The modern seller needs to be both a scientist and an artist. More specifically, they need to be an analytical data scientist and an exceptional presenter. Many modern sellers struggle with one or both of these areas, as they have neither received the proper training nor received any guidance in either of those areas.
When focusing on data science, it would be beneficial to know programming languages, such as Python, or even the ability to do higher calculations and use Pandas libraries. However, this is not always the case. Simply being able to do basic spreadsheet calculations would suffice for most sales professionals.
First off, you are likely asking yourself why would being able to do large database queries benefit a sales rep? Isn’t that the job of sales operations, revenue operations, or even marketing operations? The answer to this question is yes and no.
There are four reasons sales reps should also be data scientists;
- Access and availability to the most recent prospect information
- Can zero in on market insights
- Better use of selling time
- Their paycheck
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Access and availability to the most recent prospect information
First off, you need to consider what is at the core of each and every one of your sales reps; a revenue-generating center.
That revenue-generating center runs on information.
The more reliable and recent that information is, the better. As your sales reps are the ones interacting with the prospects the most, they typically have the most recent information.
As for yourself, how good is the feedback loop in your company when it comes to getting feedback from the front line reps to the marketing team?
For most organizations that feedback loop, marketing to sales, sales back to marketing, is usually slow at best and broken at worst. This is just the reason why sales reps need to be able to analyze their own data.
No disrespect to marketing, but sales moves on a different time scale than marketing; your sales reps should always be thinking shorter timelines than your marketing department.
Why does your sales department work on a shorter time schedule? In word funnel distance. Your sales reps should be working from the bottom of the top of the funnel to the bottom of the funnel (assuming the funnel ends at closing and doesn’t continue on to customer success). Your marketing team, on the other hand, should be working top of the funnel to the middle of the funnel.
Think of any normal sales cycle; each stage going downwards is (well should be!) shorter than the stage above it.
Working backward for an enterprise sale that takes eighteen months to close from the point of first engagement;
1-2 months → Negotiating to close (eg reviewing all the legal documentations, redlines, etc…)
2-4 months → Winning the bid against competitors
2-4 months → Pilot the project
1-2 months → Get shortlisted
2-4 weeks → Discussions and demos with the decision-making team
1-2 weeks → Preliminary call resulting in meeting with a member of the decision-making team Day zero → Accepted call
From this example, an enterprise sales rep can expect their deals to close in two to four fiscal quarters.
Depending on the industry, the enterprise sale can be longer or shorter. For example, I know a sales rep who sells wind farms and it take three to five years to close those deals. On the other hand, some enterprise sales are a lot shorter; at Duo Security we consistently had big-ticket deals closing within the quarter.
With this funnel in mind, now think of your marketing department.
They deal with prospects in the research and information phase, thus anyone with whom they are targeting is at best one to two fiscal quarters before they are sales-ready.
With this being said, the elephant in the room is the persona.
Even when your sales reps are not talking with the decision-maker, they are on a direct path to one of the decision-makers so they can shorten the sales cycle. Marketing, on the other hand, may or may not be reaching the decision-maker. At best, marketing is doing an account-based effort, having applied all their data analysis and quantitative skills ensuring all personas from a particular ideal customer profile (ICP) are being reached.
From this example, you can see that while marketing is taking a longer more strategic approach, sales attempts to shortcut the approach by getting to the decision-making apparatus directly.
The benefit of analytics of data science for sales being run by a sales rep is that they can quickly key into personas that are potential decision-makers. If a sales rep is on the right track, they can double down on their efforts, if not, they can quickly realign their sights. This entire process can be accelerated if they adept at data analytics statistics and are using the proper tools for data science.
Can key into market insights
There are two key differentiators between sales reps who will ramp quickly versus those that ramps slowly. Those differentiators are domain expertise and have a clear understanding of their market’s undercurrents.
A rep that has one of those skills will easily be a B player.
A rep with both, will be your rockstar.
Domain expertise is a hard fought skill to master. This is why many industries require reps to have a relevant academic degree so the rep starts with a leg up and a mastery of the field and only has to pick up sales acumen. Domain expertise allows a rep to easily slide into the trusted advisor role.
A rep that has that grasp of their domain and a passion for it, reading up on the events and news in their industry has the chance to hypothesize where the field is going and help their prospects and customers see that. Those reps are the nitro fueling your revenue generating engine.
The second differentiator is something that a domain expert data scientist can easily set up.
First they analyze the big players.
Second they comb data sources regarding how newcomers enter the marketplace; in both a successful and unsuccessful manner.
Third, looking at the exits and acquisitions.
A rep who knows their domain, their market, and can forecast their trends, will be a valuable asset to an organization using that rep to sell their wares.
Better use of selling time
The often-cited statistic that sales reps are only selling at some low percentage of time is true.
Why is it true?
Marketers are artillerymen, sales reps are snipers.
Don’t get me wrong, marketing doesn’t blindly point to an ideal customer profile and persona and wildly hit them with email. If they do, maybe it is time to find a new marketer. Marketers take a larger look at their ideal customer profiles and personas, and send top of funnel, more educationally oriented content. Engagement may be high, however the goal of marketing is gaining brand recognition as well as market credibility so that when a prospect is ready to buy they know where to go.
Sales, on the other hand, take a far more tactical approach. Reps pull singular leads and send personalized messages so their prospects engage quickly. While a marketing email can be and should be congratulated on fifteen to twenty percent open rate, sales reps should get similar accolades if their response rates are double those.
Again, how is a sales rep to find those perfect leads?
The definition of a data scientist is someone who knows statistics, programming, coding, or scripting, and has domain expertise. The sales rep who can easily pull a list of interested prospects and statistically analyze patterns and identify trends can easily turn that data into cash in the bank faster than their peers in sales or their colleagues in marketing.
Thus data analysis is a very good use of sales reps time. It provides them the tools they need to make the perfect shot and help drive revenue.
Show me a sales rep who is sitting idly by waiting for leads to drop into their lap, and I’ll show you a sales rep who will be looking for a new job.
At the end of the day, a sales rep should be solely focused on how much money they can make over a given period with a certain company. A sales reps does that by having an acute understanding of their prospects.
As stated above, a sales rep should be both a domain and market expert so they can crush their quota.
Sales is a melting pot. Business development reps, sales development, account executives and regional sales directors come from all walks of life and every educational background. That being said; a BDR, SDR, or AE who can crush their own data, analyze their market, and understand the direction their ICPs and personas are heading will have a greater chance of succeeding in their profession as well as helping their employers beat their competitors.