Data Always Beats Opinions

Everyone has an opinion when it comes to B2B sales.

“You should separate sales teams into outbound and inbound.”

“You should contact every lead at least 8 times.”

“You should implement a Service Level Agreement between sales and marketing.

While these opinions are valuable and may prove to be correct, they’re still just opinions. Any idea that is not backed up by solid data is an educated guess – not a fact.

Instead of making vital sales decisions based on unreliable opinions, you should run your sales team like a coldly logical scientist. Whenever you try out a new sales tactic or strategy, keep track of your team’s progress to see whether the end results are measurably improved. Rather than guessing that you’ve helped your team sell more effectively, you can point to rock-solid data that tells you for sure.

It’s only logical. Data beat opinions in every instance, including on your sales team.

The Experience Fallacy

Some sales leaders may immediately object to the supremacy of data and insist, “There are some things you can only learn through experience on the job!”

While experience is incredibly valuable, it doesn’t always teach you the best method of selling in every market. Even if you have 30 years of experience on the job, your opinions may not hold true in every instance. Experience can teach you what you think works best on your sales team, but it may have only worked well at your last company or in a different industry. When you start working with a new sales team, can you really say what works best solely based on the past?

The sales industry today is changing so rapidly that what worked last year may not resonate at all with buyers today. If sales leaders become too set in their ways and stick to what worked in past years, they may find that they fail to measure up when facing more agile and aggressive competition. You have to be willing to change and adapt as the market changes. It’s up to you as a leader to create a data-driven culture of sales experimentation, where every assumption can be challenged and every opinion must be proven.

The Data Advantage

Data often surprises even the most educated and intelligent sales leaders. Many people start out with a bias in favor of one idea or another, and are genuinely shocked by the results of a truly objective test. You never know whether the numbers will either prove or disprove your underlying assumptions unless you’re willing to test everything out. Take the knowledge you’ve gained from your sales experience, and put it to the test. It may be that your opinions are correct – but you have to prove it first.

With every big change to your sales team, commit to running a data-driven test. If you think that splitting the sales team into inbound and outbound will improve your win rate, try it out for a month and track Key Performance Metrics carefully. If you see a measurable jump in the data, you can officially call it a success and confirm your decision-making skills. But if you don’t see any measurable benefits from the experiment, that tactic may not work well for your specific sales team. You have to stay open-minded and rely on the data to tell you the truth about your team’s sales performance.

Correlation vs. Causation

While data can be a powerful tool in your sales arsenal, you have to remember that correlation does not equal causation. There are many unknowable variables in sales, and it could be that your test is not really measuring what you think it’s measuring. That’s why it’s so important to build these sales experiments carefully, and utilize CRM and sales analytics to track the data effectively.

However, despite this warning, the benefits of data-driven testing far outweigh the possible risks. You can still run a solid test by altering one variable and measuring it over time. With the right data and an experiment-driven mindset, you can greatly increase the revenue on your sales team and change opinion-based guesses into data-backed sales decisions.