It has never been easier to build a sales dashboard. Technology has made the painstaking processes of data transformation and visualization simpler and more accessible to savvy business users. Because of the ease, Sales Operations are producing an increasing number of reports and dashboards. This has many Sales Operations leaders wondering if they need to formalize a sales intelligence program.
If we can agree that the act of publishing dashboards is not a true sales intelligence program, we will also agree that increasing the number of dashboards isn’t a reflection of improvement or maturity. According to Gartner benchmarks, on average, sales professionals use 5+ dashboards regularly; 10% of sellers are using 11+ dashboards.
With such prominence and visibility, a more formal sales intelligence program makes sense. Here are ten tips in building a sales intelligence program:
1) Lead with a business purpose
Sales intelligence is not about technology. The goals are to understand the health of the business and inform decision making. Essentially, you want to give business leaders a new perspective into their business.
2) Have an executive sponsor
The best executive sponsors are those that are intellectually curious, data-oriented and open to a new way of thinking.
3) Work incrementally focusing on quality over quantity
Start small and iterate. Collect early (and visible) wins but recognize that you will likely stumble through unforeseen challenges – internal politics, data hygiene, technical woes, etc. Also, while it is tempting to deliver many dashboards quickly, it is more important to deliver fewer, meaningful insights.
4) Start with a top-down approach
Top-down approaches can cascade from organization to sales team to individual sellers. The top-levels (e.g. organization and sales team) are often an easier place to start. While a bottom-up approach has value, idiosyncrasies at the lower levels may cause delays.
According to Gartner survey results, the following metrics (by category) are ranked based upon usage and value:
5) Layout a roadmap
Let key stakeholders know how your insights will impact the business. Identify near-term deliverables focused on business problems. Also, calendarize your business cadence with an illustration of how insights can improve decision making or planning (i.e. territory design, account segmentation, quarterly business reviews, etc.).
6) Be clear about the scope
When it comes to sales intelligence, there is value in providing transparency to data, analyzing the data to deliver insights, and/or being part of the transformative change to improve performance. Be clear with your stakeholders on your scope and focus. Manage their expectations. Most sales intelligence programs start as an analytics group. Transformative efforts typically are out of scope.
7) Build a virtual community of early adopters and key influencers
Assembling a virtual team will help promote diversity in thinking, increase usage and improve the maturation process. Plus, a small team of ambassadors will help get the message out on the assets and value being delivered.
8) Measure stakeholder consumption and manage perception
Success is not measured by the number of dashboards published. Rather, it comes from how insights influence leadership and decision making. If insights are not being used or leveraged, figure out what needs to change. It might be something quite simple.
9) Do not assume your analyses will be used as intended
Deploying dashboards is as much about people change as it is about a technology change. Help sales managers and leaders understand the data and the insights. If needed, teach them how to consume these new insights.
10) Be a data master
Being a master of anything is simply cool. So, to become a master, continually be aware of your data sources, data hygiene and mechanisms for collecting data in the future. Data is the lifeblood of your sales intelligence program and is the key to sustainable success.
Sale intelligence can dramatically improve how decisions are made across a sales organization. The idea isn’t to replace sales manager discretion or input. Instead, it is to empower sales managers and executive leaders by organizing disparate data to become information that leads to actionable insights.