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Why Data Silos In Sales Persist, And How To Break Them Down

Why Data Silos In Sales Persist, And How To Break Them Down

Human nature plays a big role in the creation and longevity of data silos. Take a moment to deepen your understanding of how data silos evolve and how you can more effectively transition the team away from them.

It’s not enough for the sales team manager to believe in CRM. It’s not even enough if the CEO believes in it.

In fact, success with a CRM like Sales Cloud not only requires that everyone on or associated with the sales team believe in it, but that they use it. The biggest thing that tends to get in the way is not cost, time or any other traditional business barrier – it’s the stubborn durability of silos within the company.

Unlike the towering structures used to store grain or some other item on a farm, data silos will not be immediately visible to the naked eye. By their very nature, data silos are like secret repositories of knowledge that can be used — by the person who knows about it and protects it — to get things in an organization done.

Data silos have gotten in the way of change across most major business functions, including HR, operations and marketing. Within the sales team, however, data silos are particularly threatening to progress, because they make it impossible to take full advantage of CRM. Details about customers that could allow more precise targeting, building a stronger pipeline or prioritizing which leads should be acted upon first are simply not available to all the necessary decision-makers. Where there could be true teamwork, there are fragmented efforts that don’t fully deliver.

The temptation in many organizations is to try a top-down approach to eliminating data silos. Maybe through a memo or an in-person meeting, for instance, the CEO or other senior leader simply insists that all relevant information be shared via the CRM. Unfortunately, such edicts are difficult to enforce when it’s not always clear where the silos are and who is maintaining them.

Human nature plays a big role in the creation and longevity of data silos. Take a moment to deepen your understanding of how data silos evolve and how you can more effectively transition the team away from them.

Silos Seem Easy

It must seem to managers and senior leaders that they’re almost doing employees a favour by bringing in tools to centralize information and the management of key business processes. To employees, however, the prospect of learning a new tool can feel threatening. That’s because they’ll be taking at least a little time away from other activities in order to move to the new process. They’ll have to get used to the technology, versus the more manual ways they’ve gathered and managed information in their own little silo.

This all comes down to the idea of “the devil you know.” Even if elements of working in a data silo are onerous, they can represent something a rep or other employee feel they’ve mastered. Some tasks are so routine they almost feel like they’re being performed through muscle memory. CRM, in contrast, means they’ll have to stop, think and act in a more strategic way.

As a manager or leader, make sure you spend time painting as clear a picture as possible about what the end results of those efforts are going to be. This could include more productivity (and less late nights or weekend work), more quotas met or even some bonuses earned. Just like selling to a reluctant customer, it’s a matter of convincing them that the ends will justify the means.

Silos Avoid Scrutiny

The notes a sales rep made in the past might have been filled with greater secrets than what they’d have put in their diary. The quirks of particular customers, the nuances of a company’s procurement process, the sports team the customer enjoys going to see — data silos are filled with a strange blend of the professional and the personal.

Unlike working in a more cohesive way with CRM, reps can get comfortable with their data silos because all that’s visible to their employer are their end results — deals closed or lost, for instance. With Sales Cloud, there is much greater ability to for managers and leaders to monitor and manage performance issues in real time. If members of the team are worried about what you’ll think of how they spend their time or their unique ways of doing things, they won’t want to make the leap.

Lay some ground rules, or at least some guiding principles you’ll adhere to as CRM gets deployed. Admit that some of what Sales Cloud reveals will provoke questions, but that you’re treating it as a learning process, rather than an inquisition. Reinforce that a less siloed approach will mean reps get more relevant, actual feedback. Remind them that the end goal is to make them successful, respecting their own expertise while also coaching them based on yours.

Silos Keep Trust Issues At Bay

Working in sales used to mean competing not only with peers in other companies, but the person sitting next to you as well. Many organizations not only allowed this attitude to flourish but openly encouraged the rivalries.

Once you’re using CRM, however, the organization is recognizing that what really matters to customers is not who meets their number, but what kind of value they’re getting from their relationship with a vendor or supplier.

Much like the best sports teams tend to win not by the efforts of a single player taking shots on a net or goal but through a series of assists, Sales Cloud fosters greater collaboration. The best thing you can do as a manager is to confront any potential areas of mistrust among reps or other members of the organization head-on. Dispel any myths. Extend olive branches and build bridges, marking the move to a data-driven sales environment as a fresh start for everyone. Talk about how team members can communicate any major problems or new issues they encounter, and what the process of addressing them might look like. Finally, centre everything around the vision and values of the organization, which doesn’t usually align to siloed ways of thinking or working in the first place.

It will take time to get rid of all the data silos in a company. Go into a CRM deployment knowing that identifying and breaking them down will be a natural part of the process — maybe even one of the ways you measure your progress.

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