Data is the driving force behind successful sales, but not all data is created equal. The better and more accurate the pool of data that your sales team has to work from to target opportunities and prospects, the better their success will be. Not only that, but with quality data, your organization stands to decrease both the cost of sale and the time required to close the deal. So, what’s the best way to organize, analyze and effectively apply data to create a winning, data-driven sales program?

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Here are seven steps to get you where you need to be:

1. Build Trust

Data is one of your company’s most important assets, and that’s why your organization’s top priority should be to guard it, manage it and maintain it. When it comes to sharing data, only share it with trusted partners – those businesses that are essential to your success and that have proven their commitment to your organization over time. When data is shared with key partners across your supply chain, it has the potential to have a greater impact on your sales growth and theirs as well. That’s because, with the help of others, you can fill in the missing pieces – the missing information – that can make your business intelligence complete.

2. Build, Cleanse and Enrich Data

Better data results in better sales, which is why the first step in creating an actionable pool of data is to build a single system of record representing intelligence from across your supply chain. You’ll need to pull valuable data from CRM and ERP systems, order processing platforms and other systems. This intelligence will include customer records, transactional data, service contract and warranty expiration information, product lifecycle data, customer product preferences and more. Once you have a centralized data pool in place, the next step is to cleanse and enrich the data. When data gaps are filled, the stage is set to apply rich analytics and statistical modeling as well as other tools and practices that can uncover actionable opportunities for your sales team.

3. Use the Cloud

Today’s most successful sales and marketing organizations make use of the cloud as a platform for delivering valuable information resources to their sales agents. The ease and convenience of cloud-based sales platforms means that sales professionals – no matter where they are located or when they are working — now have a centralized online location for finding and retrieving information on the sales opportunities that your data mining and management efforts have uncovered. The power of the cloud is undeniable!

4. Create Campaigns

Data is of no value to your business if you don’t turn it into something meaningful. Make use of data analysis and predictive analytics to identify areas where customer demand is high and where new opportunities exist; to track product and service lifecycles to better understand when your customers might be looking for replacement offerings; and to gain insight into customer buying behavior. Your data is your road map to sales success. Learn how to read it and then create customized or even personalized sales campaigns that will allow you to achieve your sales goals – whether across your installed base or with new prospects.

5. Automate

In a perfect world, sales teams should be able to easily create quotes and send them out to the market in a timely manner. But the reality is they just don’t have the time – especially when it comes to those opportunities at the low end of the sales spectrum that don’t offer the best financial returns. This is where automation comes in. If you automate time-consuming quoting and ordering processes, you’ll see how high-volume, lower-dollar opportunities can quickly add up. Through automation, you can achieve sales growth without increases in head count.  So take advantage of the data you’ve taken so much care to cultivate: use it as the basis for automated sales or email marketing programs. And don’t be afraid to turn to outside experts to get the job done with automation as needed.

6. Report

Measuring and reporting is key to understanding your campaign results. How did your automated sales campaign perform? How can the data be adjusted to provide better results in the future? Now is the time to explore other data sources, data points and data partners that can be added into the mix – or removed from it. Find a way to benchmark your progress regularly so that you can improve your data processes over time.

7. Repeat

It’s not over, yet! Your data isn’t stagnant. It grows and it evolves, and it’s up to you to stay on top of those changes and keep your data-driven sales initiatives fresh and on point.  The process is ongoing and requires an investment of discipline and patience, but the payoff can be huge. So when you close the books on one campaign, start getting your data ready for the next one. It’s a continuous cycle.

By effectively applying data-driven sales practices such as these, companies around the globe have realized millions of dollars in additional revenue each year. Isn’t it time your organization did the same? Get to work and put a plan in place to turn your data into a goldmine of sales opportunities. The sales are there for the taking: you have everything to gain and nothing to lose.