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According to recent research from the McKinsey Global Institute and McKinsey’s Business Technology Office, collecting and analyzing large data sets – so-called big data – represents the next frontier for innovation, competition and productivity. With data growing exponentially across many industries, it is critical for organizations and managers to create sales value from this mass of information. Sales analytics isn’t a new field, but there have been tremendous leaps made in recent years in terms of how to unlock the true power and potential of data-driven sales management and sales performance metrics. Here are four broad ways in which using big data can create value, from a sales perspective.

“Information is transparent and usable at much higher frequency”

A common excuse among late-adopting organizations is that the process of collecting and analyzing large sets of information is difficult, cumbersome and time-consuming. Traditional sales reports builders on the market – including Salesforce reports – lack the intuitiveness for easy and in-depth usage. If sales managers or reps have to spend hours training and studying just to make the data usable, there will be a natural resistance to and incomplete understanding of sales analytics, making that information less effective.

Fortunately, advances in sales performance metrics, sales analytics and sales reporting software have made analytics information and large data sets more transparent and user-friendly. With the right tools, sales managers should implement data analysis with increasing frequency, eventually reaching a point of day-to-day usage.

“More accurate and detailed performance information”

Sales coaching works best on a data-driven level – when sales managers can bring precise coaching points backed up by sales performance metrics to training sessions, reps will be more receptive to improving their performances. If a rep is not reaching his or her activity goals, the data will bear that out. Performance data can also be used to compare activities among team members, creating healthy competition and providing motivation.

Sales Management - Rep Activity Goals

Another key coaching area that relies heavily on sales analytics is in pinpointing the weaknesses in a rep’s sales cycle. Studying the conversion rates between stages of a rep’s sales funnel will highlight weaknesses in their sales processes. If a rep is losing a big percentage of opportunities between demo and trial phases, they might need additional coaching to improve their qualifying or demo skills.

Sales Management - Sales Funnel

“Ever-narrower segmentation, more precisely tailored services”

The further a sales manager is able to drill down into target customers and market segments, the more effectively they will be able to deliver the products and services demanded. All buyer segments behave differently – comparing large and small companies, for instance – and thus, should be segmented and treated differently by your sellers.

Generally, larger deal sizes tend to have smaller win rates and longer sales cycles. Use this information to guide not only how your reps tackle these opportunities, but also in determining your expectations of how many of these deals will close and how long they will take to close.

“Sophisticated analytics substantially improves decision-making”

Data-driven sales managers rely on a wealth of information to power their key business decisions – they won’t sign off on something unless the numbers support their choices. One key area that can greatly improve with the use of more sophisticated sales analytics is in producing accurate sales forecasts. Having an outlook into the near term predictable future of the business, sales managers can determine if quotas will be met, whether more reps need to be hired to appropriately grow the team and what types of budgets or goals need to be set for the next quarter or year. Looking at how the historical pipeline value is changing allows sales managers to identify early warning signals and glaring risks.

Sales Pipeline History


It is clear that big data has become a key point of competition and growth among sales organizations. Early adopters have gained a leg-up on their competitors, using information leveraged from sophisticated analysis to innovate and become more efficient in their processes. It is critical for late-arriving managers and companies to recognize how big data can create substantial sales value and embrace the power of advanced sales analytics.

Share your thoughts below on how your organization gains tremendous sales value from using data.

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