C-Suite Advisory

Boost your business brain: Align sales and marketing with transparent analytics.

Engineering Students

How do you make decisions? You can tell yourself it’s your gut, your raw instinct. But is that true?

You might have been using your Big Data Brain.

Think about it: your whole life has been an accumulation of lots of little bits of data. Your brain is absorbing numbers, words, and pictures every millisecond. Your brain files data away over the course of your day, week, and lifetime. Then, in another millisecond, it uses that data to produce a solution. Your brain is the original Big Data supercomputer.

What if your business could do the same thing?

Your business could be absorbing complex data, creating forecasts, and making informed decisions. All your employees could work together to process complex information at lightning speed. How does an average-sized company do this on limited resources?

Technology makes this reality closer and cheaper by the day. In a sales and marketing organization, marketing technology allows you to harness data dynamics. You can get your left and right brain — sales and marketing — engaged in perfect alignment.

Align sales and marketing in your business brain

“The bottom line is, when people are crystal clear about the most important priorities of the organization and team they work with and prioritized their work around those top priorities, not only are they many times more productive, they discover they have the time they need to have a whole life.” — Stephen Covey.

As Covey indicated, alignment creates not only a productive team but a happy one.

Likewise, a human brain is most productive when it’s happy. When you’re in a positive mood, you’re more creative, committed, and energetic. Under stress, the brain feels apathy and impotence. It might even enter fight-or-flight mode.

When parts of your team work against each other, it’s comparable to a neurotic or schizophrenic mind at work. While suffering neurosis, people are more likely to fall into confusion, repetition, and ineffective behaviors. Likewise, a misaligned business might be repeating mistakes. Soon your processes are confused, and you’re making ineffective use of time and money.

How can you tell if your business is a basket case? What are possible symptoms?

Misalignment comes in many forms. Is your marketing team putting out content and material that doesn’t get used? Is your sales team struggling to find quality content? These are signs they are out of sync. Arguments might also erupt between departments. Sales might be plummeting as a result of employees working against each other.

Whatever your alignment problem, you need to get everyone together to fix it. Get them around the same table, looking at the same set of data. For them to start working toward a shared goal, they must all accept the same information as true.

This doesn’t mean providing an internal newsletter, a semi-regular meeting, or an unread document. True alignment is a deep understanding of the other employees’ roles. If one department knows how the other departments work, they are more likely to complement each other. And, the best way to achieve this is with open and transparent data.

Transparency as best practice

Transparency feels good. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” said former Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis.

In business, data transparency reduces information asymmetries. It provides evidence beyond mere business hunches or trends. By revealing the true state of affairs to everyone in sales and marketing, you end misguided opinions on what works. The proof is bare for all to see.

Don’t look at it solely from your business’ point of view. Alignment, transparency, and analytics should be all about the customer. Which structure, processes, and actions will end up creating the ultimate consumer experience?

To reach this level of transparency, you first need clean, accurate data.

Data provides true clarity

Data is everywhere today. So, why do companies struggle to harness it?

More than 40 percent of the world’s population is pumping data back and forth over the internet. Facebook claims more than 2.37 billion active monthly users. LinkedIn allows you to view the world’s workforce and see their career history down to a granular level.

And yet, 53 percent of high performers rate themselves “effective” at using data.

The crux of the matter is humans. Capturing and creating data is easy, but analyzing, sharing, and evaluating data can be very difficult. Despite available AI and Big Data technology, interpreting the data is the job of the homo sapiens.

Data is only as trustworthy as the person or organization that collects it. To get all your departments believing in the same data, your business data must be transparent. The people collecting and sharing the data must be trained on how to use it. Training starts with statistical knowledge, data integrity, and database management. Having an unbiased third party, such as a transparent tech platform, can provide function and added clarity.

With best practice techniques in data and analytics, you should be able to start building your business intelligence.

How do you boost your business’s IQ?

To create the perfect customer experience, you need all parts of the business brain working as one. The frontal cortex (CEO) makes long-term plans, and the cerebellum (senior staff) coordinates a response. The thousands of synapses and neurons (other staff) transmit information and stimulate action.

To get your business brain firing properly, you’ll need alignment within your marketing and sales team. Consider these practical tips for fostering alignment.

To boost alignment:

  • Specify your target market with sales. If you’re both set on the same target, you’ll find a lot fewer campaigns end up missing the mark. Get as specific as possible. Include demographics, location, and psychological profile. You can even go as far as imagining your ideal buyer’s traits to add a few data points.
  • Identify what makes a lead and what to do about them. Marketing and sales often experience a disconnect when discussing leads. On one measure, 79 percent of marketing leads never convert into sales.
  • Categorize your methods and channels. Document those you’re using on spreadsheets. Then, test and experiment to find what works and what doesn’t. By looking at your sales history, you’ll be able to cut ineffective tactics and double your effective ones.

Boosting alignment might be the easier part of this exercise. Creating a transparent and useful analytics ecosystem is difficult. To start:

  • Question if data analytics is right for your business. Often a business not prepared or suited to digitization goes online before it’s ready. With no driving need for the technology, the business ends up with a shiny toy that doesn’t link to return on investment. Data analytics can improve most businesses, but you need to know how before attempting anything else.
  • Find the right insights and platforms that matter. Metrics helpful for salespeople are pipeline status, conversion rate, and opportunities. Your sellers need to know where buyers are in their journey and how to get them to the next stage. Start simple, then let the metrics expand according to your sellers’ requests.
  • Invest in frontline training and skills. It’s no good having tech solutions if no one knows how to use them. Customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning, and sales enablement platforms improve your sales force, but they don’t replace it.

Building new tech capabilities can be a challenge. Constant communication and feedback are needed to improve. A transparent feedback loop injects knowledge and learning back into your marketing strategy. A sales enablement platform can provide this feedback mechanism.

Sales enablement makes alignment and analytics achievable

If a brain has received the most knowledge through a best-in-class education, then the individual can score higher on an aptitude test.

Similarly, if a company has adopted a best-in-class sales enablement program, then 84 percent of sales reps can achieve quotas.

This one statistic is suggestive of a few powerful trends:

  • Top sales reps work for successful companies with true marketing-sales alignment.
  • Best-in-class companies have clean, transparent sales data.
  • Sellers work better when they feel enabled and empowered.

Data should enhance decision-making. Technology should augment human judgment, not replace it. One-on-one relationships remain at the heart of good sales. If your business has clean data and a transparent feedback loop, you can measure and improve these relationships.

Have you read?

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Jay Thomas
Jay Thomas is the Chief Strategy Officer at Triptych, a sales empowerment software company. He enjoys coming up with creative solutions and utilizing technologies in new ways to find the quickest, most cost-effective solutions to achieve the objective. Jay is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine.