There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

- Benjamin Disraeli

Many people distrust data and statistics, saying that numbers can be manipulated to lie and prove any point, depending on your motivations. But you’ve always thought of data as a powerful tool in your arsenal as a sales manager. You constantly analyze your sales rep’s win rates, sales cycles, and much more – using analytics to help your sales team grow and improve.

You’ve found that data often surprises you and tells you things you never knew or expected about the operations of your sales team. But what do you do if you suddenly see something in your data that just doesn’t make any sense? How do you know whether you’re wrong, or if the error is in the data itself?

Use Your Brain

Being driven by data is different than being dictated by data. Just because your analytics tell you important facts about your sales team doesn’t mean you should completely stop thinking analytically. Great sales managers are like scientists – they experiment with new ideas and use data to track the results. However you can’t lean too heavily on data and be guided solely by the numbers. Why do you think that report tell you that the number of new opportunities in the pipeline have dropped when you recently hired more sales development reps? Is that an error in the data, or is your team not working effectively? This is something that you have to think carefully about and continue to analyze before you accept it as fact. If something doesn’t make sense, it may very well be a mistake. This is when you need to dig in further to discover what’s going on behind the report.

Run Further Analysis

If you think your data is off somehow, don’t just accept that one report as the only information available to you. Try running a slightly different analysis of the data and look at the problem from another angle to find out more information. For example, if you think your team’s conversion rates within the sales funnel have dropped suddenly and without cause, zoom in further. Take a look at each individual rep’s conversion rates and see if there really has been a sudden drop in performance across the board. You may notice that there is an error in the reporting for one rep specifically, and his results have mucked up the numbers for the entire team. Once you fix that problem with the outlier in the data, the numbers will return to a more normal trajectory. Instead of just accepting the problem at face value, you found another angle that explained the root cause behind the lying data.

Learn More About the Sales Metrics You Should Track»

Talk to Your Team

You also shouldn’t try to figure out this problem on your own – involve the team members who entered the data in the first place. Your reps may know the reason behind what you’re seeing in the numbers because they’re the ones inputting data in into the CRM. For example, you may be surprised to see lower activity levels for your reps over the past month when you know they’ve been working hard. When you talk to your team, they could tell you that there seemed to be an issue with the CRM itself during the past week – it wasn’t syncing correctly with your analytics software. Once you fix that error, the software is able to pull updated information and give you the numbers you expected to see.
While it’s not true that your data is lying to you, there is still a possibility that the numbers are wrong. Don’t just accept the data at face value – think analytically, analyze it from another angle and work closely with your team to find a reason behind it. Numbers are there to help you succeed in sales, but only if you’re able to harness the power of data intelligently.

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