The number of data-driven marketing solutions has grown exponentially over the last few years. But why should marketing have all the fun?

With the amount of data available to us, smart sales teams have begun implementing a data-driven approach to their sales strategy.

According to Aberdeen Group, 79% of decision makers say that their “decision window” has decreased in the last two years. This means that sales must make pre-emptive measures to act based on data models.

The question is, there’s so much information out there, how do you get started? CIO Insights found that 40% of organizations indicate that scattered information and limited visibility into data impair their sales organization. So how do you turn this data into actionable sales insight?

In this article, I’ll explain how to implement data into your sales strategy. You’ll have a top-down view of what a good data-driven sales strategy looks like and how to get started.

Organizational Mindset & Buy-in

Data is meaningless if you’re unwilling or unable to convert it into actionable insights. Not only do you need to capture that data, but you need to be able to process it. This requires a well-thought-out strategy on how to put it to good use.

Because of this, you need to get your entire organization rallied around the importance of data within their departments and roles. Sales metrics can be transformed into actionable insights. But if your entire team isn’t willing to buy-in with you, the whole thing can potentially come crashing down before you realize there’s a problem. So how do you make the business case?

Start by collecting the data you already have access to. Make sure you fully understand which metrics you’re measuring and why they’re important. Define how they affect the sales strategy and process across your team.

To get leadership on board, you must be clear on how this data will be used to not only predict business outcomes but optimize them to increase revenue and growth. Start by defining the end goals, moving on to the insights needed to reach them. Once you connect the dots, finding the data to get there becomes clearer.

H.O. Maycotte, founder and CEO of Umbel, put it best in his article on Forbes:

Data-Driven Sales Strategy - Ho Maycotte

Data-driven sales is an organizational play and needs marketing and product on board to make it a success. Data is what ties these three departments together.

A cost-effective way of testing short-term results to present to the boardroom is to use a platform like Kaggle. With Kaggle, you can post data projects and enlist the help of the community to solve data-specific problems. This is especially useful for small to mid-sized organizations which are lacking data-specific employees.

Data-Driven Sales Strategy - Kaggle

Carvana, an online automobile dealer, used Kaggle to figure out the likelihood that certain cars found at auctions would sell at a profit or a loss. They offered prizes ranging $1,000 to $5,000, and recruited data modellers in an affordable and scalable way.

The same approach can be used to yield sales insights without the risks that internal resourcing brings. Until you’re ready to employ in-house data scientists, services like Kaggle can be an affordable alternative to prove the worth of a data-driven sales strategy.

Tools & Continuous Training

Despite the solutions available to us, getting started won’t be easy. There will be a learning curve within the organization. Numbers on their own don’t mean much – it’s the insight beneath them that you need in order to boost sales.

Turning on the big data faucet without making any other technological adjustments is a bit like handing someone the keys to a Ferrari and assuming they know how to drive it. They need a test-drive and perhaps a day on the track first.

According to a study conducted by SiriusDecisions, data-driven sales enablement purchasing has leaped an incredible 69% in the last two years alone for this very reason.

The tools you use must be able to collect data from trusted sources. They should be able to verify the accuracy and the authenticity of this data to help guarantee that it’s meaningful.

There aren’t any turn-key solutions in the market yet, but there are tools currently available that can help you build a data-driven sales stack. Here are a couple of our favorites:

1. Mattermark: an intelligent lead prospecting tool. Mattermark provides company data for your target leads and accounts.

Data-Driven Sales Strategy - Mattermark

2. FullContact: provides data on the individual prospects within a target account.

Data-Driven Sales Strategy - FullContact

Make sure that these tools bring the disparate sections of your organization together. Marketing will use data to find the right leads, while sales is available at the right moment to answer nuanced questions and to provide that necessary human touch. Data brings your business together and should never drive it further apart.

Because of the break-neck pace at which technology continues to advance, you’ll also have to invest in on-going training to help make sure that your team knows how to properly utilize these tools.

As the great Wayne Gretzky once said, “don’t go where the puck is – go where the puck is going to be.” You always need to be looking out for the next big thing in terms of data analytics and you can’t do that without continuous, ongoing education.

This goes back to the organizational shift mentioned in my point above. Ongoing training will be needed, which is why data-scientists are an attractive option for many organizations. They can take the insights and empower staff (across all departments, not just sales) to generate better results.

How to Use This Data to Increase Sales Performance

According to HBR, companies that have already found success in the big data era didn’t do so because they had access to more unique or better quality data. They found success because they had great leadership that could define what success looks like around the context of the big data revolution.

This requires you to set clear goals on how data will be used and what “success” now looks like in 2016 and beyond. You must make sure that your big data implementations and analytical tools aren’t replacing your company’s day-to-day processes, but supplementing them.

An easy area to optimize is sales enablement content. With the right data, you can yield insights on which pieces of content help close the most deals. It can also be useful to measure the reach of you content.

According to Demand Metric, 75% of organizations reported that sales enablement generated a moderate or significant contribution to their sales force:

Data-Driven Sales Strategy - Demand Metric

This allows sales and marketing to create a perpetual feedback loop. By informing each other of the insights yielded from their efforts, both sides win.

If you haven’t already utilized the power of sales enablement, you need to begin creating a library. Look to your current blog posts, eBooks and whitepapers and see which pieces can help you overcome certain objections throughout the sales cycle.

According to this infographic by Kissmetrics, the #1 factor the defines top performing salespeople is educating prospects with new ideas or perspectives:

Data-Driven Sales Strategy - Kissmetrics

Not sure on how to map these out? You guessed it, data can help you figure it out. This is an effort that both sales and marketing can take part in. When more sales are generated, everyone wins.

A data-driven sales strategy shouldn’t replace the way you currently make decisions. It is supposed to help you arrive at those same quality decisions faster, easier and more frequently than ever before.

Turn your data into insight, and then use that insight to make actionable decisions. Speeding up the rate of follow-up, the amount information you include in your emails and how frequently you should “touch” each opportunity are all examples of this in practice.


The idea of “big data” is not a trend. It is not a marketing buzzword and it is not a passing fad. It is an incredibly powerful idea that can give marketers and business leaders valuable, actionable insight that they need to get closer to the results they need. In some cases, they can even guarantee them.

Because of the volume, data can be every bit as much a curse as it can be a gift. Only by taking steps now to create a true data-driven sales strategy will you make sure that you unlock all benefits with as few of the disadvantages as possible.