Leverage Big Data to Boost Your Organisation's Sales Effectiveness

How can you use big data as part of the sales and pricing process?

Senior business executives have been inundated with calls to utilise their “Big Data” to improve business performance. However, it’s not always easy to cut through the hyperbole to understand exactly how big data can be applied to solve specific business challenges. Today, leading organisations are learning to exploit their treasure troves of existing big data and provide their sales forces with critical knowledge to help them to outperform in their industries. 

One of the latest keys to their success comes from harnessing new cloud-based technology solutions to collect, segment and analyse vast amounts of information. This big data prescriptive analysis can then be applied to improving sales performance and effectiveness, especially when setting prices and negotiating deals.

Depending on where you are in your own exploration of how to use the power of big data, several best practices have emerged that can help guide your efforts.

The first step for many organisations is to examine current information systems and evaluate what kind of customer and transaction data you possess. The term “big data” reflects the widespread growth and availability of both structured and unstructured data found in most procurement and CRM systems. This data includes past purchase history and behaviour, along with pricing, sales and promotion activity for hundreds of thousands of products and individual customers. You must be able to assess the nature and extent of the data collected, where it is located, how it is classified, and be able to discern who created it and where it has come from.

Once you have a grasp on your existing data, you can concentrate on making it available to your sales force in a timely manner to tie in with setting sales goals and helping to negotiate deals in the field.

To proactively manage big data and improve sales force effectiveness, organisations of all sizes are able to utilise data science and analytics in the form of software solutions available as a service through the cloud. These solutions allow sales organisations to segment and analyse their data to identify common buying preferences, and prescribe new pricing and selling strategies unique to each customer segment. They’re also able to identify additional products and services similar companies are buying, which provides additional opportunities for growing their sales opportunities. Sales teams will know precisely where to focus their efforts, with the confidence of knowing the deals most likely to close. Through advanced solutions, sales organisations can harness the hard-earned experience of the whole sales force, and apply the collective wisdom and memory of an entire organisation where it counts most, i.e., at the point of sale or negotiation in the field. Consider some of the major benefits being realised by companies committed to leveraging their big data with these solutions.

Top and bottom line benefits

To outperform and overachieve their sales quotas, many sales leaders today must address business challenges; whether it’s selling products to existing customers, identifying new customers or making sure that fewer deals are lost in negotiations. Industry averages indicate that 50-60% of sales opportunities stall before closing, while less than 55% of sales executives are actually on track to achieve their quotas.

Big data applications help meet these challenges by using advanced data science models to produce predictive and prescriptive insights. Companies are able to identify and compare how each of their salespeople are performing, both independently and alongside their peers. They also gain insights on which customers are most likely to purchase their products and services, and on the prices paid by similar companies, which guides them on which opportunities they have the greatest likelihood of winning.

For example, sales organisations can gain a clear picture into customer buying patterns based on past history and can also compare the preferences of similar customers in order to identify new opportunities. These big data solutions can generate pricing targets for sales people by bringing visibility into what is actually being achieved by top performers and by setting a benchmark for what can and should be achieved for similar customer segments. The result helps sales management to set quotas and provide guidelines to sales people in the field on how to properly price products and services to maximise sales wins.   

Connected by mobile devices, sales teams can tap into cloud-based big data pricing solutions to construct the highest value deal within a framework that gives them the ability to combine or unbundle products, make substitutions, change payment terms, adjust currency exchange rates, and upsell and cross-sell more products – all based on the individual customer’s situation. Using pricing software solutions, sales people can actually demonstrate during negotiations why a specific price is justified, based on the value it delivers to an individual customer. 

Sales confidence and motivational benefits

By bringing together the vast experience of the entire sales force during the sales negotiation process with recommended pricing, big data pricing software helps not only to increase the confidence of “sales underperformers,” it also provides the tools for even the very best sales team members to discover opportunities to enhance their performance.

In addition, big data applications can provide a powerful motivational boost to sales teams by making the relative performance of salespeople, customers and regions more transparent to management and field sales. Salespeople can be made aware of exactly how they perform on a relative basis to their peers, which fosters a healthy competitive spirit and ensures that sales teams achieve their sales targets.

By adopting new cloud-based pricing and sales performance technologies, organisations can unlock the potential of big data they already collect through procurement and customer management systems to help maximise the value and profitability of every customer deal. This critical information can be analysed and automated so that the sales force can be much more knowledgeable, and therefore much more effective, in securing better prices and margins.


Ed Farquhar is European Marketing Director at PROS