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In 2011, when Rephael Sweary co-founded WalkMe, a Tel Aviv-based software company that helps businesses understand the features of other web-based programs, he placed ads on social media and utilized search engine optimization to get the word out. He received thousands of inquiries, he says, all of which had to be responded to by his sales team. 

While he was happy with the response, following up on each request was a difficult and often fruitless task. Many of the people who responded to the ads weren’t interested in the product.

About a year later, Sweary started using big data to score potential leads. By studying the companies that purchased his software--he looked at what browser they were using, where they were located, the size of the company, among many other things--he was able to tell which businesses might buy and which ones would not. “By assigning a score to each lead, we could know who we should call immediately, whether we should email, and who we should leave,” he says. “This allowed us to optimize our campaign much faster than in the past.”

Since then, Sweary has used big data across his 600-person company to find new insights and enhance performance, but it’s had a massive impact on his 150-person sales team, he says. Sales staff now know all sorts of things about their customers and it’s transformed how the team works. “We’re so much more efficient,” he says. “It’s changed the way we measure our sales team’s key performance indicators. We know what’s important and what not to track.” 

Many companies are already incorporating big data into their sales processes, but it’s still early days, says Babette Tan Haken, a sales expert and author of Do You Mean Business? Many sales teams still see big data as more of a threat than a complement. “Sales cultures haven’t really embraced big data to the extent they should,” she says. “But it can give teams a tremendous leg up on the competition.”

For those still wondering about the power of big data, here are four ways analytics and information can boost sales. 

They Can Predict Customer Behavior

Sales teams typically base decisions on things that have happened in the past. For instance, a company bought $1,000 worth of a product last year, so hopefully it’ll buy $1,200 more this year. Data, though, can help sales teams know what a customer might want in the future. Most businesses do collect data--such as successful and failed sales calls, and customer information they’ve collected over the years--that they can tap into. There are also widely available data sets, such as census data or industry-specific information, that can be accessed for free or for a fee from a data broker. By looking at numerous data points, companies can get a better picture of where a business and sector is headed. “Enlightened sales organizations are asking what’s going to happen? Where should we be positioned?” says Tan Haken. “What can we cross sell and upsell on?”

They Find Better Leads

As Sweary found out, big data can help sales teams use their time better by allowing them to focus on the clients that have the highest probability of buying. While it can’t tell you for certain a deal will close, big data can give you more insight into the kinds of customers you should go after, says Avi Goldfarb, chair in Artificial Intelligence and Healthcare at the Rotman School of Management in Toronto. “It will tell you what kind of needs a potential client might have and it can give you a sense of what you need to do to covert that lead into a sale,” he says. “That creates a whole bunch of opportunities.” There are several data mining programs that entrepreneurs can use to help analyze information, including CRM software such as SalesForce, data-specific programs like ClearStory Data, and software, such as InsightSquared, that pulls data from other common small-business programs. 

They Shorten the Sales Cycle

The more you can sell, the more money you can make, right? Well, by having a better idea of what customers want and by being able to target clients with the most potential, you’ll be able to move people through the sales funnel that much faster, says Sweary. In some cases, though, big data can lengthen the cycle, he says, which is not a bad thing. You’ll know, based on that particular company’s buying habits and other information, if your contacts need to be sweet-talked. “You might find out that if you push too hard, the client will take it the wrong way,” he says.

They Enhance the Product Lineup

Another way to boost sales is to offer more products, says Goldfarb. By looking at information such as sales figures, competitor information, what people say during their customer service calls, and more, you’ll be able to tell if clients might want features or products they’re not currently getting. As with everything big data, analyzing information allows sales team to see the big picture. “Better data allows you to really figure out if what you’re selling to your customer base is right,” he says.

For Sweary, big data has helped his business increase sales, he says. If he’s learned one thing about it, though, it’s “measure, measure, measure.” Track everything, but, more important, analyze the data that matters most your business. “You don’t want to be measuring the wrong things,” he says. “Do it, right and big data can be big help.”



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