Data Works, And Then It Doesn’t. A Salesperson’s Look At 2021 Planning

Here We Are 2021…

One of the truths in sales is that repetitiveness is the path to oblivion, both for your company and your role as a manager. With the new year here, take time to hit that refresh button and look at your forecast with a critical pair of eyes. Don’t assume anything. Don’t think you control your market or customers. 

Let the data reveal the reality of your surroundings. Make sure your team is ready to execute with you. This is your starting point for 2021.

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Change is the new black

I have found that change is one of the most powerful drivers of product and market awareness along with a focus on what’s most important. Change forces you to sit up and pay attention, learn faster, and act with readiness and precision. Embrace change and make it your best friend. 

In order to keep up with changes in sales, allow for time in your schedule every day to read a few industry publications or business blogs (like the one you’re reading now). It’s also likely you’re already listening to podcasts and regularly skimming through social media. 

Use the time spent in these forums to your advantage by adding sales and business podcasts to your listening queue and key influencers to your social accounts. Additionally, your CRM should offer sophisticated analytics and reporting features to detect early potential pattern changes in your business. This should give you a pretty good overview but also fresh ideas for changes that would make your workplace or job more efficient.


Forecasting starts with one line of data at a time

How often do we start analyzing sales and end up in the wrong financial or market territory? For most companies, sales is a 360º discipline, but you have to pick your battles and understand what and where you can make an impact. Data is great, but it is too easy to drown in a pool of KPIs. 

When building a complex forecast, I like to add one line at a time, digest it and – only then – continue to the next one. Then step away to confirm that those values will add something to the outcome of the analysis. 

Understand data for what it’s worth: It is an incredible tool, but it can also add layers of complexity that will reduce your future ability to adapt and move swiftly (through a pandemic for example). It should go without saying, but 2020 data is polluted and skewed, don’t use it.

Although you need a fair amount of data for decision-making, the quality of that data is just as – if not more – important. You can only make data-driven sales decisions if you have access to high-quality, clean data. Make sure your CRM enables you to track metrics that are relevant to you, so you can accurately predict how many new leads your team should get next month or year, what the expected percentage of closed deals will be, what kind of churn your company will be working with, or if there is a need to make changes in your team.


Drive success by anticipating failure 

Even after putting in hours to design the perfect hypergrowth strategy, dozens of variables will come into play that can derail your plans. We are unfortunately now acutely aware of the variables that come with living through a pandemic. But what about that rock star on your team that you just lost to a competitor? What about the team member with the unforeseen medical issue that will lead to a month of leave? 

Will these events in a vacuum drive failure? No. But these kinds of changes will undoubtedly impact individual achievements, as well as create a ripple effect that will influence the entire organization and your overall company goals. The trick is to act fast enough so you can turn a bad situation into a success story.

Take time to develop processes that allow you to be agile and support fast decision-making. Accept that even people who make detailed plans for everything face situations that they cannot control. 

What we can control, however, is how we react to those situations. Deal with unpredictable situations rationally and leave your emotions aside. Take every failure, either caused by you, your team members, or some external factors, as a learning experience. If it happens again, you already have the knowledge and experiences to stay on top of things and turn a bad situation into a good one.


Empower your team to be their best

We’ve talked about data and how it can generate a quality decision-making process if used correctly. Remember, you have to connect your strategy and goals to the team executing on them for you. To empower your team to “make it happen,” be sure they are engaged around one objective at a time and focused on being the best in class. 

Your sales culture must be established at an organizational level, then within each department, and often the sales team will have a specific rhythm and cadence that is totally different from the rest of the company. People usually thrive when they feel acknowledged and that their opinion is considered. For this to happen, leadership has to listen and implement ownership at every level. And, from the newest junior member on your team to the trusted senior manager, people at every level must be willing to give their very best.

Top-performing teams are top-performing because they are constantly looking for ways to make their best even better. Implement a feedback culture at your workplace to empower your team members to give feedback to their peers as well as managers. Feedback helps to increase team engagement, improves work relationships, and fuels constant improvement and growth.  

Last year was difficult in many ways, but it has also given us a valuable fresh perspective. Challenge yourself to accept change and keep moving full steam ahead. I wish you the best of success this year and hope these tips prove to be as valuable as your data.

Raul Perdigão Silva Pipedrive headshot

Raul Perdigão Silva is the global head of inside sales at Pipedrive. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

  • Originally published February 9, 2021, updated February 11, 2021