The Data Lies and You Believe It

There has been a shift in focus over the last decade. As more and more data is generated, more and more we look to the data. Our attention is spent sifting through the information to understand something. The more data, the more information and allegedly, more insights and deeper understanding. With so much data available, we build dashboards to display it in ways that provide a measurement at any given time.

The Map Is Not the Terrain

You can learn a lot by looking at the map. But you get a real sense of a place by walking the streets, dining in the local restaurants, and spending time speaking to natives in the small cafes. The map, which, while providing direction, provides very little understanding.

Data, Analytics, and Business Intelligence are all important capabilities but they do nothing to change the outcomes they provide. To make meaningful change, you must shift your focus from the data to the course of that data.

Not What Does It Say but What Do I Need to Do

Your dashboard tells you that the bottom 20 percent of your people are struggling to create any new opportunities. The data clearly shows that they are way behind on their numbers and their activity is too low to produce the result they need. You, recognizing the pattern, demand more activity. The map is clear, as is the direction, as far as you are concerned.

However, were you to shift your attention away from the data and towards the individuals that make up that bottom 20 percent, you might discover that a number of them are very capable, but also very lazy. These people need to do more work. You might also find that a few of them are not salespeople at all, but really account managers at best, customer service at worst. They lack the attributes, skills, and desire to be a good salesperson. A person or two could have excellent raw material, the kind of natural attributes that could make them a top performer, but for their lack of training and leadership and development.

The idea of that data telling only part of the story is true for the top performers as well. Two of the top ten reps inherited large accounts that happened to grow on their watch. They are no more responsible for that growth than the man on the moon. Another two believe they are great reps, but they are in excellent territories with a brand that is so desirable that it covers up their lack of skills. You might also have one or two that take their sales manager (that’d be you) to every major sales call and haven’t won a deal on their own in the entire time they have been in your employ.

You Change the Data by Changing the Inputs

The data gives you a starting point to look and discover the “why” to go with the “what” provided by the objective information. Once you know the “why,” you can begin to take action to do something to change the data in the future. But to do this, you might have to step out from behind the monitor and the dashboard.

Filed under: Sales Acumen

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