes to confirm your conclusion. Choose someone on your team that you trust, and explain your findings to them. Hopefully, they will agree with your conclusion and confirm your thinking on the analysis. If not, go back to the data and consider the problem from another angle.
Make a Decision Today
You can keep running the numbers over and over again, but eventually, you just have to make a decision. Having more and more data back up your hypothesis will not make the conclusion any better or clearer – you still have to use your brain to make an executive decision. Put a time limit on your analysis and really stick to it. Decide that based on your analysis, you believe the real problem causing your sales slump is a low conversion rate in the demo stage. Now that you know, you need to take action today. Set up a sales coaching session based on the data, and really work with your team to improve this aspect of the sales process.
Don’t let data bog you down and overwhelm you. Sales data is a tool for you to use, not something for you to be ruled by. Set a goal, stay organized, and act decisively so you can regain control of the data, instead of letting it control you.