Data-Driven Selling: Connecting Customer Actions to Outcomes

One of the most valuable lessons I learned early in my selling career is that the one with the best information has an advantage.

At the time I was working for one of the big oil companies and my customers were corporate buyers. It was surprising how few of these buyers made the effort to acquire information that would help them negotiate a favorable price, which was a typical objective because our products were essentially commodities.

Years later when I launched the landscape company that I would own for twenty years, we took that practice to heart and recorded every vendor and customer interaction. Our first CRM, made the task of tracking customer actions that much easier.

Track Actions to Predict What’s Next

Documenting what was happening in our business proved to be an invaluable selling practice. However, it was building a system that could predict outcomes based on prior actions that proved to be the game changer.

Humans beings are more predictable than we like to admit. What’s unfortunate is that not knowing the best actions to take in a situation will often lead to inaction, and that’s the kiss of death in selling situations.

Sellers get upset with buyers because that take a seemingly random approach to finding solutions to their problems. For example, a colleague recently shared her frustration on Facebook about a client that insisted on a late Friday afternoon conference call on short notice after previously rescheduling earlier calls.

The result was the client pushing everything off until she had more time to prepare. Was that unpredictable; hardly? It has been my experience that very few transactions occur late in the week when people are tired and distracted by the upcoming weekend of activities.

This is customer data that the selling organization should know and respond to if it is tracking and analyzing customer actions. Data tells a story by connecting data points that over time reliably predict what will happen next, based on what’s happening now.

It’s the responsibility of the business to design and manage their process for guiding buyers along a predictably reliable path, and data informs everyone how to get and keep everything on track.

Your Process Tells a Data-Driven Story

One of the problems with the classic marketing or sales funnel is that it doesn’t translate well to actual human behavior. For the most part, it’s just a checklist.

A checklist of the steps in your business process is the backbone of data-driven selling because every single touchpoint with customers is a source of data. However, it’s destined to fail if that data is not rich with insights about human behaviors that sometimes defy measurement.

For example, it’s easy to measure time, and when there are delays in moving buyers through your sales process you will know that a potential deal has stalled. The challenge is interpreting that data to inform the business what to do next.

The business process should be mapped out to consistently deliver an exceptional customer experience. This also requires the process to adapt to each and every future customer that it guides, with those adaptations being measured to refine the story.

Human beings are both predictable and unpredictable. The only way for a business to successfully navigate between those two potential outcomes is to build its future on a foundation of human data that pushes the desired sales story forward.

Data-driven selling is not a perfect system, but it tends to work because the one with the best information always has the advantage for connecting actions to desired outcomes.