The Sales Leader’s Guide to Data-Driven Management

By Jeremy Thies

Bring metrics into your management style — and accelerate your sales team’s success.

As a sales manager, you probably already eat, sleep, and breathe CRM reports (which can also contribute to a lack of sleep). Executives want to see your team’s sales revenue, close rates, average size-per-deal, and opportunities in the pipeline. Those top-line, outcome-oriented metrics get a lot of attention, and rightly so. But successful managers understand the value of spending time on the day-to-day reports that break apart the sales process — and identify which activities and strategies are leading to closed deals and which ones are not.

Last year, 57 percent of sales reps said they expected to miss their quota, according to Salesforce’s Third Annual State of Sales report. Why is that? The answers lie in the data, and as a sales manager, it’s your job to uncover them. The same report revealed that high-performing sales teams are 1.6 times more likely to use data analysis, rather than intuition, to prioritize leads.

The era of the data-driven sales manager is here, and we’ve outlined seven best practices for how you can use actionable data insights to lead and coach teams to greater success.

1. Use Sales Metrics to Motivate, Not Micromanage

Any manager can click a button to run a CRM report and present the results at a monthly meeting. Data analysis and leadership are completely separate skills. Effective sales managers bring them together and incorporate sales reporting into their team culture and management style, turning it into a powerful motivator.

The classic example of that motivation is a sales leaderboard, but today’s leaders must dig deeper into the data and use it for coaching and positive reinforcement. Explain to your team why a given metric matters and how understanding it can help them succeed. If you diagnose a poor conversion rate or a leaky pipeline, be sure to prescribe data-driven solutions as well. Data is your team’s friend, their GPS for sales navigation. Your goal is to nurture the inner reporting geek of every sales rep who’s striving to retire quota.

2. Make Data Visible, Visual, and Easy to Access

Sales reps won’t reference reports if it isn’t easy and powerful. They need real-time feedback on their sales activities and full transparency on their pipeline status. The goal is to get them intel quickly so they can get back to selling. Help them set up well-organized visual dashboards and make sure they have seamless, anytime mobile access to reports for when they’re the field.

The bigger challenge is determining what metrics you and your team will track. With a robust CRM it’s easy to drown in data or overwhelm your team with numbers that don’t actually help them improve. Only you can decide which KPIs are right for your business. Just remember to keep experimenting over time, and weed out the metrics that don’t prove actionable and contribute to goals.

3. Set Expectations on Reporting Cadence and Focus

Create a predictable schedule for what metrics and reports you’ll review at monthly, weekly, and one-on-one meetings. Well-defined goals require well-defined metrics. At team meetings, discuss pipeline metrics and team performance against goals. One-on-ones are the time to review sales activity metrics like call and email volume or ratios like win rate or activity to appointment.

Another expectation to set: that your reps will keep their accounts and activities up to date in the CRM. This can be a challenge, because reps view data entry as a chore, and they’d rather be selling. You want them to spend more time selling, too.

But it’s a delicate balance. If CRM data isn’t clean and updated daily, reporting loses value, and your reps can’t make smart decisions (and you can’t create accurate forecasts). That’s why taking advantage of every CRM automation and productivity feature is critical, because it can free up significant time for your team.

4. Be a Data Detective: Search for Actionable Insights

As a sales manager, you should always be sleuthing to uncover the drivers behind data trends. Why are deals getting stuck at a certain phase? Why are leads from a certain industry converting at a higher rate? If two sales reps are making the same number of daily phone calls, why is one rep converting 30 percent more of those leads?

Your goal is to identify red flags and worrisome patterns — for example, recognizing that there aren’t enough new opportunities coming in to replace closing opportunities. Or determining that a rep is spending too much time on leads that are less likely to convert. And then take early action to correct them.

5. Coach Your Reps with Data Insights

One-on-one check-ins are where the coaching magic happens. Data can lay the groundwork by revealing a rep’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, a year-to-date report may point to superb closing skills but weaker lead-gen and prospecting skills. Some reps might not be making enough phone calls, or perhaps they’re taking too long to close certain types of deals.

Turn data revelations into opportunities. Unpack data through conversation and work together to brainstorm more effective sales strategies. Develop individualized tactics to help them prioritize their time.

6. Share the Data Trends of High-Performing Reps

Help reps steal one another’s successful strategies and best practices. Look at the pipelines and sales activities of your top performers and break down the data for everyone else: they make X number of calls each day, with X average call length; they focus more time on a certain deal size, and if their deals stall out at a certain stage, they do Y and Z to revive them.

Conversely, don’t be afraid to discuss failures and what went wrong through the lens of a given report. This can be more sensitive in a team setting, but whenever possible, facilitate transparent group conversations so everyone can contribute to solutions and learn from mistakes.

7. Celebrate Individual and Team Wins

You already ring the (virtual) bell when a rep closes a big deal. Do lots more of that. Praise and recognition are strong motivators. As a data-focused manager, be specific in your praise, and highlight the strategies that led to the win and the patterns that can predict future successes. And don’t just celebrate wins — throw out some high-fives for reps whose KPIs are headed in the right direction. Your goal as a data-driven sales manager is to make success repeatable — and inspire your reps to go from good to great.

Learn more about data-driven sales management at