The Most Overlooked Job in Sales Operations

December 23, 2013 at 7:00 AM

Data StewardshipRecently, I've been working with a client to analyze their customer data.  They sell both directly and indirectly and the effort required end-user level detail.  Their recent shift to new finance systems and a sales restructure created added complexity.  This data was key to the client making sound strategic decisions for future growth. 

They’ve done well to make sense of jumbled data but at great cost.  The time spent on manual fixes and data restructuring is forever lost.  As a result, they're considering adding the position of Data Steward to Sales Ops.

World-class Sales Ops teams have access to reliable, timely data.  Their data and reports are viewed as the “truth” across the company.  On the other hand, bad data leads to bad decisions, lost productivity or both.  The adage of “Garbage-In-Garbage-Out” is as true today as ever.

More Data Does Not Mean Better Data

Making better decisions in our data-rich world is expected.  Almost everything needed by your boss depends on rock-solid data.  Make sure you are doing all you can to capitalize on good data by Clicking here to get your Guide to Sales Data Governance.

Fact - B2B companies that effectively use data analytics deliver 5-6% more profit.  Fact – data-centered decisions in Marketing provide ROI’s of 15-20% above the norm.   Data analytics by themselves won’t deliver revenue. The data needs to be correct, accessible and timely.

Great analysis of flawed data will blow up in your face.  So, in addition to good data, your analyst needs to be highly competent.  Take the first steps towards uncover the pot of gold hidden in your data:

  1. Determine the problem you are trying to solve.  Are you trying to generate more revenue from new customers?  Are you unsure if you have the right number of sales reps?  Do you want to understand which specific rep activities lead to more profit?

  2. Identify the data needed.  Do you want more customers like your current “ideal customer”?  If launching a new product, who is most likely to buy the new offering?  Consider all possible sources of information.

  3. Pinpoint who “owns” the data you need.  This will lead you to others inside your company and/or to third-party providers.  You may own some of the data needed.  However, there’s a critical nuance here.  The “owner” of the data may not be the only one that can alter or adjust that data.

  4. Ascertain who can alter or influence that data.  Finance may “own” the order-to-cash function for the organization.  Taking a transaction from order-entry to final invoice and collection has many facets.  Can customer service issue credits to an account?  Who can open new accounts and how do they determine pricing?  Who’s responsible for accounts getting “rolled-up” to a customer hierarchy?  Does everyone recognize revenue in the same way based on the same “triggers”?

  5. Find someone that can represent sales in data creation, flow and access.  You may have someone on your team that can serve in this role.  You may need to go outside to find a data steward.  Data without governance or stewardship will lead to bad decisions. 

Let’s say sales rep “A” identifies a new opportunity.  They create a new customer record in your CRM for Acme, Inc.  The rep creates an opportunity of $100,000 potential for your product.  At the same time, someone from a subsidiary of Acme contacts inside sales and places a telephone order for $10,000.  Who ties these two things events together?  How does this affect billing, discounts, rates, etc.?  What role did marketing have in the effort?  How does the linkage of the data influence conclusions you draw about Acme?

Sales Urgency AND Data Understanding

Data stewardship is a detailed and complicated task to tackle.  Big warning signs will tell you a data steward is needed.  Is there frequent disagreement on the precise definition of a “customer”?  How much time do you waste dealing with “exceptions” to the compensation plan?  Is sales busy handling billing problems when they could be closing deals?  Like any tough problem, you have to start somewhere. 

 Assign or hire someone that will be your “Data Defender” for sales.  Help everyone see that sound data is central to future growth.  You need buy-in from Finance, IT, Operations, Marketing, Customer Service and Sales. 

Your data steward has to work well cross-functionally.  Find someone that has the understanding of IT with the urgency of Sales.  They’ll need to work with data users to ensure the right data is available.  They will protect you from bad data and enable you to make good decisions. Download the Guide to Sales Data Governance today.

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Topics: Sales Operations Strategy, Forecasting, Big Data, sales operations, Account Segmentation, Decision making

Posted by Patrick Seidell

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