4 Strategies for Growth – Big Data and Human Filters

Every organisation now knows the huge benefits and exponential growth opportunities that come with the big data era.

It’s incredible how this impacts all types of businesses though at varying levels.

I had the pleasure of engaging in a big data conversation with…guess who? My beautician and nail technician, Katie, the other day.

If you are intrigued, so was I!

It started off with how having access to every client’s data on their systems (e.g. what nail colours they tend to choose etc), could make them offer a more personalised, faster and differentiated service to their clients.

So, I probed further, cursorily mentioning that my next article is about big data and how it’s enabling businesses to grow faster; when complemented with the right level of human touch.

Obviously, Katie’s big data perspective and scenario, although she’s part of a large chain in the beauty industry, is still much smaller compared to what the real B2B world faces when it comes to enabling faster growth.

Sales Innovation with Big Data

A key focus area for this article is to enable business leaders understand the huge opportunities that are inherent in big data projects, if tackled with innovation.

In my many years of dealing with business leaders, I’ve seen a number of big data projects that are handled in silos within the organisation rather than looking at this from the overall growth strategy perspective.

A focused big data project triggers all departments to deduce meaningful information that leaders can execute on with the goal of over-achieving sales growth.

Perceived Big Data vs True Big Data

Big data, in my opinion, provides us with two types of data.

  1. Perceived data – this is what big data analysis provides us with, after filtering through all the raw data sources that organisations cannot cope with, in order to discover meaningful patterns and other useful information.big data
  2. True data – on the other hand, is a combination of big data analysis and applying a human filter that delves a bit deeper into understanding the meaning behind the behaviours of the people that this big data represent.

For business leaders to harness the real competitive advantage and sales growth that come with big data, they need to execute on programmes that encourage their customer facing teams to get to know their customers on a personal level while maintaining the professional status quo.

There should also be a mechanism to share this new data internally. This new data should provide answers as to the ‘why’ of the big data, rather than the ‘so what’, which we normally focus on. This is how true data is started and further developed.

The Human Filter Phenomenon

By identifying and sharing the why of the big data, sales teams can apply their human filters into conversations with prospects and customers; providing solutions that accurately meet the needs of customers.big-data

In some cases, this solution could come at a lesser cost to the business as it eliminates the guess-work from the equation.

More importantly, the approach provides a huge competitive advantage to the business as it can be used as a differentiator, positioning the company and its salespeople as trusted advisors to the buyer.

In my previous article on Artificial Intelligence…New opportunity for B2B Sales Growth, I elaborate a bit more on how AI is pushing businesses to fill this sales skills gap.


Frank Smith’s Story – The Over-achiever’s secret

Sales leaders and professionals who have developed their sales process, questioning techniques and innate abilities to take advantage of big data analytics often sell more than the recognised top performers who still goes by the traditional sales methods.

I once came across a highly over-achieving sales professional some years ago in my Gartner days who seemed to unconsciously have these skills and abilities. Let’s call him Frank for the sake of this article. In his first year, some of his achievements included:

Turning £12K accounts to £35K deals for at least 70% of accounts in a territory that was written off as impossible to cross-sell or upsell to for several years.

Curious to explore what it took for Frank to achieve these growth numbers, I took him for coffee to understand the ‘why’ a bit further; applying my own human filter on the sales reporting numbers he was displaying.

Based on what I gleaned from Frank and other observations from a number of successful organisations, I’ve come up with a magic formula to enable you explode your sales numbers.

4 Top Strategies to Execute on Now

Below are 4 top strategies for business growth leaders to execute within their customer facing teams.

  1. Get sales leaders to ask salespeople questions that reveal how well they know their customers on a personal rather than organisational level.
  2. Identify the skills gaps that come out of this exercise and incorporate this into learning and sales enablement/training programmes
  3. Have monthly sales meetings where volunteers share the ‘why’ behind the Perceived data (customer information from CRM, Customer surveys etc). This is how you get to share True data.
  4. Encourage salespeople to combine Perceived and True data in a structured sales process that get the buyer and salesperson to mutually and clearly articulate the one thing that is a deal breaker for the sale or longer term relationship.

big data and human filter

The bottomline is that technology will continue to evolve and add more human-like filters to automation; to enable businesses to sell more.

The onus therefore rests on business leaders to develop the more human aspects of the sales teams so they can move away from current auto pilot behaviours in the sales process.

Leaders and sales teams must become more human-centered with customers to effectively complement evolved technologies and the evolved buyer.

The Resulting Sales Process

Once this level of business evolution is achieved for exponential growth, the sales process will look like this:

The developed human filter goes into the Perceived data and brings True data to the surface for the whole organisation to see. This is then effectively combined with technologies to bring in a true deal every time.

Now what is a true deal? I hear you ask…

I’ll attempt to define a true deal as a deal that is fully aligned, identified and differentiated with the buyer’s needs; both on a personal and business level. It fosters long-term buyer relations with plenty of opportunities for upsell and cross-sell. In some instances, these additional future pipeline opportunities can be even mapped out and mutually agreed during the prospect’s journey conversations.

Long term sustainable growth and profitability is therefore more predictable in forecasts and easily met by sales teams due to strong prospect/customer buy-in.

This is what true explosion of sales, using big data and applying the extra human filter looks like.

Thank you for reading and feel free to share with others!


Maggie Sarfo

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