While big data has been linked to everything from supply chain management to logistics, using insights from multiple data sources in order to drive sales growth is still a nascent area.
In "Why Big Data Should be a Big Deal for Sales," a research report conducted by independent research firm CSO Insights on behalf of Lattice Engines, it's estimated that 71 percent of companies expect big data to have a significant impact on their sales. However, only 16 percent have big data strategies in place for sales.
"Using big data, you can write the rule that says, 'Go on the Internet and anytime anybody posts earnings, go take these deals out of the report, run it against this algorithm, and if it fits [certain] criteria, send a message to this rep and tell him exactly what to say,'" explains Jim Dickie, managing partner of CSO Insights. "This [creates] a whole dynamic of, 'I'm calling somebody at the immediate time when they most likely want to talk to me.'"
Big data, which has been defined by IBM as myriad data that spans sensors and social media sites to purchase transaction records and cellular GPS signals, may confound a salesperson's efforts because of the sheer volume of information it puts at his fingertips.
The CSO Insights report notes that sales reps may use as many as 15 internal and external data sources, like CRM systems, Facebook, LinkedIn, and search engines, to stay abreast of customers and prospects. Eighty-nine percent of the 218 survey respondents believe their sales reps miss opportunities because they cannot keep up with prospect information. More than half of the companies do not have a technology in place to compile internal and external information for reps in the research phase.
Companies "have focused on giving [reps] insights and information about how to effectively go and engage prospects," Dickie says, "but I think that's one of the things that came out of the study—and that's that companies are beginning to understand that there's a lot of information you can get on the Internet, it's too much, it's not filtered, and [they] don't want to turn their salespeople into Google search experts."
Brian Kardon, chief marketing officer of B2B sales intelligence software company Lattice Engines, which sponsored the research, makes note of the "power shift" to the buyer, who can now research a company well in advance of a sales rep making initial contact.
Drawing insights from big data through predictive analytics is one way to rework that equation. "I think we're seeing big data in marketing automation [through] Web analytics—all the clicks, open rates, lead scoring, or someone downloaded a white paper…now we're seeing massive amounts of data and I think we're in the very early adopter phase for big data for sales," Kardon says.