Analytical Wizardry. The best analytics tools can't compensate for poor data quality.

Analytical Wizardry.  The best analytics tools and processes can’t compensate for poor data quality.

Everyone wants data that will help them make better business decisions – big data, small data, any data. The pressure on sales and marketing executives to become data wizards and explore analytics is big time. 

Every marketing and sales team needs business intelligence (BI), consistent processes and efficient tools in order to report performance metrics. But it doesn’t matter how good or flashy your BI tool is at slicing, dicing and reporting data, if your data is not accurate to begin with. 

In a recent Aberdeen poll of leading business executives, 47% of respondents cited that they need to explore better analytics methods because they are making business decisions based off of inaccurate or incomplete data.  A 2013 CSO Insights study cites that 54% of sales leaders can’t actively forecast business and nearly 40% need to improve the accuracy of metrics they are providing to management.  CSO Insights states that “forecast accuracy continues to decline and is at an almost all time study low”.  This is a massive issue that does not seem to be improving.

 If you are a marketing leader reading this article, this directly impacts your metrics.  If your sales team is struggling with forecasting and critical sales process metrics, how accurate do you believe your pipeline and revenue impact metrics are?  It’s an easy answer - they aren’t.  You are at the mercy of how your sales team manages their business.

 To solve this problem, the equation is:

                  Quality data = people + process + technology. 

 This is not new news nor should it be shocking to you.  There is plenty of process and technology to go around.  Those parts of the equation are known and solutions are available.  Heck, they are the easy parts.  It’s the people component that really impacts the equation - especially when it comes to sales people.


Selling is a behavior-based profession.  Sales people have a very unique option at hand.  It’s called free will.  For the most part, they own their day.  They basically run a mini business and they will operate that business in a way that is most efficient and effective based on their will, skills and needs.  The needs that tend to top the list are - to be laser efficient with their time and to generate as much personal income as possible.  They will exhibit specific behaviors in order to fulfill those needs.  It’s those behaviors that you need to be consistently monitoring, as they change over time.

To improve data accuracy through behavior modification, here are three ways you can begin to chip away at the issue.

          Focus on the right metrics.

Measuring fewer metrics will make you more successful.  Only measure what matters.  The more you measure, the less effective you are at taking action on the metrics.  The less likely you are to be exploiting the knowledge.  The larger number of metrics will also have a negative impact on your sales team.  If they have to populate a large amount of data that makes them less efficient, they will not do the work.  When it comes down to it, selling time will always be more important than administrative time.  That’s how your sales reps will see it and so will your management.  Keep laser focused on the key 5-6 KPIs that make the most impact on your business.

Build your process from the user perspective

Once you know your key KPI, build your process and data inputs from the user perspective.  Why?  They are the ones who are going to enter the data.  It has to be simple and very efficient.  It’s the only way to ensure that you do it in a way that adds value to the activity of data entry.   If it is not efficient you will hear the following “Do you want me selling or just entering data all the time?”.  Including sales reps in the development process will make sure it is for them and not “for management.” 

Hold everyone accountable with actionable reporting of fact, not opinion

In your BI tool or your CRM system, you need to track and report behaviors which make a negative impact on your data quality.  Sales process adoption, sales process usage and key data entry activity are examples of these behaviors.  Other tell-tale data inaccuracy signs that contribute to poor quality data are zero valued, expired and stagnant opportunities.

 Tracking these items at the sales rep and the sales manager levels will allow you to pinpoint the teams and the people where behavior modification is required.  When you have the fact in hand and a solid coaching process whereby you work with each sales rep to improve the behavior, you will see your data quality increase dramatically.  This management process never ends.  Human behavior is consistently changing.  It’s a moving target and requires sustainment through ongoing reporting and coaching.

 If you deploy these three activities, your data quality will improve.  By how much?  Well, that will depend upon your sales leadership and their ability to hold team members accountable.  Accountability starts with the head of sales and works downYour managers are your force multipliers. Strong managers and sales operations leaders who are laser focused on data quality will make a big impact on your business.

 So, pay attention to the person behind the curtain.  Just being a wizard at compiling, slicing and presenting data is not enough.  In other words, if you just keep trying to impress management by the big flashy analytics show, they will catch on to the trick.   Instead, focus on the quality of the data first, and then you won’t need a wizard at all.