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Data Driven-Part I: "A Sales Revolution is Coming"

A two-lane road stretching off into infinity under a sky full of numeric "clouds." Hmmm. We'll admit that the cover of Jenny Dearborn's Data Driven is intriguing. Maybe even engaging.

Although ponderous, its subtitle (How performance analytics delivers extraordinary sales results) does promise a benefit—and it hints at an explanation of how to capture it. And that was enough.

It didn't take long to figure out that Jenny Dearborn knows of what she speaks. What's more, she tells her story unexpectedly against the backdrop of a fictional female chief sales officer at a make-believe company. Pam Sharp has been hired to turn the sales organization around. By moving back and forth between storytelling and commentary, Dearborn achieves a duality that adds interest and vitality to what may, in another's hands, have dissolved into a tedious discourse.

"Jenny Dearborn is a leading authority on sales enablement and training, with expertise in big data and predictive analytics. As Senior Vice President and Chief Learning Officer for SAP, she designs and drives employee learning and enablement strategy.

"Dearborn was recognized as one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Technology in 2014 by the National Diversity Council, and through the Fortune Most Powerful Women Network, she is a mentor for the U. S. State Department to female entrepreneurs in developing countries. Her team was named by eLearning Magazine the #1 top performing corporate learning organization in the world in 2013." (1)

Advancing technology has provided the ability to generate ever-increasing volumes of sophisticated and highly specific data. But generation is only the first step, and it won't take anyone very far without the ones that follow. The succeeding steps that describe, diagnose, predict and finally prescribe are the real story of Data Driven.

Big data (or Big Data) has become shorthand for the processing and analysis of extreme volumes of data for the purpose of achieving more intelligent decision-making. Imagine what a sales organization could accomplish, for example, if it could wield data to isolate not only what the best-performing reps do but also why. And what if data could help predict rep performance at the outset, empowering managers to individualize training and thereby alter specific performance trajectories? This is the stuff of Data Driven.

Jenny Dearborn's book is not about the latest fad. Nor is it the story of the Next Big Thing. It's more like a face-to-face meeting with THE Thing. It is about the heart that beats in companies of every market, regardless of size. The ability to listen to that heartbeat and understand and apply its telemetry are the new—and perhaps only remaining—competitive edges.

In Dearborn's own words: "A sales revolution is coming. . . . If you're a business leader of an enterprise-level corporation who shoulders some measure of responsibility for sales effectiveness, you need to know about and prepare for this coming revolution. . . . It must learn to harness the power of data analytics, not just as a tool, but as a mindset. Gone are the days you or your sales leadership can work on intuition, gut feel, or past history. None of this is relevant in the new order." (2)

What are data analytics and big data? What are their component parts? We'll offer answers to those and other questions in future installments of this blog series.

(1) Dearborn, Jenny. Data Driven. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2015. Book jacket.

(2) Ibid, pp. xi-xii (Preface)

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