At a 2010 conference, Eric Schmidt, then the CEO of Google, memorably stated that every two days, humans now create as much information as was created between the birth of civilization and 2003. (Unfortunately, much of this so-called information takes the form of cute kitten videos on YouTube.)
Sales operations is often tasked with making sense of an overwhelming volume of business data. It’s no longer enough to simply collect raw data, organize it into reports and throw it over the wall to users, who must interpret the reports and determine a course of action. Sales operations is now responsible for data analysis – the process of exploring data and reports in order to extract meaningful insights that can be used to better understand and improve business performance.
That’s easy to say but hard to do, given the sheer volume of raw data and the different roles, responsibilities and needs of various audiences. SiriusDecisions recommends a three-phase approach to conducting analysis and delivering insight.
- Production. Start by defining the objective of the analysis (e.g. measuring the impact of a sales training program, identifying sales performance issues, improving forecast accuracy). Identify the types of data to be collected, the metrics that will be used, and the data sources and the resources required to conduct the analysis.
- Interpretation. Collect the data, and validate that the quantity and quality is sufficient to support decisionmaking. For example, is data available on a broad enough base of sales reps to support conclusions? Has data been collected over a time period long enough to identify behavioral changes? Normalize the data to correct for external factors (e.g. rep tenure, territory size, competitive differences, pipeline maturity). Analyze the data, draw preliminary conclusions and review these with key stakeholders before making final recommendations.
- Presentation. Your understanding of the audience should inform how you present the results. Take into account audience members’ roles, responsibilities, level in the organization and preferred method of consuming information. The key is to get to the point quickly, not educate the audience on the steps involved in the analysis. Consider the cadence, frequency and format for presenting results. Is this a one-time analysis or an ongoing effort that will become part of the standard operating procedure?
As organizations continue to invest in advanced analytics capabilities, a consistent process for collecting, analyzing and presenting data ensures that sales operations delivers insights sales leaders can use to manage and improve sales productivity.