If Your Data is So Great, Why Doesn’t it Confirm My Opinion?
Years ago, when I was a cub reporter, I had an assignment covering the city council of Belmont, California, an upscale suburb just south of the San Francisco Airport – not far from where Dreamforce is being held today. The big debate was about the extension of BART, the regional rapid-transit rail system. On the council were the mayor, a rather officious woman who looked like she had a chronic a sore neck from looking down her nose at people, three other council members who were quite clearly afraid of her, and a young man who was a definite outsider. He showed up with a heap of charts and printouts; it was all he could do to get the material up to the council’s dais without dropping them. Comment about the BART extension began, and the citizen speakers were kept to their time by the mayor. When it came time for the council to debate, the youngest councilman reached for his data. It showed the economic impact of an extension in other towns: new jobs, greater tax base thanks to increased shopping, a savings in road maintenance costs, and more. As he reached for the next chart, the mayor extended a haughty hand. “That’s all we need to see,” she sniffed. “This all may be well and good, but why would we want those people to come to our town?” Needless to say, the vote failed, and BART still doesn’t go through Belmont. As has happened so many times in the past, data has been trumped by a preconceived notion – and, if that notion is held dearly enough, no amount of data will be enough to change it. Too often the same phenomenon happens in sales – marketing provides plenty of metrics and specific data about potential customers, but sales ignores them to act on “gut feelings” and assumptions. Data that challenges those assumptions is actively pushed aside or even derided, and the people whose analysis surfaced the data are mocked or insulted. In situations like this, can there be any question why sales and marketing have ill feelings toward each other? It’s amazing that this still goes on even as we add more analytical and data collecting tools to marketing’s arsenal. At some point, something has to break – either a disastrous sales quarter will force a re-evaluation of the way data is used, or a leadership change brings in someone more amenable to using intelligence generated by marketing – or a company fails. But does it have to get to this? And, more significantly, can you bear the opportunity cost surrendered during the mediocre quarters that these conflicts cause? Luckily, there is an increasing number of companies catching on to the value of data, using it to not only help move sales through the pipeline but to simplify administrative tasks and free up more time for salespeople to sell. Data for these companies is not something to ignore or mock – it’s understood as the secret to cleaning up processes like compensation and training, and it’s instrumental in allowing salespeople to sell to the right potential customers at the right time. If you want to hear from a few of them, be sure to catch the Dreamforce panel discussion “Accelerating Sales in the Digitally-Involved Marketplace” today at 1:30. Giles House, CallidusCloud’s CMO, will explore the topic of how data is best managed and used to deliver greater sales performance; his panelists are already using data strategically to make sales more productive and make everyone in the company happier and more satisfied. And if you want five specific areas where the failure to use data could be costing your company, read my CRM Buyer column from last week. And, by the way, BART has still not made it to Belmont, and no plans are in the works. All the revenue and benefits it could have brought are now headed down the eastern side of San Francisco Bay – the municipalities there approved plans to extend it all the way to San Jose. Sometimes I wonder if the over-prepared councilman’s data found receptive viewers on the east side of the bay…
Chris Bucholtz | October 15th, 2014