Data is ubiquitous, inescapable. It’s the new oil. Its value and importance dominates discussion on business forums and entire economies have been built on it.
Open LinkedIn, Twitter or virtually any website nowadays and the likelihood is that you’ll be confronted with multiple posts, articles and opinion pieces from tech companies pushing the latest and greatest in data gathering software. You can see where they’re coming from:
Internet users currently generate 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day, and by 2020 the total amount of digital data is expected to reach 44 zettabytes – that’s 40 times more bytes than there are stars in the observable universe.
Given all this noise, you could be forgiven for thinking that, as a business (and the tech industry itself seems particularly consumed by this notion), if you get your data strategy right and collect enough numbers, success is bound to follow. But it’s not that simple. Because in any sales-led organisation when it comes to keeping your customers happy and retaining those all-important key contracts, collecting data around things like adoption, deployment and usage, while valuable, is only one part of the solution.
Now, we’re not luddites here at Sales Engine, far from it – we know good tech when we see it and we’re always interested in exploring the possibilities of great software when it comes to enabling and enhancing sales performance. So much so in fact that we’ve developed our own contract management software (more on that later).
But an over-reliance on tech and the measurement of data avoids the most crucial part of customer relationships, namely how people are interacting and how they feel about it all. Tech is great and data can provide incredibly useful insights into customer engagement, but it’s not a replacement for human interaction. How a customer ‘feels’ about you is arguably a much greater factor in their decision to continue working with you than the number of data points you hit.
In other words, if your sales teams are not focused on strategic account management and the right kinds of relationship development activity, then all the customer health data in the world isn’t going to salvage a faltering contract.
One doesn’t have to come at the expense of the other, however. The key is in capturing and measuring the right kinds of customer data, and then continually acting on it.
This thinking is what led us to develop Contract-IQ. A unique blend of software, consultancy and coaching, Contract-IQ allows you to track and measure the strength of your contracts based not only on KPIs, SLAs and other traditional health score indicators, but also critically on those less tangible ‘relationship’ factors which can have such a major impact come renewal time. Things like how often your customers are happy to meet you, the level of seniority you’re truly engaged at and their willingness to act as named case studies for example, sit alongside factors that determine your customer’s perception of you versus the rest of the market when it comes to areas like price, value and innovation. Not all metrics are equal of course, and by applying a weighting to each we can track the true health of a contract, demonstrate if it’s getting better or worse over time, plan the actions you need to take to improve it and measure the impact of any changes.
This blending of technology, data and coaching is powerful. The ability to see the health of your contract changing as you deepen your engagement with your customer is a virtuous circle which drives and reinforces good sales and account management behaviour.
Ultimately, until the robots take over, we are humans and humans crave interaction with each other. It’s how relationships and alliances are formed and strengthened, and in business how contracts are won and retained. Focused on the right factors, data can and should help to support this, but it’s not the end in itself. Because when it comes to keeping your key customers happy, the human element is undeniable.