Press Releases

STAMFORD, Conn, November 9, 2020

Gartner Says Sales Reps Have the Worst Data Proficiency in the Organization

New Research Reveals the Steps Sales Leaders Should Take to Realize the Full Value of Sales Analytics

Frontline and overlay sellers have the lowest data proficiency despite their focus on sales data and buyer activity, according to Gartner, Inc. The Gartner State of Sales Analytics report revealed that sales reps are considered to have one of the worst data proficiency (43%) in the organization – significantly lower than marketing teams (49%), customer service teams (49%) and finance teams (53%).

Gartner defines data proficiency/literacy as the ability to read, write and communicate data “in context,” including an understanding of data sources and constructs, analytical methods and techniques applied, and the ability to describe the use-case application and resulting value. 

“Enterprise wide data proficiency is critical to overall success – that is, success for the sales analytics team as well as the organization as a whole,” said Craig Riley, senior principal analyst in the Gartner Sales practice. “Low data proficiency among sales reps greatly limits the value of analytical insights and inhibits data-driven decision making. Sales operations leaders must take ownership of these challenges and invest in stakeholder data literacy.”

In May through June of 2020, Gartner surveyed 299 sales leaders and found that the number one roadblock to developing data literacy is business and data complexity, according to 58% of respondents. However, the second most common reason for poor data literacy is inconsistent definitions of metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs), which makes it hard for different functions to share data and analytic output (47%). 

To mitigate these challenges, sales operations leaders must consider the following: 

Overcome Complexity by Defining and Simplifying

While underlying complexity is unlikely to resolve itself, with data proliferating and business models becoming more complicated, there are specific activities sales operations leaders can take to help lessen the complexity for their teams and stakeholders. These include building a data dictionary with common data definitions and simplifying dashboards and reports by aligning them with specific use cases.

Invest in Business User Analytical Skill Building

Sales operations leaders must acknowledge the fact that many stakeholders who are given access to sales data do not have the prerequisite training or understanding of the data or how the data feeds into a measurable outcome or KPI. This drives demand on sales analytics teams and limits how the data may be utilized to improve decision making. Overcoming this problem will require sales operations leaders to invest in analytical training to ensure users have the necessary skills to recognize the implications of analytics. 

Create a Data Literate Culture

In order to deliver the types of analyses executive leaders need to make high-quality, data-driven decisions, sales operations leaders must develop an organizational culture where data is understood and valued from top to bottom. This means striving to improve literacy, either by initiating a program or putting weight behind a chief data officer (CDO), enterprise analytics function or IT to make an existing program more successful. Even if the program isn’t owned by sales operations, sales operations leaders should take a leading role in data literacy efforts to ensure that sales analytics are adopted and interpreted consistently throughout the organization.

Gartner for Sales Leaders clients can learn more in The State of Sales Analytics 2020, Part 2: Cross-Functional Interactions and Data Literacy.   


About Gartner for Sales Leaders

Gartner for Sales Leaders provides heads of sales and their teams with the insights, advice and tools they need to address mission-critical priorities amid mounting pressures to drive growth through new and existing customers. With extensive qualitative and quantitative research, Gartner for Sales Leaders helps sales teams combat commoditization and price-based purchasing, develop critical manager and seller skills, elevate the value of sales interactions, unlock existing growth potential, and optimize sales force enablement. Follow news and update from the Gartner Sales practice on Twitter and LinkedIn using #GartnerSales.

About Gartner

Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT) delivers actionable, objective insight to executives and their teams. Our expert guidance and tools enable faster, smarter decisions and stronger performance on an organization’s mission critical priorities. To learn more, visit