THE SALES WINDOW: How data is revolutionising the roles of salespeople

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The numbers game is on. Picture: Warner Bros

The ability to gain valuable insights from huge sets of data is revolutionising the business world and changing the way traditional jobs are carried out.

Sales and marketing is one area where the use of data has transformed the sector.

No longer do sales people rely on cold calling potential customers, instead they can draw on a bunch of data points about a specific client’s interaction with a product and map where they are in the buying cycle.

The ability to access data has generated some huge opportunities for business and entire industries have sprung up around helping sales people put the information to work — sorting, viewing and drawing insights from reams upon reams of otherwise meaningless figures or actions.

A bunch of tech companies centre around showing data in beautiful new ways, transforming entire sales teams in the process.

New hires

Triad Retail Media recently won the contract to build out eBay’s advertising sales team from scratch. Company managing director Barry McGhee and commercial director Simon Burrows have had to hire from outside traditional sales exec candidates to ensure the squad is ready for the changes in the sector.

“In past careers we had to hire media sales people,” McGhee said, adding it was all about recruiting people who could competently build relationships. “There wasn’t a need to understand complex data products,” he said.

Previously sales has been about building relationships with people but predictive analytics have made the process of closing a deal much more regimented.

“Within our industry, digital advertising has changed… Now it’s about leveraging the audience on the site,” McGhee said.

Nicolette Maury, MD, Intuit Australia.

Intuit Australia managing director Nicolette Maury says tech advances and data have changed the sales process itself.

“Being able to track progress of sales, using things like heat maps, for an individual sales person to be able to be on the road and have access to all of their customer data in the palm of their hands. When they’re out visiting a client or a prospect, they’re actually able to maximise the effectiveness of their time. They are able to see who’s nearby that they can do a followup with… and suss out the opportunities that are around them,” she said.

Sales people can now receive real time updates of where they’re at in relation to targets and can use data to improve forecasting accuracy. It’s also changing the way sales people pitch, Burrows says.

“Customers are expecting, when they’re pitched to, everything you’re saying is underpinned by credible data points,” he said, adding doing that at scale while sales reps are out in the field means there needs to be systems in place which crunch the numbers.

“Data is fundamentally changing the way we pitch,” he said. “If businesses can help enable sales reps to have those insights quickly, they’re going to be able to multiply their success.”

But it’s not just about the pitch, data is also shaping the way sales people put packages or products together.

“Predictive analytics is changing the way we offer products to customers, to set prices or create demand around the inventory we’re moving,” Burrows says.

Data and sales systems are also helping reps better prioritise their workload so attention can be focussed on higher value deals.

“Data and tech helps sales people better make decisions on how they spend their time. By having access to the tech tools at their fingertips, they’re able to see which activities are the most effective,” Maury said. Staff can see if phone calls to new prospects are providing a return. They can also see the impact of spending time with newer customers versus building relationships with more advanced customers.

Social media and the internet has also changed the way sales people prospect for potential leads, Maury says.

“You used to get lists of phone numbers and you would be cold calling to help profile a customer before even assessing if they were a good prospect. Nowadays, sales people can go online, they can connect with people on LinkedIn, they can look at Facebook groups, they can look at people’s websites and really assess, even without making that call, is this someone who’s a target for whatever objective that I have as a sales person, and is it worth spending the time building that relationship,” Maury says.

“In our case, if someone doesn’t have a web presence or they’re not on LinkedIn, it’s a pretty clear sign that they’re not as cloud ready as other accountants.”

However, the creative element in sales hasn’t been completely overrun by data, McGhee says.

“People who are data savvy and can grasp it are a huge advantage. The creative side doesn’t disappear. Being able to come up with creative solutions for a client is actually critical. Combining the two is when you win,” he said.

However data is helping both creative and data-heavy sales people better understand customer behaviour and clients are becoming more led by the numbers.

“They want to leverage that technology and you need sales people who can understand data and the tech stack and match products to the advertisers needs,” McGhee says, adding many agencies now have buyer profiles and hire sales people who match those profiles.

It’s about finding a “balance” between using tech and data to build long-lasting relationships and get deals done, McGhee says.

NOW READ: 7 senior sales executives share the benefits of collaboration

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