11 Data-Driven Sales Enablement Tips from Brand Leaders at Dreamforce 2019

Even if you get blackjack, hitting a 17 is still a bad decision, because the odds are, in the long run, you’ll lose

Data-driven marketers aren’t playing to win a hand or two. They’re playing to grow market share

And as more companies mature from making impulsive decisions based on data in spreadsheets to making data-driven decisions based on statistics collected through automation, more marketers are minimizing risk to play their cards by the numbers

This year at Dreamforce, some of the fastest growing, most admired digital brands laid their cards on the table.

Data Talks, Instincts Walk

Paul DePodesta, the “Moneyball” baseball manager who depended heavily on the analysis of performance data (instead of more traditional methods like scouting and observation) to select players and make game-day decisions shared what I would call his principles of data-driven management.

Ignore Best Practices – Question the old way of doing things and ignore best practices. “A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right…,” said Common Sense author Thomas Paine back in the day. Boy, is this relevant when you’re interpreting data, says DePodesta, who warns against assuming historical metrics are meaningful. For example, instead of agonizing over how to interpret vanity metrics like visitors and bounce rates, graduate to more consequential transactions like lead form submissions and conversion ratios

Keep Tabs on Your Ego – Maintain a decision-making diary that lists all the considered and external factors that come into play when you make important decisions, so can you learn from your failures and improve your decision-making algorithms moving forward. Keeping score cultivates open-mindedness, so you don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can outsmart the data

Leave Your Gut Out of It – Always put empirical analysis before gut instinct. Using player statistics, DePodesta traded his big-name all-star players who were good at everything for average-salary baseball players who could do one or two things really well — despite the fact that everyone else was focused on drafting all-stars.

Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover – Confirmation bias is a data-driven decision maker’s worst enemy. Only 3% of men are 6’2″ or taller, but 30% of CEOs are 6’2” or taller. Base decisions on performance rather than appearance, gut instinct, or forecasts.

The Data-Driven Sales Manager

The average tenure of a sales VP these days is just 19 months, according to Xactly CEO Chris Cabrera, who expects that number to drop lower as businesses become increasingly data reliant.

Here’s how he sees data changing sales management

Automation Is Table Stakes – Automation software gives you the data you need to make smart decisions. Companies that lack data typically tell Cabrera, “If there’s data, let’s look at the data. If it’s just an opinion, I like my opinion.” His response: “Let’s automate to get the data.”

Show ‘em the Money – Sales reps are incentivized by variable compensation, so use data to drive peak performance. Inaccurate sales commissions paid in arrears, along with unfair territories, drive attrition — but replacing sales reps is disruptive and expensive. Use data to show sales reps their commissions in real time. Take the carrot out of the drawer and put it on the table.

Official Unintelligence – While artificial intelligence has huge potential for improving sales planning, forecasting accuracy, and new rep ramp time, we’re not there yet. At the US Open, IBM promoted to use of artificial intelligence to find match highlights based on audience noise levels, but that’s only one data point. Machine learning is only as keen as the data set it analyzes. Until that data set becomes a broader corpus, AI is still just hype

Data on Diversification – Women-led sales organizations perform better. They also hire more diversely. On a personal note, when I did basic training in the Israeli army, we had a woman drill sergeant, which I later learned was a deliberate tactic to drive peak performance from young men.

Marketing by the Numbers

Marketing is shifting toward measurement and accountability, and data-driven marketers want conversion data that can be tied to revenue. When it comes to getting reps the tolls, content, and insights they need to close, here’s what sales enablement practitioners from top brands say is most important:

Align Sales and Customer Journeys – Use data to create a framework that makes it easy for reps to give customers the information they need at each stage of the journey. Do the hard work of documenting the sales enablement process, so reps know who needs what, and when. You can use a digital asset management tool like Highspot to see which content gets used most and how reps are modifying it. This gives you the insight to continuously improve your content creation efforts. The content that resonates best with buyers discusses issues and tells great stories, says Cameron Tanner at AWS

Redefine Competitive Intelligence – Sales cycles are becoming shorter because buyers are self-educating. Create content to inform and prequalify buyers. For instance, when a rep closes a competitive deal, draft bullet points on why the customer selected you over the competitor. Use those bullets on your website, where buyers can see them. Then give them to your reps, to help close future deals. Keep in mind, these are not long, drawn-out case studies. They’re short, simple bullet points that state why a customer made the decision to buy, says Joe Booth of SecureAuth

Give Customers What They Want – Buyers want to talk to subject matter experts who understand the challenges they face. Reps who can address broader issues are more valued. But investing time in building that expertise can slow reps down. To help, send out timely information they can use to nurture prospects, like the latest industry trends, analyst reports, insights from earnings reports, and curated content segmented by buyer persona, recommends Katherine Dolphin of SessionM

Meta on Data-Driven Decisions

Forrester reports the revenue impact of modern sales enablement is:

  • 20% revenue lift within 12 months
  • 20% increase in bookings by rep
  • 24% reduction in ramp time for new reps

“With sales engagement automation and engagement data you know what salespeople are consuming, what they’re reading, and what they’re delivering to clients and prospects,” says Mary Shea, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research

“As you get that data, you align it to your pipeline and your forecasts, and you start to have more intelligence around what good looks like and how to get your B and C players to do the same things your A players are doing,” says Shea

The Data Is In..

Data-driven sales enablement will help you grow market share and minimize risk — so it’s really a no-brainer

But these are early days for data-driven decision makers, so stay humble and teachable. Measure to keep your reps motivated. Focus on creating content to help customers make purchasing decisions

Then leverage the tips from some of today’s top data-driven decision makers — and shortcut your learning curve

Eric Schwartzman is a Los Angeles-based author, growth marketing advisor and media relations coach. Follow him @ericschwartzman.

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