Sales, Marketing, Big Data, and Stories


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Many pundits, including me, believe predictive analytics and big data are becoming the “killer apps” for sales and marketing. Developing deep understanding of our customers, being able to intercept them when they have a higher propensity to buy will become a key tool for sales and marketing. Presenting value in terms of hard, compelling analysis is a critical element of most complex B2B deals.

Developing sales and marketing capabilities in being data driven, both in better targeting market and customers and in helping quantify value in working with customers is a critical skill. I’ve written often abou how important this is, along with the importance of increasing the business acumen of sales and marketing professionals.

But big data and compelling facts are insufficient for our success–both in leading our own organizations and in working with our customers. Big data and analytics are always best positioned in a context.

Others argue the power of stories. Rich narratives that provide people a vision. Stories painting a picture of a desired future, stories illustrating problems, challenges, and possibilities for overcoming those challenges. Stories are very powerful, the provide a context, something the customer can grasp and understand, something they can use to bridge their own experience and feelings, to better understand the potential of a solution. But often, stories have a weakness–they can be perceived as not having enough substance, not having solid foundations, as being nothing more than just rich pictures.

So there are these opposing camps — big data and powerful analytics or powerful stories.

Actually, these are best leveraged together—big data and powerful analytics have deep meaning when positioned in the context of powerful stories. Stories give people a context in which to position the analysis provided by the data. They provide meaning and help create insight.

Several years ago, I was COO of a start up company. We provided high end data analytic solutions. Our technology was overwhelming. We were able to solve problems people had never been able to address. We were able to provide insights that were previously unthinkable. The problems we solve were BIG problems—with one customer, in just one part of the business, we provided insight that enabled them to save a $100M annual contract with a customer. Other problems produced business value on a grand scale. But we had problems in closing deals. Our prospects would see the analysis, they could see the output of our analysis and see data presented in a compelling manner—yet we struggled with closing deals.

Suddenly, one of our sales people discovered the secret — it was stories. With stories, all of a sudden the data had a context, it had meaning, people could create mental pictures of what we were presenting. They could become emotionally engaged with what had previously been very abstract.

Data and analytics are powerful, stories are powerful. Multiply the power of each by combining them — leverage data and stories together to create a rich picture that people can understand, own, and become invested in. Together, they enable people–whether our own organizations or our customers to connect the dots, creating meaning and insight.

  • Do you have powerful stories about what how you can support your customers in achieving new things, realize goals they had not thought possible, grow in new ways?
  • Do you have data and analysis that supports this, can you quantify and model the impact of what you can do, of the results the customer might achieve?
  • Can you leverage both together?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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