Data, Information, and Knowledge: Knowledge
Today’s post is part of a mini-series from Denis, beginning with Data, Information, and Knowledge.
Knowledge is built up over time in layers. You don’t learn to write a novel before you learn your ABC’s and good sentence structure. You don’t learn cost accounting until you’ve mastered arithmetic, algebra, a lot of accounting basics, and maybe some law, too.
So what makes us think that we can know everything we need to about a sales deal from a quick qualifying call? Qualifying takes time and lately we’ve seen a whole industry — marketing automation — grow from the understanding that developing a qualified lead takes multiple steps that have to be nurtured. It also doesn’t stop until the deal is done because things change and what was once considered qualified might cease to be.
But qualifying a lead is not closing it. Qualifying is literally table stakes and what takes a lead and a deal to closing might not simply be that great demo you gave or your price or anything else that you as a vendor control because what you control is supply. What about demand? One of the parts of qualification is identifying demand after all. Are you doing enough to understand it?
To understand demand you need real insight, knowledge of the customer’s internal situation. Let’s face it, we’ve all been in sales situations where everything lined up — the customer had a need, a budget, approval, and we believed we were the favorite vendor. Then the deal went sideways or pear shaped as the British say (and I don’t understand). For days and months the deal stayed in the forecast until it became a joke, more wish than reality.
Perhaps at some point the deal finally closed but it could just as easily have gone to no decision and the pantheon of deals that coulda, shoulda, woulda, but didn’t. Maybe sometime later you found something on page six below he fold that made you stop and say Aha! Maybe the company was acquired, leadership changed, or a key person involved in your deal’s decision process went to a competitor.
Perhaps that item put the deal back in play too or maybe it signaled that it would never happen or perhaps the same sales process would need to be performed again by another rep in a different territory. Wouldn’t it have been better if you could have known this earlier? Were there signs you missed? Maybe there was something you could have done differently or maybe you could have redeployed your resources to more productive efforts.
The point is that in the moment, while you had plenty of deal centric information, you lacked the true knowledge that could have enabled you to make better sales decisions. You had your supply locked in and you thought you understood demand — certainly you had all of the numbers in place. But demand isn’t strictly about numbers. It’s definitely data driven but if the only data you collect is numbers, you might want to think about casting a broader net.
Non-numeric data, about people and their motivations, is all around us if we choose to look for it and when combined with the numeric, it can provide a more rounded understanding of customer demand. In fact, the combination is what results in true knowledge about a deal. A quote from a CEO, financial results reports, the quarterly sales of a key product or that product’s market can all combine to add greater depth of meaning to your basic information about a deal.
The information that rounds out your perspective on a customer and a deal is not always found in spreadsheets, it is not always numeric and when it is you might not be able to do math with it — for instance you can’t add or subtract phone numbers. The point is that there is more information that you can tap into to get a deal done but you have to look for it in different places. Once you had to skim articles in magazines and newspapers or hire a clipping service to do it. Those were slow and tedious processes that often delivered the information needed to contribute to true knowledge, but too late to be useful.
The Internet changed all this and today we can employ software devices to crawl the net and collect information about the customers involved in our deals. When we do that we can quickly augment the information we have to produce real knowledge — knowledge that our competitors may not have.
So, if the leads you have don’t seem to get the job done, it might not be because they aren’t very good, it may simply mean that neither sales not marketing knows enough yet. Tools like InsideView are designed to uncover the remaining information that can give you real knowledge and in this highly competitive marketplace, an inside view of a deal is never a bad thing.