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3 Wrong Ways to Use Data in Sales


Data is always there for you. Whenever there is a question, concern, or unresolved issue, you can be sure you can rely on numbers to uncover the answers.

However, data is not without its own flaws. There is no question that every sales organization should gather and analyze data to improve the bottom line, but you should also pay attention to its downsides.

Here are three wrong ways to use data in sales:

Focusing Too Much on Numbers and Forgetting the Context

Data is all about the hard numbers, but you shouldn’t only look at the numbers in a vacuum. Oftentimes, data without context will lead you down the wrong path. When using data to make business decisions, you also need to look at external factors.

For example, let’s say you were running an email subject line test to see what kind of messaging results in the highest open rates. You run the test for two weeks, however one of those weeks was Thanksgiving. The data showed that subject line A blew subject line B out of the water. If you looked solely at the data, you would assume that obviously, subject line A is the clear winner. However, if you considered the context (that one of those test weeks was Thanksgiving), you would realize that you shouldn’t include results from a huge holiday weekend as customers behave completely differently. The context would indicate that your test results were skewed due to a once-a-year holiday.

Siloing Data in Different Sales Teams

You want all sales reps on your team to be running their own tests and gathering data in their day-to-day outreach. But, this can also lead to siloed data that is stuck with individual team members and not universally shared with everyone. Think about it like this: John may think of a new test he wants to run, but he has no idea that Robert already ran the same test three months ago.

One of the hardest parts of large-scale data collection is remembering to stop, record, and share the results, especially in a fast-moving environment like sales. Make sure there is a clear process in place to display results of various tests – that could be an internal web page, a Google Doc, or even a weekly stand-up meeting to share results.

Following a One-Size-Fits-All Approach

As you test things like email subject lines, types of content, or the best time to call a prospect, you may run one or two tests, identify a clear winner, implement the winning method, and call it good, right? Wrong. While a preliminary, general test will provide a starting point and guide you in the right direction, your data should not stop there. You need to run more and more segmented tests to gather as much data as you can about how different people react and engage.

If we’re following the same subject line example, let’s say you discover that including “free trial” in your subject line leads to a higher open rate. You should not include “free trial” in every single email you send for the next 12 months. This discovery is a great place to start, however you should then start testing how different segments of customers respond. Do warm leads respond differently than cold leads? How about the C-suite versus management? Never hesitate to collect more personalized, segmented data.

The Right Way to Use Data

The benefits of data far outweigh the downsides. Not only do you learn more about your customer and are able to better personalize your outreach, you also discover patterns and trends in your own sales team. And as you collect more and more data, be sure to use and share it in a way that benefits everyone: you, the customer, and the team.

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