Getting Your Marketing and Sales Teams to Use Data

Posted by Timothy Wier On March 14, 2018


Getting Your Marketing and Sales Teams to Use Data


Collecting and maintaining data is only part of an IT manager’s job. To fully make data functional, you need to get your marketing and sales teams to use it.

Many marketing and sales team members are highly focused on their own targets, KPIs and objectives. And if you’re part of a good team, those people are excellent at hitting those metrics.

(Note: This article is part of the "Agricultural Business" series. Click here  to read the free guide.)

So they may not necessarily be open to hearing from an IT person about how they can hit their numbers better – or even increase their numbers – through the good use of data.

Here are some steps for getting your marketing and sales teams to use data:

  • Explain value in terms of the marketing-sales funnel.
  • Be transparent about the accuracy and sourcing of your data.
  • Ask questions to direct marketing and sales to start thinking in terms of data.
  • Compare KPIs before and after teams start implementing data.
  • Celebrate good use of data among your team.

Explain the value in terms of the marketing-sales funnel.

Your marketing and sales teams are looking to achieve their own goals. Because these goals are ultimately tied to revenue, they’re going to be high priority for your teams and your company’s leadership.

So if you’re going to convince marketers and salespeople to use your data, you have to tie its value to the things that they value.

When talking to marketing people, you want to look at the long term. Here are some things that they’re looking for:

  • Better understand current and prospective customers to aid in buyer personas
  • Calculate the ROI of marketing efforts
  • Track the company’s growth in brand perception among the market
  • Identify the tactics that generate the highest number of Marketing Qualified Leads
  • Finding lookalike audiences to those who are visiting your site, converting and are current customers
  • See where the market is trending so they can stay ahead the curve

On the other hand, your sales team is looking for short-term value. They’re not looking to market trends, but looking to the end of the month. At the longest, they’re looking to the end of the quarter.

Here are some of their interests:

  • Maximize price point for deals in pipeline
  • Close deals in pipeline at a faster rate
  • Predict how much pipeline and revenue they can generate each month
  • Predicting whether they’ll be able to hit their number for the month
  • Provide insights on pain points and how to address them
  • Understand why failed deals failed and how to correct future conversations

Whether you’re working with marketing, sales or both, by understanding their objectives, you can frame the data in terms of those objectives. That way, you become a trusted ally of their efforts, rather than someone trying to promote their own agenda.

Here are two guides that we’ve compiled that you can download and send to your teams today:

Here are some other tactics to try:

  • Hold monthly or quarterly webinars where you can explain to your team how to use data (marketing professionals in particular are always in the mood for quality education)
  • Direct your team to training events held by other companies
  • Circulate resources – blogs, eBooks, podcasts or videos – that help marketing and salespeople become more in-tune with modern, data-driven marketing practices
  • Find case studies online of how marketing and sales professionals have used data to improve their efforts
  • Talk with your team. Walk the halls or schedule regular phone calls. Get to know the team and listen to what their challenges are in their day-to-day lives. Not only will this help you tailor your future training and enablement tactics, it’ll also show them that you’re willing to listen and help them solve their problems, rather than simply push your data onto them to help you reach your goals

Think of this training as removing barriers. Each time, you’ll remove one barrier that may exist in your marketing and sales teams’ minds. Then, eventually, you’ll remove enough of them that they’ll be able and willing to jump on board.

Be transparent about sourcing and the accuracy of your data.

Marketing and salespeople are busy and hate wasting time. Thus, a good portion of their skepticism around your data is going to hang on how you sourced it and how accurate it is. They don’t want to take a risk on data that is unverified or, worse, false.

Sometimes, the sourcing method can influence its accuracy. For instance, if you gathered data from a survey instead of from an objective source (like the USDA), then you’re going to have inaccurate data.

(Here are some of the reasons why survey data is consistently unreliable.)

If you aren’t prepared to answer questions about sourcing and accuracy, then the conversation will be over before it’s even begun.

Marketers are probably going to be less skeptical about data than sales. That’s because the modern marketer regularly uses (or should be using) data from web traffic, ad campaigns, social engagement, email performance and more to track success.

However, many marketers are going to be skeptical as to whether you have any unique insights to offer that they don’t already know, and they may think that your data is just going to be redundant. So here are some things to offer them:

  • Don’t try to replace their data with yours. Instead, focus on how your data can integrate with theirs. For example, if you have a bunch of web traffic data they don’t have access to, consider finding a way to integrate that with email and ad campaigns (using UTM tracking links, for example) so the data can work in concert.
  • Talk about trends. Trends are going to be the most powerful tool when talking to marketers. If you can demonstrate trends that are consistent with what the marketing industry is seeing, then it’ll go a long way to convince your people.
  • Explain where your sourced your data. If your data isn’t opt-in or self-provided information, then you have to explain where you sourced it and whether it’s an ethical source. That’s because marketers are increasingly becoming wary of using purchased lists. Most data providers (like Farm Market iD) can do this easily, but failure to do so will set you back in earning their trust.

Salespeople are probably going to be a bit trickier than marketers, because their efforts are typically focused on conversation and persuasion, rather than analyzing industry trends.

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Here are some tips:

  • You have to tell the story that “data = more sales”. Whether your data helps identify a new section of the market or explains the behavior of people currently interacting with your website and brand, you have to speak in the language of your salespeople.
  • Make sure they know that this data is sourced from actual people and demonstrates actual trends.
  • If a salesperson can verify your data through conversation, you’ll go a long way toward building their trust.

When talking to marketing and salespeople, the burden of proof is going to be on you. Tough luck, but that’s just how it is.

But if you’re aware of this and can lean into it, you can be prepared to answer these questions, impress your team and become a trustworthy resource for them.

Ask questions to direct marketing and sales to think in terms of data.

You probably regularly engage in conversations with people in your company, both formally and informally.

Whether these conversations are in meetings, over lunch or at the water cooler, you can use questions to direct marketers and salespeople to think in terms of data, by simply asking them to explain the data behind their campaigns.

Here’s a list of questions that can help you do this:

  • “How much traffic did we get from the last ad campaign?”
  • “How many more leads did we get this month?”
  • “Did you learn anything new about our target audience?”
  • “What percentage of our email list has been validated in the last year?”
  • “How much time are you spending on buyer research?”
  • “Do you have a reliable data source for X objective?”

If your marketing and sales teams don’t seem enthusiastic, that’s perfectly natural. These aren’t going to be overnight successes.

Just remember to drive the conversation where it seems like a natural fit, and help them start thinking about how they can apply data to their own needs.

Compare KPIs before and after implementation of data-driven campaigns.

Once you and your team start implementing data-driven marketing and sales, it’s time to start generating results.

And don’t think that because you’ve handed off your data to marketing and sales that they’ll take it from there. If the campaign tanks or fails to meet their expectations, then you’re going be held accountable for it – fair or not.

Here are some important steps to take when implementing these campaigns.

Set realistic expectations. There’s nothing worse than over-promising and over-delivering. And if you don’t take the time to set expectations, then you’re implicitly promising whatever is in your marketing and sales reps’ heads. Avoid confusion and disappointment by setting objectives and avoiding falling into the “silver bullet” and “quick fix” trap.

Make sure you agree on KPIs. In addition to setting expectations, make sure that you’ve agreed on the KPIs you’re going to focus on this campaign. If you’re helping marketing with lead gen, figure out a realistic goal for the increase in leads you’re going to see. This also helps to make sure that you’re providing the right data, and that they’re using the data to achieve a particular goal, so you’re rowing in the same direction.

Make it clear that this is a two-way street. You aren’t a wizard casting a spell. Data can be helpful and open new doors for marketing and sales, but they have to act on them in a way that’s going to achieve results. Make it clear to them that they have to make the data work for them, and that a lot of the success depends on them.

Once you’ve set the KPIs and expectations, measure your efforts against them. If you’ve agreed upon an increase in closed deals per month as a metric of success, that’ll be the measure of success for the campaign.

But don’t close the door to tweaking and optimizing. You may discover halfway through a campaign that your efforts aren’t increasing the number of deals closed, but the increased intelligence your reps have help them to increase the average price point of each deal.

You and your sales team will then have to mutually agree to adjust the KPI based on the data.

Good data analysis in action is going to be flexible and fluid. But you have to make sure that everyone involved in the campaign agrees to change KPIs throughout a campaign if you’re going to continue to manage expectations and improve results.

Celebrate good use of data among your team.

There’s nothing like positive reinforcement to encourage people to act in a certain way. Don’t underestimate the value of this tactic.

One of the great things tools that social media gives us is the chance to communicate and connect with each other without the company’s permission. You don’t need access to the company distro list to send a positive message (either publicly or privately among a small group) recognizing someone’s accomplishments using the data

Send a Facebook or LinkedIn message or post publicly to your LinkedIn profile to celebrate a team member using data in their marketing or sales efforts.

You can also send private, one-on-one messages to people. Some of your team members may honestly prefer this method.

Either way, celebrate your team when they use data in their campaigns. Eventually, as more and more people start building their marketing or sales efforts off of data, you’ll start to have an impact on your company culture.

You can turn your agribusiness into one that’s more fact-based and data intelligent than before you started working there.

If you want to learn more about how data can help your marketing and sales teams, consider watching our webinar Using Data to Drive Business Strategy, Marketing and Sales. It should give you more insight into their world and help inform your efforts.

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