There are few more helpless feelings than seeing a stack of information and numbers that are both difficult to understand and labor-intensive to sift through.

Even people who regularly work with big data can get lost in the mire and draw false conclusions. As the number of ways to collect data increases, the insights you can glean multiply. And yet, you’re probably still basing decisions on past experience and anecdotal evidence.

We’ll take you through how to think about data and how you can use it to sell.

Examples are key

Despite the fact that people’s eyes may start to gloss over during a speech that’s full of numbers and technical jargon, some account managers (AMs) just keep trudging through. But even if you make a sale based on reciting a string of statistics, you risk damaging the relationship you have with a client. So unless that sale and investment winds up netting the client a significant and straightforward gain, you may jeopardize the trust you’ve built.

Also, if a client doesn’t understand how or why a product or service has performed a certain way, that distances you from them as well. In order to really foster a relationship based on data, you need to give your audience examples that will help them understand it. Step away from ratios and tell stories that happen to have numbers within them. Tailor those examples to the client too, so if you know someone has limited time to give you, you can boil down the information to one key point and give them the opportunity to think about it. You might tell them about similar companies who saw a budget savings of 47% in their business by choosing a new product you’re offering. Or you may want to focus on analogies in order to sell, so a client has an excellent grasp on what exactly they’re buying.

Your job is to translate data into stories your clients can fully understand. And remember that not all studies or statistics are created equal. Facebook was famously chastised in the press and by their brand customers because they had artificially over-inflated the number of views videos received on its platform. If your data seems off, consider omitting it to avoid misleading your clients or share those findings with the caveat that they may be inaccurate.

Visualize the data

Powerpoint presentations can get a bad reputation, but visual aids are only as good as the person who creates them. When you’re trying to make a sale based on numbers, you will want to prepare for the many questions a client will hopefully have. Even if you’re used to minimal input or pushback from clients, you should still have answers ready to clear up any confusion.

If you have a client who has a distinct personality, you will want to try to match that personality if at all possible when creating visual aids. It may be as simple as incorporating a picture referencing a running joke you have with the client to illustrate a point, or it may be as complicated as an involved presentation with charts, graphs, and a dense packet of information for the client to review.

Ultimately, trying to sell with data should increase the authority you have with a client, even if it doesn’t result in net sales for every pitch you make. It will take concentrated effort to ensure that you’re only presenting concepts that are relevant to the client with strong supporting evidence to back up what you have to say. This is a real challenge, so prepare to put in the time.

Show you know

Understanding your client is one thing, and it counts for a lot when it comes to maintaining a relationship in account management. But an AM should really be looking beyond their client to find information about the client’s customers. Knowing more about your client’s users and target demographic is necessary to extend your role an additional step forward.

By using data about their customers, you can start pointing out areas where the client may be lagging. Additionally, you may use that information to insert a solution that involves services offered by your company. The goal of customer analytics is always to eliminate waste, which means pinpointing the exact profile of a customer as well as the best ways to reach them down to the tiniest detail. This may mean gleaning insight from the information your client gives you, or it may mean using past experience to show how well you understand exactly what will help your client reach their goals.

Your conversations need to go beyond platitudes to the specifics of how a business can grow. Data in particular lends itself to having these wide-scale conversations where people can easily lose sight of the major points in front of them. In order to be useful to a client, there needs to be a strong course of action that can be reasonably implemented and enforced.


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