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“This Isn’t Helpful”

In the early days of powered air flight, the controls and instruments were fairly basic. In the 1903 Wright Flyer, pilots controlled direction by moving their hips from side to side, and they adjusted elevation with a wooden lever. Their only instruments were an anemometer (for measuring wind speed) and a stopwatch.

But it didn’t take long for planes to sprout a huge array of displays.

When Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic in 1927, his Spirit of Saint Louis had an air speed indicator, bank and turn indicator, oil pressure and temperature gauges, a clock, a fuel pressure gauge, a tachometer, altimeter, a liquid magnetic compass, an Earth inductor compass, and of course, pen and paper for making calculations. (Interestingly, however, it did not have a fuel gauge or a front windshield.)

Today’s cockpits have a dazzling array of touchscreens, gauges, mapping tools and instruments. In fact, pilots have so much information at their fingertips that many flight safety experts worry about information overload. In response, some aircraft designers have added a cockpit “declutter” mode, which turns off all but the most important instruments. And pilots who don’t have declutter mode available often take matters into their own hands, turning off displays they don’t use or even covering them up with pieces of paper.

The U.S. military has taken a different approach. Air Force fighter pilots wear helmets with a heads-up display (HUD) that shows them only the information they need at any given moment. According to a Digital Trends article on one such helmet, “The HUD is designed so the pilot can always see the most useful information such as airspeed, weaponry status, and altitude while performing a bevy of other in-flight tasks. Integrated eye tracking also allows the pilots to make selections and even aim missiles using only their eyes.” A computer system monitors all the available data points and gives the pilots only the important information.

What does all this have to do with sales operations?

Just like a modern airplane, a modern enterprise has a huge array of data points at its disposal. ERPs, CRMs, and marketing automation systems feed a host of dashboards and reporting systems designed to answer any question about the business.

But if the sales operation team feeds all that data to the pilot — that is, the executive team — the folks in the C-suite are likely to experience information overload. And they’ll probably tell you in no uncertain terms, “This isn’t helpful.”

As a sales operations practitioner, it’s your job to function a little bit like that HUD helmet. You distill all those data points into valuable nuggets of information. And you feed the most useful of those nuggets to the business leaders so that they can help navigate and maneuver through your market (possibly while shooting missiles at your enemies).

The obvious question here is, how do you figure out which bits of information are going to be the most useful?

The Air Force spent billions of dollars making its HUD, but we’re assuming your budget is a little smaller than that. Fortunately, we have a couple of resources that can point you in the right direction, and if you’re a SellingBrew subscriber, they won’t cost you anything extra.

The first is an express guide called Sales Metrics Sales Leaders Should Be Managing. It explains which of the hundreds of metrics at your disposal are the most important.

The second is an on-demand webinar called How to Use Sales Analysis to Drive More Growth. It explains how you can use your analysis process not only for monitoring what is happening but also to provide direction to company leadership. When it’s done correctly, sales analysis doesn’t just explain what happened, it shows executives and managers what they should do next.

While we admit that neither of these resources are as exciting as piloting a fighter jet, they could have a very profound effect on the course your company chooses to take — and the role that your team will play in choosing that course.

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