Big data, like social selling, is a term that is bandied around quite a bit these days. And, like social selling, the conversations surrounding big data are often confusing. Let’s start with a common question – what exactly is big data? You have to love the power of the internet because I posed that question and in seconds came back 775 million results. Here are just three:
“Every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data — so much that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. This data comes from everywhere: sensors used to gather climate information, posts to social media sites, digital pictures and videos, purchase transaction records, and cell phone GPS signals to name a few. This data is big data.” –IBM
“Big data is an all-encompassing term for any collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process them using traditional data processing applications. The challenges include analysis, capture, curation, search, sharing, storage, transfer, visualization, and privacy violations.” –Wikipedia
“Big data is a popular term used to describe the exponential growth and availability of data, both structured and unstructured. And big data may be as important to business – and society – as the Internet has become. Why? More data may lead to more accurate analyses. More accurate analyses may lead to more confident decision making. And better decisions can mean greater operational efficiencies, cost reductions and reduced risk.” –SAS
In this infographic created by IBM, you get a sense of the magnitude of the information that is being collected from any number of sources. It’s sort of mind boggling really. But the overarching idea is that analyzed and used correctly, big data can inform decision making, be used to improve products and services based on customer needs and increase operational efficiencies, not to mention uncover new sources of revenue.
Companies are capturing data from us every time we download a white paper or sign up for a webinar. They can capture our information in other ways, but let’s focus on these two for a moment. Back in the day, anyone who downloaded content from your website or enrolled themselves in your webinar, were deemed to be “raising their hand”. In other words, expressing interest in your product or service. Perceived interest does not a qualified sales lead make. Marketing automation systems and data collection platforms are pretty sophisticated, but I’ve seen countless examples of how the data is being collected but not analyzed. And, if it is analyzed, somehow the right information isn’t getting to the sales department.
For example, earlier this year I signed up for a webinar to learn more about big data from a – you guessed it – big data company. During the registration process, I was asked a series of questions that included the size of my company. Imagine my surprise when 24 hours after the conclusion of the webinar, I received phone calls and emails not from one sales rep but from two. What you need to know is that the data solution that this company sells is an enterprise service. That means really BIG companies, which mine is not. My company is clearly a small business and they should know that right? They did ask me to provide that information.
Two things are wrong with what happened here:
There is an assumption that because I signed up for a webinar that I must be someone both qualified to buy and interested in learning more. The fact is I just wanted to hear another perspective related to big data. I was educating myself, as I continually do. Sales resources that cost money were wasted calling me. I own a small business, and I am not even close to being a qualified buyer for their platform.
What happened? After all, marketing collected the data. They can certainly segment the data that they collected. Something clearly broke down. It seems to me that sales was given a list and told to call everyone who registered, which of course, makes no sense and defeats the point of what big data is supposed to be all about.
Big data is sort of like social selling. Social selling can help you secure the sales meeting when done in the right way. What’s more important, however, is what happens during that meeting. Similarly, you can collect all the data you want, but what matters most is what you do with the information. In the story I told above, sales decision making certainly wasn’t informed. The point of leveraging big data is that you do it in a way that leads to specific business outcomes. If you plan to collect very specific registration information but not use it to determine who warranted sales time, what’s the point? The answer is no point. Wasted resources and missed opportunities. If this company wanted to strike while the iron was hot, they should have made sure that their sellers were laser focused on talking to buyers in their target account range.
You might be collecting the data. That’s great. What really matters is what you do with it!