Data Storytelling Helps Sales Leaders Balance Data and Intuition
By: Cal Frese
One of my favorite movies is a war story starring Brad Pitt: Moneyball.
Moneyball isn’t a true war movie, but it is about the war for the soul of baseball. The movie paints ‘baseball lifers’ as the villain—old-school scouts who have deep insight based on experience, but are resistant to change. The heroes in this movie are a new generation of baseball executives who use data and analytics to build strategies that go against conventional wisdom. So Moneyball, in part, is about the battle between “gut” and “analytics.” Although the 2002 Oakland A’s don’t win the World Series, the movie definitely paints “analytics” as the winner.
In business, unlike baseball, this conclusion is obvious. Data-driven decisions drive better outcomes. And yet, while today’s tools have made exploring data easier than ever before, you still have to tell the story yourself. I can look at our sales dashboard and see “where we are” against our KPIs, but I still have to connect the dots to figure out “what is the data telling me?” This analysis is far from seamless, so I find myself doing it periodically: every quarter, I go deep on our pipeline for QBRs. Every month, I go deep for our operations review. Every week—often on Saturday mornings—I’m looking at our metrics with fresh eyes to understand what the data means and see if there’s a trend or issue I’m missing.
“I pay you to get on first”
For me, this takes time, but it’s absolutely critical that I know our business at all times. If we have a problem, I can better understand it and develop a plan to address it. The problem for me is context-switching: I examine the data in bursts and reconcile it with the conversations I’m having with our customers and my team.
So for me, there’s a huge potential impact if I can understand the data—and what it’s telling me—without having to switch gears and put on my Analysis Hat. Our team can move faster, with fewer distractions, and use the data to support or challenge what we’re hearing in the market.
Let’s bring it back to baseball. What if lifelong baseball scouts got the benefit of data-driven insights, in a way that seamlessly complemented their experience and intuition? I recently read a McKinsey Quarterly interview with Jeff Luhnow, GM of the Houston Astros (who won the World Series in 2017). Luhnow goes into great detail about the Astro’s journey to using analytics as a competitive advantage. One quote really stood out to me:
“[W]e are always going to rely on our coaches and our scouts and our human beings who are out with these players to give us their opinion, because their opinion really does matter. And we’ve proven that when you combine the information from the technology and analytics with the human opinion, you get the best possible result. Either one separately gives you suboptimal results.”
That is the beauty of combining data with human experience.
“In order to buy wins, you need to buy runs”
Imagine if everyone on your team knew where they stood at all times. What happened, why it happened, and the implication on their business. Imagine if they had this knowledge at a glance, without needing to find the key takeaway themselves?
- How much more quickly could you make decisions?
- How much better would reps get at selling?
- How many surprises could you avoid?
We built Lexio to equip your entire sales team with the information they need to do their jobs best, delivered when they need it, in the form of a story.
So the next time someone asks you your favorite war movie to get pumped for closing out the quarter, don’t discount the power of baseball statistics. In the meantime, let me know how you balance gut and analytics. We do this every day with our newest product, Lexio, and we want to give you the chance to do it too. We want you to be data-driven, but leave the analysis to the analysts.
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