A Guide to Data-driven Sales

Feb 18, 2021
4 min read
Discover the importance of visibility and why today’s leaders must adopt a data-driven sales strategy in order to compete, drive performance, and grow their enterprise.

Sales is a game of perseverance. Even when a rep feels the odds are stacked against her, she still has to be motivated to make her number. As a result, 57 percent of reps are expected to miss their quota this year, according to Salesforce

This makes the role of a sales leader difficult. Goals are becoming more aggressive to combat fierce competition and disruption, all while the amount of time available to drive performance is shrinking. According to recent Forrester research, 59 percent of organizations report that the average tenure of C-level executives is shrinking due to a 65 percent decrease in patience from board members when it comes to growth performance. 

Now more than ever, sales leaders need to arm themselves with valuable insights to get as much visibility into team performance as possible. So what can you do to gain actionable insights, motivate your reps, and adjust strategy in real-time? That answer is easy: adopt a continuous data-driven sales strategy.

Getting Insights from Your Sales Data

Diving deep into your data is the only way to get real value out of it. This means breaking down department walls to align with fellow leaders, uncovering patterns and insights, and saying goodbye to the status quo that is traditional sales planning.

So, take an assessment of your own organization. Is yours data-driven? Start by asking yourself the following questions: 

Sales Capacity & Quotas

  • How do we know we have the right number of sales reps?
  • Are we aware of our sales rep attrition rate and the productivity and ramp times we have to factor in for hiring new reps? 
  • What percentage of reps can we expect to hit quota? 
  • If everyone does not hit quota, can we still meet/exceed our goals?

Territory Design

  • Does each sales rep have an equal opportunity to hit quota in their assigned territory?
  • Are our territories equal and balanced? 
  • What geo-based factors help to identify our ideal customer profile?
  • Are we able to identify ideal customer accounts in our target territories?
  • Do you have the coverage and capacity needed to cover the territory?

Incentive Compensation

  • Do our incentives drive the right sales behaviors to hit our revenue targets?
  • Is our pay mix competitive in the industry?
  • How does our compensation compare to our competitors?
  • Do we know our ROI on sales incentives? How can we improve it?


  • Do we have the right technology in place to predict future wins and commission payouts?
  • Can we see deal progression and how the pipeline has changed in real-time?
  • Is there a way to know the true health of our pipeline and where each seller stands?
  • How do we ensure sales process compliance?
  • Do we have the visibility needed to understand and measure company growth? 
  • Can we accurately model various “what-if” scenarios?

By adopting a data-driven sales strategy, you can answer these questions much more easily and use the results to design stronger plans. HubSpot’s recent study concludes that when sales leaders have analytics tools to leverage, they use forecasting data, rep productivity/activity data, and team performance against quota to make strategic business decisions.

The biggest distinguishing factor between a good and a great sales plan is using data to drive decision-making. This allows you to use valuable insights along with third-party data to build your strategy, rather than doing what you’ve always done—recycling the plans that just aren’t effective, over and over again. 

Using Your Sales Data More Effectively

You have all this sales data. Now the question is: how do I become more strategic with it? First and foremost, just having data isn’t enough, but I’ll speak from personal experience that better decisions can be made and better results can be driven using a  Sales Performance Management (SPM) platform. 

In order to understand where my team truly stands, I need to gain insights from my sales data. Using Xactly, and “drinking our own champagne,” as Xactly’s Founder and CEO Chris Cabrera would say, has helped me gain more visibility than I’ve ever had as a sales leader. I can compare performance internally and against the industry and dive deep into each and every deal in our pipeline using Xactly Benchmarking

And with Xactly Insights, I can forecast quota attainment more accurately and identify and flag reps at risk for attrition before they throw in the towel. It’s made our entire organization smarter and allowed our leadership team to make more strategic decisions.

The Future of Sales is Data-driven

If we look at the landscape for today’s sales enterprises realistically, we know that business is dynamic. Sales leaders have to be agile as well. Traditional, status quo strategies don’t cut it anymore, and sticking to them is a sure way to fall behind the competition.

PwC reports that less than one-third of executives have access to the comprehensive data they need to make strategic business decisions. The biggest advantage a leader can seek out is visibility and more proactive indicators into her organization’s performance. 

Those who actively gather and review competitive intelligence and market data are meeting or exceeding revenue targets. In fact, according to Hubspot, 44 percent of sales leaders who will exceed revenue this year use competitive intelligence and market data. 

By adopting a data-driven approach, sales leaders can take our sales information, turn it into strategic insights, and unleash our true sales power. 

Discover more benefits of using data effectively and how to ditch outdated, traditional selling methods in the guide, “The Enterprise Leader’s Guide to Success in the New Sales Era”.

  • Benchmarking
  • Forecasting
  • Incentive Compensation
  • Sales Performance Management
  • Territory Management
Erik Charles Headshot
Erik W. Charles
VP, Business Operations, Japan

Erik serves as a subject matter expert on the interlocking fields of revenue intelligence, revenue performance, and revenue optimization. Erik focuses on helping Xactly drive expansion and growth by better aligning positions, responsibilities, and incentives to be in sync with achievable strategic and tactical goals. He is an accomplished professional with more than two decades of experience in marketing, consulting, and product evangelization.