Salespeople consistently cite data as being critical for lead generation and sales strategy development. That's because data allows salespeople and marketers to identify leads, segment their audience, create targeted communications, and successfully guide customers through the sales funnel. This helps explain why companies that utilize a data-driven sales strategy boast better productivity and profitability.

The bulk of your data collection efforts will be determined by your industry, customer base, sales and marketing goals, and so on. The more specialized your data, the more equipped you'll be to segment, target, and successfully market to your customers.

That being said, this specialized data collection should only come on the heels of the basics. Whether you're just beginning to utilize data or you're looking to refine your data collection efforts, make sure you're collecting the following information.

Basic demographic data.

By now most marketers know the importance of creating a detailed buyer persona to inform their sales and marketing strategy. This starts with collecting basic demographic data such as age, contact information, gender, profession, and geographical location. Of course, you'll want more information than that in order to segment your marketing materials effectively. The additional demographic data you collect will depend on your brand, your product, and what you're trying to achieve by obtaining this data. Just remember you'll need to develop a trusting relationship with your customers before you start getting too personal.

Referral sources.

In order to know which of your marketing initiatives is producing decent ROI, you need to know how your customers are finding you. Even if someone finds your brand via a non-marketing channel, that's valuable information too. Whenever a new customer shows up on your (digital) doorstep, try to find out where they're coming from.

Behavioral data.

Whether it's B2C or B2B strategy, one of the most effective ways to gain insights into your sales strategy is to collect data about customer behavior before, during, and after a sale. This could include (but is not limited to) bounce rates, site traffic, cart abandonment, reviews and ratings, purchasing data, and so on. The more information you have about customer behavior, the more equipped you will be to map out an understanding of the buyer journey that can refine your efforts at every stage of the sales funnel.

Content performance.

Even if your brand isn't focused on content production, tracking customers' interactions with your content is still critical. Tracking views, downloads, social engagement, and so on can clue you into your customers' interests, values, content preferences, and needs, which can provide you with invaluable data when it comes to refining your content and sales strategies.

Transaction history.

Tracking customers' transactions is an effective way to gain insights into purchasing patterns and provide personalized recommendations that can lead to additional sales. This data could include the products or services purchased, the timing of said purchases, the frequency of purchasing habits, and so on. These simple bits of information are all that's needed to learn more about purchasing triggers and create tailored marketing materials based on where customers are in the sales funnel.

Why customers leave.

Some people might wonder why this data is important. If a customer has stopped utilizing your products or services, why invest any more time in them? Here's why: Because understanding why people leave can help you reduce churn by learning how your business can improve. If you do decide to collect this info, make sure you're receptive to it. Getting defensive and writing off dissatisfied customers does not a better sales strategy make.

This might sound like a lot, but the good news is there are plenty of tools to facilitate data collection. From web form tracking to chat tracking, event tracking, and e-commerce tracking, a variety of sales enablement tools such as WhatConverts and Formstack can help you collect and analyze every type of customer data imaginable.

No matter what data you collect and how you choose to do so, never lose sight of the importance of transparency and consent. Customers should be informed of intent when it comes to data collection and have the option to opt-out if they so choose. While data is a vital part of modern sales strategies, it should never take priority over integrity.