12/11/2013 08:46 am ET Updated Feb 10, 2014

The Data Dilemma: Finding Meaning in the Modern-Day Sales Industry

The profession of sales has evolved greatly since the door-to-door days of Willy Loman. With the internet, email and Big Data, technology has facilitated communication and provided access to data in ways that were unimaginable 50 years prior.

But these days, is it possible to have too much of a good thing? Information is available quickly and in great abundance, but such access can create an overwhelming data deluge. For salespeople who only have so many hours in a day, obtaining value from mounds of data is like finding a needle in a haystack.

A 2012 study by Lattice Engines and CSO Insights reported that the average sales representative spends 24 percent of his or her time preparing for calls. The vast majority -- 82 percent -- is challenged by the amount of information at their fingertips and the time investment required to sift through the data presented.

The trusty CRM (customer relationship management) platform, such as Salesforce, has the best intentions of simplifying essential data such as new leads, close dates, support tickets and more. But sometimes such applications are better left in theory than in execution.
In fact, research from Lattice Engines found that 80 percent of sales representatives from companies using a CRM system believe it is ineffective at helping them find external information on potential clients.

Forward Metrics, a software company based in Encinitas, California, offers a solution to this industry-wide pain point.

"Sales is all about setting goals and setting your targets. Forward Metrics is all about automating and questioning that data," says Director of Marketing Andrew Hard.
Forward Metrics is deeply rooted to the idea of simplification. The company has engineered a unique dashboard, FM Navigator, that accesses a company's Salesforce data in real time and tracks anything that is going on within that sales organization. The application also automates requests for specific sets information, such as number of sales closed, and provides pre-scheduled reports.

"The challenge is in interpreting the data. Implementing a dashboard in accordance with sales goals makes it much easier to run reports and interpret data in a way that reps will actually glean valuable insights," Hard adds.

In the era of Big Data, access to information is among the biggest advantages modern-day salespeople have. But as studies have proven and experts have confirmed, unorganized, high-volume data can be a drain on time and resources. Industry wide, sales can benefit from a more streamlined approach to research and presentation of data.