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The Sales Review

Learn about emerging best practices, strategies and insights on B2B sales today dedicated for the modern sales organization.

The New and Ancient Art of Data Visualization

Posted by Guest Author on Aug 16, 2014 2:33:10 AM

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data visualizationApplying data visualization to the sales process can yield actionable insights that make sales teams become more productive.

This is a guest post from Nikolaus Kimla, the founder of Pipeliner CRM.

Something that fascinates us here at Pipeliner CRM is the power of a language we want to speak well: Visual. This concept, the learning and absorbing information through a visual process, is getting more attention. This is good, because our product is differentiated on the visual features whereby Pipeliner customers can “see” the data and immediately get what they need to do their job more effectively.

From the dawn of time, people have expressed themselves visually. The cave paintings at Lescaux, France are so moving, those small hand shapes outlined in color make such an immediate and powerful connection between modern humans and our forebears.

Wired to be Visual

Today, we face an interesting dichotomy:

  • Work tools need to be both powerful and simple to use;
  • They must be complex yet crystallize information into easily usable chunks;
  • Software must be operational without complex set-up or manual references but still grow beyond a few features.

Tools also need to accommodate people of differing ages, skill sets, preferences, work styles, and informational needs.

Getting this right is a big part of our product development. It’s beneficial for us that people are wired to understand data in imagery. It’s a good thing that this is a natural, human ability. We view this as foundational.

Getting More out of Data

One of the keys to success is to use Visual to make data actionable and empowering. Our team looks for what the likely use cases are for data, including the job descriptions of the people who use it, the kinds of tasks they perform frequently, and which tasks can be automated in order to free them up from the mundane for more important “one-off” tasks.

In this way, data can be exciting and welcome, instead of a dreaded task in a flat and intimidating spreadsheet. Reports don’t need to be regimented and “canned” any more. Instead, they can become liberating. And better yet, insightful.

Data can, indeed, drive success, so everybody should be able to understand and take what they need from it.

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Getting More out of Visualization

Here are my takes for some hard and fast rules for using visualization in work tools:

  • visual makes complex things feel simpler and enable greater transfer of information
  • visual must make life easier, not harder
  • visual should be understandable without verbal translation
  • visual should play to different levels of skill and need
  • visual should be inviting so people want to self-educate
  • visual should permit personal preference to learning style
  • visual should always take into account the physiology of the human -- the path of the eye and the operation of the brain

Visualization is the universal language that can tell any story and connect people with the data they require, sometimes even with information they don’t know they need!

Using Visualization for the Sales Process

At Pipeliner, our point of view is this: a picture is worth a thousand spreadsheets. This holds the key to sales because the vast majority of sales is, at its core, a numbers game. Individual sales reps working across many deals at a time, sales teams working their way toward quota, sales management concentrating on growing revenue – these are all crucial facets of the sales function for business.

Sales pros worry about how they can manage, prioritize, and identify where to allocate time. And most importantly, where to put their limited resources.

These are complex questions, and they are not easily answered by sorting A-Z and from 1-26 in rows and columns. The answers here must be visual in order to truly realize maximum productivity. Sales professionals should be able to zoom in on a stuck deal to immediately unstick it, or have the ability to exclude that same deal from quota calculations. This provides the intangible value of more accurately predicting future outcomes.

How interesting that modern technology has such a strong connection to the same visual elements that captivated our human ancestors, the cave artists.


Nikolaus Kimla, Pipeliner CRMAbout Nikolaus Kimla

Nikolaus Kimla is the founder and managing partner of Pipelinersales, Inc. He is the creator of Pipeliner CRM and the author of several books about sales and CRM practices.

Follow Nikolaus on Twitter: @KimlaNikolaus