In sales, there’s a creative tension between managing people and managing numbers.
Sales is built upon relationships among people – relationships that are often difficult to measure or evaluate. At the same time, the key goal of sales is to "make the number". This creates a tension between how sales is conducted and how it's evaluated.
Sales leaders must keep an eye on the long term goal of hitting their numbers, while managing the daily relationships between their team, their customers, and the rest of the organization.
The good news is that we have more data available to us than ever before. The bad news is that we have more data available to us than ever before.
Every day, sales leaders must quickly evaluate sales numbers, pipeline information from their CRM, individual rep and manager performance, organizational analytics, a steady stream of leads and data from marketing automation, and daily operations data from the organization itself.
But the nature of information has changed completely in the last few years. Suddenly, we have access to near real time information from multiple sources that must be integrated quickly, displayed visually, and made accessible anywhere.
Two years ago, you needed the assistance of a data scientist to integrate this torrent of information. Today, you may need a specialist to hook your systems up, but you and your team can do your own analyses. In fact, you may be required to.
KPI's Can Bring the Focus and Clarity You Need
At Chartio, we define the Key Performance Indicators as the one number (or the handful of numbers) that you must reach, unless you're prepared to update your resume. You already know what those numbers are, but you may not know their status at any particular moment, or the best way to manage them.
When you're drowning in data, your KPI's can save your life. And if you set them up right, you can leverage all the other information in your universe to hit your KPI's.
Well crafted KPI's are tied to the KPI's of those above you and below you in the organization chart.
KPI's keep you focused and help you avoid the distraction of trying to pull data from a firehouse. Additionally, it's now possible to build dashboards that show you what numbers are driving your KPI's at any moment in time.
The numbers that drive your KPI's may change over time (say, the beginning vs. the end of the quarter) or by context (veteran reps vs. trainees). So, it's important to be flexible in how you attempt to influence your final KPI.
Finally, by understanding the numbers that go into the KPI, you can derive actionable insights from analysis. These insights can drive sales, optimize your team's use of time, and improve your return on investment.
Modern Business Intelligence Makes Managing KPI's Easier
At Chartio's, our vision was to create a modern business intelligence tool. We believe that there are three keys to modern BI.
Usability: If you believe, as I do, that KPI's should extend from the bottom of the organization to the top, it must make it easy for non-SQL users to create analyses and design their own charts and dashboards. Usability also means that I should be able to create custom views of the KPI's and information that matter most to me.
Ubiquity: Everyone in the organization knows how to use spreadsheets. Unfortunately, that often means that many people in the organization use spreadsheets for reporting and managing their KPI's. As a result KPI's are often not shared, built with current data, or based on common assumptions. To be effective, your business intelligence tool should be as easy to use as a spreadsheet.
Agility: Business intelligence must be simple to set up, manage, and use. You should be able to connect to new data sources in minutes, use your data wherever it is stored, and adapt your system as your business evolves. Your analyses should be based on up-to-the-minute information, so you're not guessing about the impact accounts that you added or dropped in the last hour.
Conclusion: KPI's are awesome
Everyone talks about being data driven. Good information isn't sufficient to assure good decisions, but it is necessary.
You must also have access to the most up-to-date information, have it reflected in your KPI's, and be able to analyze that information yourself. All levels of the organization must have a common understanding of where that information comes from and how it is used.
You're never going to achieve a state of information perfection, but you can build systems that converge on a consensus vision of your universe, and adapt as your organization changes.
About the Author:
Barry Parr is the Director of Marketing Communications at Chartio, a powerful business intelligence tool that anyone can use. Barry is a former journalist and industry analyst. He writes and speaks frequently on the future of media in the digital age.
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