Data is driving business insights and strategic decisions across all industries and proficiency in data analytics is no longer just for techies. Businesses collect data constantly and future-minded professionals need the skills to leverage that data for meaningful trends, emerging patterns, and to formulate predictions that will secure business success. More specifically, data plays a critical role in the Sales profession and having a strong understanding of how to leverage data and use technology can generate insights that will greatly inform sales decisions and activities.

On May 27, 2021, CPSA, in collaboration with Lighthouse Labs hosted an online fireside discussion, with panelists and data experts Agnes Lan and Marwan Kashef to explore their views on how data has changed the Sales profession and how data analytics is shaping the future of sales. The following are the highlights of this event and discussion. You can watch the full recording with many more insights and a full Q&A period, in detail here..

To best understand how you can grow your sales career by leveraging data, and to earn CPSA credit, Lighthouse Labs is still accepting applicants for their new 4-day Data Analytics for Sales Leadership course, beginning June 15, 2021.


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Guest Speakers

Agnes Lan

Agnes Lan: a consultant in broadcast media advertising and marketing, distribution and warehousing, education, manufacturing, professional services and construction

Marwan Kashef

Marwan Kashef: a data science instructor and mentor at Lighthouse Labs, and a data leader in both the private and public sectors, with years of experience planning, building and launching analytics and AI solutions in the corporate world.


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Kicking off the discussion by painting a picture of how the role of data has changed throughout their careers:

Agnes: Both accessibility of data, and technology to facilitate speed in decision making, have put us in an era of analytics and change management over the years, specifically with analytics leadership and better understanding of what to measure and how to measure and using the right technologies for better, faster decision-making. We're no longer just dealing with lagging indicators, which is huge for operations.

“Technology and the availability of data puts SMBs on the same playing field as enterprise-level clients, resulting in the rise of entrepreneurship observed over the years.”

With data, decision-making can be decentralized, paving the way for a much faster pace business landscape.


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Marwan Kesha has worked for years in management consulting and financial operations, and provided his take on why data has been such a topic of importance, in the last few years, to business leaders across all departments.

Marwan: We're moving from intuition-based decision making to fact-based decision making. Historically, decisions were made based on who was the loudest or the most senior in the room, but by bringing in data as a source of truth, and therefore a neutral party that's unbiased, everyone in the room is humbled, and discussions are shifted from what you might feel is happening, to what you actually know is happening.

“The past is your best indicator of what you should do in the present to change your future.”

Data analytics is a broad methodology which intersects statistics, machine learning and business acumen in order to collect and create data that can be translated and manipulated to drive a business forward. By leveraging data analytics sales activities can shift from reactive to proactive decisions.


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CPSA: Speak to a time when data analytics has benefited you in either a Sales or business context.

Agnes: Historically, hiring salespeople was an expensive process and Sales was considered a very intuition-based profession. A good rep could conduct research on potential customers, engage qualified prospects in conversations and get a sense of interests or opportunity upfront. Today, the intuition part of sales can be broken down into metrics.

“Market changes, competitor activity, customer preferences, engagement scores, CPA, LTV etc.. can all now be measured for more calculated risk in your strategy as a Sales professional.”

Marwan: Before there would be stand ups, where a sales manager would speak to all the reps and ask them how's it going, who are you talking to, what's in the pipeline. Managers were reliant on that point in time to gather insights and they would rely heavily on the rep’s interpretation and intuition, which may not have been accurate. Technologies today allow sales managers to see the pipeline and progress using data, which significantly limits risk. Everything is now quantifiable.


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CPSA: Share a time where the lack of data or ability to analyze data has set you back.

Agnes elaborated on her experience buying, selling or merging businesses as part of an expansion strategy. “It’s important to understand that a seller always values their business at higher than it’s worth, due to emotional attachment to what they’ve built.” By using data to better understand processes, trends and overall fit with your strategy you can better understand true value as opposed to emotional value of a business.

Marwan weighed in by sharing his experience as a sales rep early in his career. Years ago it was the norm for Sales professionals to manually manage a Google sheet to import contacts into a CRM. The dependence was entirely on the reps to ensure the data was clean and correct, which left a lot of room for human error.

Another challenge anyone can face with a small business that is growing - as the business scales, you may be able to level-up your systems and tools to manage data (think CRM like Hubspot, Outreach etc..). As you add more and begin to use 3rd party connectors or need to leverage different systems (esp. if mergers and acquisitions is part of the company’s growth strategy), you may find yourself in a place where you have so much data you begin to suffer from “analysis paralysis”, meaning you’ve reached a point where you don’t know what to do with it all or how to merge the various systems holding the data.

“As you grow and as you scale an organization and move from system to system, you may have rich data from multiple sources, and the biggest obstacle becomes how do you marry it all together, in a way that you can actually build a beautiful picture of who your contacts and clients are.”


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CPSA: What are your thoughts on the evolution of data collection?

Marwan: The collection of metadata is becoming more prevalent in todays’ e-commerce landscape. By collecting traffic sources, from which web pages, browsers and devices visitors are coming from and so on, you can begin to piece together customer profiles to help you target better prospects as a Sales professional.

With the pandemic-fuelled digital economy, sales professionals have to know how to turn data insights to actionable insights that inform their decisions.

Agnes: Let’s not shy away from the technology part of all of this. Technology is what enables and empowers us to use data better. Of course, in the last five years or so everyone's talking about AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Learning) and using it to bring predictability to a whole new level. A great example is Gong Lab, a listening tool that allows Sales leaders to effectively coach their teams through a detailed analysis of the calls they’re making, and provide real-time feedback, quickly and efficiently to positively impact your conversion rates.


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CPSA asked for their thoughts on a Harvard Business Review article stating “Ensuring that big data creates big value calls for a reskilling effort that is at least as much about fostering a data driven mindset and analytical culture is it as it is about adopting new technology.”

Marwan: There is this confusion sometimes about business intelligence versus data analytics, as they are not always the same.

  • Business intelligence deals with once you actually have the data at your disposal, what do you do with it, how do you visualize it, how do you communicate it, how do you break it down.
  • Data insights can be a subset of business intelligence, where not only do you create the visualization but you actually try and interpret it for people in your organization.
  • The knowledge part comes from experience, being able to understand why something is happening.

“It's one thing to be able to visualize something; it's another thing to be able to interpret it and understand the why and what to do with it.”

Agnes: Data can be very intimidating, especially for people that might not be as tech savvy or as analytical. If I'm looking at someone’s close rate, that’s only half the battle. I have the information, but the key insights are really what I am doing with this piece of information to drive the business forward. Addressing questions like “Are we over? Are we under? Are we at capacity? Do we have to slow things down? Do we have to speed things up? Do we need to open up the pipe?” and so on.. Data allows us to have these conversations.


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CPSA: Elaborate on the thought that your sales pitch is only half as important as your sales story.

Marwan: Normally a Sales team will have a core script to work from, and will create their own spin-offs. The pitch is predictable until the Sales rep can explain value, and more importantly that competitors have an advantage, and that’s where the conversation can become most meaningful for the prospect. Because there's actual concrete evidence (data) behind it, that’s what fills the gaps to answer the “why should I buy this?” question.

Agnes: Understanding the data is key in telling a story. You want to organize the data to focus on a particular approach and to back up what you're trying to say.

“I hate it when someone pitches to me and just gives me a bunch of stats, it's meaningless to me.“


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CPSA: One of the roadblocks to data proficiency is inconsistency in definitions of metrics as well as business and data complexity. How can individual sales reps as well as sales teams navigate sometimes overwhelming amounts of data changing metrics and new technologies?

Agnes: Implementation of data driven sales culture is difficult. It takes discipline and is not something that can be done overnight, but you start with team alignment on process and ensuring that the data is accessible to all.

Marwan: Team alignment is so important. I frequently see internal struggles between sales and data at almost every company. The two teams think about things differently, but

“...the best recipe is a “North star metric”, where the entire company, irrespective of function, has the same goal.”

Once implementation of data-driven culture and accessibility of data is green-lit, and you have clean data collected, it’s time to draw insights and assess trends. For example, look at different lead response times (your rate of contact out of X amount of outbound calls) and assess how many opportunities a given sales rep generated over time.

Companies can also consider leveraging the naturally competitive nature of a sales pitch and create a leaderboard amongst your sales reps to foster healthy performance competition.


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CPSA: What are some myths about data and what you can expect from CPSA and lighthouse labs data analytics for sales leadership course.

Agnes: You can expect that really understanding how to leverage data to get to that North star requires intent and process.

Stop using random spreadsheets to manage your customer interactions.

Marwan: It's a big myth that you need Data Scientists to do data level work. With the technology we have at our disposal today with bootcamps such as those offered by Lighthouse Labs, there are so many avenues for anyone in sales to become more data savvy. You don't have to be a data scientist to become data savvy on your own.


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CPSA: Where do you see sales teams falling short when it comes to their data strategy?

Agnes: Embrace data. Don’t look at it as extra work. It is your work. But as an organization, it cannot be an individual effort, the entire Sales team needs to work towards a more data driven sales approach holistically. Once you get into a rhythm and understand how to use data, it will save you so much time in your days.


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The Lighthouse Labs Data Analytics for Sales Leadership course lays the foundation of a lot of what was discussed here, and provides an overview of how to best leverage data. It’s a 12 hour course over 4 days that showcases various case studies and relevant examples to sales professionals, allowing them to really understand where analysis fits in their repertoire, and advance themselves to become dangerously data savvy. The course covers everything from collecting and analyzing to presenting sales data to inform forecasting, pipeline management, and sales rep performance, among other areas. Don’t delay. Enroll today.