Making Sense of Big Data

Data, in whatever form it takes, is on the forefront of most business plans today. If you are the one responsible of making business decisions based on data, you are going to want to make sure you know how to analyze the information as quickly as possible. Take an e-commerce company for example. Your employees aren’t the only ones contributing to your data. Your customers submit data of their own every time they sign up for your service or purchase a product from you. Overall, the numbers from both sides add up quickly and it often takes a significant amount of effort to analyze. The progression of data creation is exponential, with colossal amounts of data generated every day.

Simply put, Big Data is comprised of extremely large amount of information. This definition is important for business owners to understand, but understanding the scope of Big Data isn’t the be-all or end-all. Business owners need to learn about how Big Data can be analyzed for insights that lead to more strategic business decisions and moves.

Below, you’ll find information that will help you make sense of Big Data. After you finish this article, you’ll understand how data is collected, the types of Big Data and what your business can learn from this this data.

The Collection of Big Data

Data collection methods often differ from organization to organization. Some industries and organizations’ Big Data encompasses information on transactions, while others is comprised of enterprise content. What is more standardized across industries, however, are the steps of data collection.

data collectionThe first step of Big Data collection is gathering information. Some companies use web scraping tools to gather their data, and others rely on their customer resource management tools to capture information. Next, companies need to store the data they collect. Many companies build internal automated processes that allow them to store their data in spreadsheets. Others might take advantage of a storing service that saves the information for them.

The third step is data organization. Even if an organization collects data efficiently, they’re likely to collect extraneous information they don’t need, too. So, every organization needs to sort and clean the information they collect and save. A company will likely also have to reorganize their data after it’s clean, so it’s optimized for further use. Last—but not least—companies need to verify their data. Until companies validate the authenticity of their data, they cannot trust any insights the information produces.

The Types of Big Data

Big Data is made up of a mix of unstructured, structured and multi-structured data. Unstructured data is information that’s not organized or easily interpreted by traditional techniques. A great example of unstructured data is a social media post. In general, standard databases and data models are unable to organize and understand this type of metadata.

structured and unstructured dataStructured data almost always has a defined length and format. Numbers, dates and strings of words are a few examples of structured data. Chances are your company already uses structured data that’s stored in a database to inform your business decisions.

Multi-structured data is derived from interactions between people and machines. One of the best ways to remember multi-structured data is to think of a web browser. As a user works on the browser, a combination of text and visual data is chronicled; the browser will also log structured data, like transactional information, about the user.

Understanding Data Improves Business

The amount of insight businesses can gain from Big Data is somewhat overwhelming. Due to this fact, experts suggest that companies focus on what they want to learn from Big Data, not what they can learn. To take advantage of all that Big Data has to offer, you need to establish a clear plan.

Several prominent companies use Big Data to decrease their expenses, and others use Big Data to improve their internal processes. One of the most popular processes right now is to use Big Data to reduce customer churn.

The Four V’s of Big Data

Industry leaders often use “The Four V’s of Big Data” to frame the Big Data discussion. If you need a quick way to remember what Big Data is and how its massive amounts of data are used, think of the following words—volume, velocity, variety and veracity.

The most obvious characteristic of Big Data is its volume. The amount information taken into consideration for business decisions also grows every year, making volume an essential component of Big Data. With an exponential growth model, Big Data’s velocity must also be addressed. Remember, everything from a text message to a credit card swipe can (and most often is) considered part of the Big Data collection process. As more technological advances become established, Big Data’s velocity will only continue to increase.

Variety is another important characteristic of Big Data. When you think of Big Data’s variety, remember that Big Data is comprised of unstructured, structured and multi-structured data. As discussed in “The Collection of Big Data” section, veracity is another part of understanding Big Data. Without prior data verification, you can’t draw valid insights.

ibm-big-dataThe Bottom Line

To use Big Data as effectively as possible, companies need to understand the ultimate value that Big Data offers their operations. More specifically, businesses leaders need to understand how seemingly countless attributes influence their data collection objects.

Screen-Shot-2015-09-28-at-2.05.01-PMThe high elevation view of Big Data can be overwhelming, but it’s pivotal to business success. Currently, companies that aren’t using Big Data to their advantage are stuck in the past. They’re scrolling through countless spreadsheets and data sources trying to make sense of everything. Then, they’re compiling analysis reports that take either months or years to create. By the time these groups are able to make business decisions, their data is often outdated and irrelevant.

On the other hand, companies that use Big Data are ditching the troubles and limitations of traditional business insight creation. These industry leaders use Big Data’s real-time cycle of analysis to make the most informed business decisions possible when they matter most.

If you want to run your company as efficiently as possible and improve your bottom line accordingly, you need to understand your data.

See What We Can Do For Your Data

The Best 5 Salesforce Dashboards Every Sales Manager Needs

Sales dashboards reveal a ton of information in a short amount of time, helping sales teams gauge their current standing and informing their long-term strategy.

Information can be tough to process on its own, though, especially when trying to see bigger connections or anticipate what might come next. But with an organized report and accompanying visuals, these insights pop up immediately, spurring action and preventing overlooked details.

To help your sales teams make the most of their sales data and listen closely to the story it tells, try using one of the following 10 best Salesforce dashboards that can enable success:

Current Deals by Pipeline Stage and Close Date

This dashboard helps you instantly visualize the potential earnings you can obtain from deals while helping you assess how many people you have in your current funnel.

Start with a table column listing each pipeline stage, and then list the total estimated deal value for each stage by expected close date on the corresponding row. The result should be a stacked bar graph that reveals total revenue possibilities arranged by date and color-coded to indicate how many deals are in their respective stage of the pipeline.


  • X axis: close dates
  • Y axis: total deal values
  • Data series: listed by conversion stage, arranged as a stacked bar graph

Conversions Over Time

Converting people to the next stage of the pipeline is the key to consistent revenue earnings, helping teams focus on the activities that keep them consistent.

To reveal this information, start with a column of conversion actions — e.g. “second meeting to software demo” — and then list the conversions for each sales period in the corresponding row. The result is a line graph that reveals pipeline movement over time for each stage.


  • X axis: sales periods
  • Y axis: total conversions
  • Data series: a separate line graph for each type of conversion

Inbound Leads Over Time

This graph reveals how effective marketing is at bringing in leads to sales reps, reducing the amount of cold-calls and “hard prospecting” needed.

The Salesforce blog provides advice on how to set this one up, but the gist is that you will end up with one simple line graph that tracks total inbound leads over time.


  • X axis: sales periods
  • Y axis: total number of inbound leads
  • Data series: just one line graph tracking inbound leads, can be separated into inbound source to determine value of marketing activities

Sales Leaderboard, Earnings Progress Reports

The sales leaderboard can be displayed as a ranking list displayed on a table, but it can also be split up into several types of graphs to track closed-won trends or highlight weaker performers.


  • Table: Arranged by top earnings per sales rep
  • Graph: sales rep closed-won deals over time
    • X-axis: sales periods
    • Y-axis: earnings
    • Data series: separate line graph for each rep
  • Graph: total closed-won deal values over time
    • Same as above, but each sales rep is arranged as a stack bar graph rather than separate line graphs

Closed-Lost Reasons

Sometimes focusing on your weakest areas can help you determine where to make the most improvements. You can start by requesting that reps diligently record reasons behind each closed-lost sale, preferably from a simple pick list accompanied by more detailed notes.

Then, the total closed-lost deals can be viewed as a pie chart.


  • Pie chart: Reasons for closed-lost deals as a percentage of total
  • Data series: A separate wedge for each closed-lost reason, pie can be broken down further into losses to competitors or losses at certain pipeline stages

Using a Data Visualization Tools to Automate Salesforce Dashboards

If you happened to glance at the Salesforce blog linked to above that instructs you on how to create the “inbound leads over time” dashboard, you will have noticed that the process of turning your data into a graphic representation is fairly complex.

Rather than taking multiple steps each time you want to generate a report, you can use a third-party Salesforce data visualization tool that can generate dashboards in real time and help you keep up with the most important metrics.

By consistently visualizing and interpreting your data, you can stop guessing what you need to do to sell more and start knowing, helping you sell more than ever before.

What Can Salesforce Do For You

8 Tips to Manage Your Pipeline Like a Pro in Salesforce

When focusing on just one customer or account, the journey someone takes from initial awareness of a product to a completed, successful sale is crystal clear. Unfortunately, no sales rep on Earth has the luxury of handling just one account at a time. Instead, they are juggling multiple, all at different stages and levels of interest.

It can get confusing, to say the least! Tools like Salesforce can make managing all these people easier, especially when you use the following eight Salesforce pipeline management tips and best practices:

Start With a Well-Defined Process and Pipeline

The vocabulary of your sales pipeline should be ingrained in your reps’ minds. Each one should be familiar with the various stages, and they should know for sure how to identify which stage a lead is in based on activity and indicative factors.

Train your reps on this process, make simple-to-follow logic flowcharts to decide if a client is in a certain stage, and post reminder graphics all over the office so they never have to think twice about it. These efforts will make data entry and reporting in Salesforce much more effective and likely accompanied by a higher adoption rate.

Use a Pick List for Categories When Possible

Manual data entry can get tedious, but coding in a set of clear options for reps to pick from can make data entry go by quicker and encourage more people to actually do what they are supposed to.

Try to limit the amount of categories you have (more on that in a moment), but do ensure that each option is distinct and clear. Depending on the form in question, you may also want to include an “other’ category where the rep can write in their own information.

Include a Secondary Open Form With Picklists

Picklists are fast and generic, so accompanying them with a form where any text can be entered can allow reps to track important details.

Qualify and Categorize Leads

One of the first entry forms to include in your pick lists are lead qualification descriptors. Every incoming lead should have either a business category, interest level, referring source, or all three so that reps have as much information as possible when trying to prioritize activities.

Avoid Too Many Pipeline Stages

In reference to limiting categories as suggested above, the Salesforce blog recommends that you avoid having over four or five discrete phases to your sales pipeline. With too many possibilities, reps can get confused or have different interpretations regarding when a client is at a new stage. The amount of unusual movements that skip stages or move backwards also increases.

So, stick to the K.I.S.S. and make everyone’s life easier.

Use the Calendar and Reminder Features

The worst way to lose a sale is to have a lead effectively die within the pipeline. Ideally, every lost sale will be “closed-lost” rather than “Shoot! I forgot about them!”

To prevent these oversights and to keep everyone flowing along, you can use the internal calendar and reminder features to help automate tasks. For example, someone who receives a demo should be prompted to receive a follow-up email automatically after one or two days. That way, no one gets forgotten.

Make Entry Forms Dependent or Required

Required forms must be completed before submission. Dependent forms must be completed before the next related form is available. Configure both to prevent incomplete entries into the system and to get reps to pay close attention to how they describe a lead or their activities.

The Most Important of Salesforce Pipeline Management Tips: Track Sales Activities

Reporting and monitoring tools can help ensure that reps are doing what they are expected to on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis. Even though this strategy doesn’t track individual leads, it does approximate the level of activity expected to handle the current new lead volume. I.e., sales reps should be making a certain number of calls every period to keep the pipeline flowing.

You can make tracking activity easier by using a third-party Salesforce visualization tool that can instantly alert you to every rep’s actions. Some tools, like VisualCue, also track each account to make sure they are not forgotten, so if you need a leg up on managing your pipeline, consider using a sales rep monitoring tool today.

The Power of Salesforce

The 5 Biggest Problems with Salesforce Reporting and How to Fix Them

Today’s Sales Managers and VPs are facing a lot of frustrations with their current CRM systems. Whether it’s missing information, lacking real insights or inaccurate, duplicated reports, there is plenty of room for improvement in modern Salesforce implementations.

Why all the difficulty? Gene Marks of Forbes writes, “the problem with your CRM system isn’t usually about your CRM system.  It’s about you. It’s the way it’s been setup.  It’s the way it’s been implemented. It’s the way it’s managed. Wake up.”

The good news about this is that if Marks is correct then there is hope: the problems with the modern CRM are user-based and that means they can be fixed with a few simple changes which we will outline below. The technology is in place, all that it requires is putting insight into best practices. We will start off with the five biggest reporting problems Salesforce users face and then provide solutions for each of them.

Missing Information

By missing information we mean specifically missing customer information, whether it be outdated or missing contact information or missing data about the status of an opportunity at the front end, when sales reps input the wrong kind of information into salesforce. With modern calling systems the likelihood of manually inputting an erroneous phone number or email is small.

The more likely scenario is that your CRM is missing data surrounding a customer’s status in the pipeline. If your pipeline is missing this information then your forecasting won’t be as accurate and you will possibly lose opportunities that could help your bottom line.

No Context

The context of your data is how it relates to other sources of information. For example, in Salesforce you can run a report about the number of closed deals this month, won or lost. However, without linking in your marketing data you wouldn’t know where those deals came from, how long they spent in marketing, or what the CAC to LTV ratio is.

This is the sort of information you need to make an informed decision about which marketing sources are giving you the best leads, and the reports you can run in Salesforce simply do not answer this question because data from your other sources simply isn’t blended and analyzed as an integrated whole.

Difficult to find information

If you have solved your missing information and data context problems there is still work to do. Even with these improvements your sales team is likely still struggling to find the information they need exactly when they need it. This on-demand data analysis and recall is an incredibly valuable tool, and is too often missed due to poor data management. Poor data management occurs when your sales representatives do not know how to extract and analyze the data they need because the system is too complicated.

This is an especially difficult pain point for sales managers because of the time wasted in trying to find information on a prospect’s history at a crucial juncture in the sales call or customer service ticket which often leads to frustrated sales teams, dissatisfied customers and wasted opportunities. By putting all the information about a customer right at your team’s fingertips they could more efficiently manage their time, be more productive and close more deals.

Insufficient Reporting

There is almost no end to the different types of reports you can generate in Salesforce. Because the tool both collects the data and generates the reports you can blend different data points (the kind that Salesforce collects) if you know how to navigate the system. The problem is that many sales reps do not know which reports they should be generating and how to generate them.

The difficulty with this insufficient reporting is that sales managers will often have dozens of reports on their desk coming in from sales reps with no idea of how they all connect together, how up-to-date they are and whether or not tracking this report is going to do anything to positively affect their monthly targets.

The solution to this is a data visualization tool that can generate the reports you need and immediately deliver them to your inbox when the data changes. The Data Visualization tool essentially takes the data that Salesforce is generating and allows you to visualize it in such a way that makes the actionable intelligence more easily understood. When you pair these visualizations with real-time alerts you get the most value out of your Salesforce data because you can see and understand what needs to be done in the moment.

Duplicate Reports

Once you know which reports you should be generating there is one last problem that many managers complain of when it comes to Salesforce reporting: these reports are half-baked, inaccurate, or duplicates. The data makes sense but cannot be correlated to improving Sales. You will likely see the same data points circulated around different reports to the point where you know one metric backwards and forwards but still aren’t seeing any improvement in your bottom line.

The Solutions

The answer to each of these problems can be found in add-ons to Salesforce that both visualize data from various sources and present it in a simple way that allows you to take action right away. You can even get started with a free version of VisualCue, a data visualization add-on focusing on eliminating the need for complicated reports.


Problem 1 – Missing Information


  • Use an auto-dialer, an email system that integrates directly with Salesforce such as Telephony or RingDNA.
  • To avoid missing status updates ensure that each of your sales representatives is trained on how to pass information to their sales manager quickly and clearly.

Problem 2 – No Context

  • Use a data blending tool like Pentaho or Hadoop to integrate all of your sources into one data visualization and analysis tool so you can visually make connections between sales and marketing or sales and customer service data.
  • Choose a sales performance platform with the ability to connect to different data sources and then visualize all of that data together in one tool. These tools include VisualCue, ClicData, and Zoomdata.

Problem 3 – Difficult to Find Information

  • Conduct a brief survey of your sales team and discover which data points they most often need when they are preparing a presentation. These are going to be the main points in your customized dashboard.
  • Invest in a sales performance platform and data visualization tool that both allows for customized dashboards and visualizes the information your sales reps need in an intuitive and understandable way. These tools include Zoho Reports, VisualCue and Microsoft Power BI.

Problem 4 – Insufficient Reporting

Track information in the following 5 reports below with a program like Necto or ClicData that delivers updates to your inbox when the data falls below a performance threshold. Performance thresholds should be specific to every organization.  While these are not the only reports you should be tracking, it is a great start to make sure that your organization is headed in the right direction.

Top 5 Performance Thresholds


  • Lead Response Time
  • Activity Efficiency Ratios
  • Top 10 salespeople by step
  • Open opportunities by stage and time
  • Time spent in each stage

Problem 5 – Duplicate Reports

Set up the five thresholds we listed above sent directly to your inbox. Then, use your data visualization tool to include a second list of “tangential” issues that aren’t crucial to your day to day but are valuable for understanding the bigger picture. This way you won’t have duplicate reports cluttering your inbox.

These 5 issues with Salesforce reporting certainly can be a pain for the modern sales manager or Executive, but that is no reason to think that your CRM isn’t doing its job. You simply need to reevaluate your reporting strategies and you will soon find your entire sales department operating more efficiently.

The 10 best tools for Data Visualization with Salesforce in 2017

What makes an effective data visualization?

Everyone knows that extracting reports in Salesforce takes a lot of time. This is why more and more top-performing companies are using a data visualization add-on to Salesforce and other CRMs that enables them to blend data from various sources, visualize it intuitively and apply performance thresholds and alerts so they can always be aware of important changes. In this post we’re going to look at the top 10 most popular data visualization tools for Salesforce in 2017, breaking them down by responsiveness, real-time aptitude, customization, speed, and interactivity so you can choose your tool with supreme confidence.

Data visualization enables your team to comprehend and analyze data as it is coming to them, letting them act on the data in real time. For example, looking at a spreadsheet your sales manager might not be able to see that one of your leads hasn’t been contacted in over 24 hours. However, when looking at a data visualization showing that every lead has been contacted except for one, and that one lead is colored in red and triggered an email alert, there is no chance that they can miss that opportunity (for more on the importance of lead times, check out our free eBook.)

However, not all visualizations are created equal. Researchers J. Suda and Hampton-Smith undertook an extensive analysis of modern data visualization tools and used the following words in their description of the top 5 features that an effective data visualization should have.

Responsive: the data visualization allows users a high-level view with smooth drill-downs into operational data.

Real Time: The data is refreshed automatically.

Customizable: Viewing styles, performance thresholds and filters can be changed to suit the user’s need.

Fast: A gauge of how quickly an untrained user can look at a visualization and immediately spot a pattern or see the actionable intelligence- it should leap off the screen.

Interactive: Users can not only see the data but interact with it in terms of search functionality- data is easily found and a way is provided to manipulate the source data if necessary.

We took this list of five elements and created the following chart so you can know exactly what each of these data visualization tools excels at before you purchase.


Criteria Poor Average Excellent
Responsive Does not allow for different levels of analysis Users can look at simply high and low levels of data Users can examine data at high and low levels smoothly
Real Time The data cannot be refreshed or is refreshed manually The data must be manually refreshed, or is automatically refreshed no more than 24 hours The data is automatically refreshed at least once an hour, preferably every second
Customizable The visualization cannot be customized: it is only seen The visualization can be customized at it’s most basic level, or customization features are locked with admins Any user can customize their data visualizations to suit their needs and glean fresh insight
Fast The visualization offers very little insight, or it must be extensively studied to find the patterns or anomalies The visualization is relatively easy to understand but uses outdated modes like graphs and charts Visualization is immediately understood regardless of training and uses intuitive, interesting visual styles
Interactive Little to no search functionality is available Search function is there but is not intuitive, finding information is not easily done Search function is present, intuitive and makes it easy to find even the most minute of data points

Now, let’s examine the 10 most popular Salesforce Add-ons for data visualization and grade them to discover which would be the best fit for your organization. There are other powerful analytics tools, such as Domo and Tableau, but aren’t necessarily focused on Salesforce data, which is why we aren’t reviewing them here.




Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 12.33.46 PM.png


Criteria Poor Average Excellent
Responsive X
Real Time X
Customizable X
Fast X
Interactive X


Key Features

  • Forward facing data application lets customers interact with your data on any device.
  • Embed analytics into data-driven apps.


The best part about Zoomdata is, literally, the ability to zoom into the data. Whether you are looking at a map or a graph you can view all data granularly with a few clicks. zoom into the information and, with a few simple clicks, discover the actual data point behind the visualization. In this way Zoomdata’s visualizations serve to draw your attention to certain data points than anyone can then research and change.




Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 12.33.53 PM.png


Criteria Poor Average Excellent
Responsive X
Real Time X
Customizable X
Fast X
Interactive X


Key Features

  • Easy interface helps even basic users create their own reports.
  • End-to-end solution means that no step of the data acquisition, blending, analysis or visualization is neglected.


Chartio is definitely a tool for the already data savvy user. The whole point of this program is that anyone can dive into the data themselves and, with a few drop down menus and drag-and-drop functionality, they can create their own visualizations and glean insight. However, this interface is not the most intuitive and can be difficult for the novice to navigate.


Adaptive Discovery

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 12.34.01 PM.png


Criteria Poor Average Excellent
Responsive X
Real Time X
Customizable X
Fast X
Interactive X


Key Features

  • Intuitive pipeline visualizations.
  • Easy to consolidate data from various sources.


Adaptive discovery excels at the responsiveness criteria because the entire software was designed around drilling down seamlessly to discover actionable intelligence from a high-level visualization, delivering the “why” behind the visualization. However, seeing those patterns might be hard due to the sometimes confusing nature of the visualizations. Great for larger businesses that don’t need to train a lot of staff on how to use the product.


Answer Rocket

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 12.34.07 PM.png


Criteria Poor Average Excellent
Responsive X
Real Time X
Customizable X
Fast X
Interactive X


Key Features

  • Natural language search interface.
  • Dashboard feature provides intuitive visualizations for most important KPIs.


The absolute best feature in this tool is the natural language question to data visualization interface. You type a question into the search bar like “what were drug store sales by region in 2015” and AnswerRocket pops out a complete visualization as an answer to the question you can drill down into.


Zoho Reports


Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 12.34.15 PM.png


Criteria Poor Average Excellent
Responsive X
Real Time X
Customizable X
Fast X
Interactive X

Key Features

  • Incredibly easy to install and blend different data sources into charts and graphs.
  • Seamless mobile app.


Zoho Reports is fantastically simple to use and has been widely praised for how easy it is to set up. However, once you do set up this data blending/visualization technology you will be treated to more of the same-old charts, graphs and data that is responsive and interactive but lacks the ability to answer questions regarding your most important KPIs.


Clic Data


Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 12.34.22 PM.png


Criteria Poor Average Excellent
Responsive X
Real Time X
Customizable X
Fast X
Interactive X


Key Features

  • Drag and drop dashboard builder puts the most valuable information right at your fingertips.
  • Easy connections to social media sources, giving another valuable dimension to your data.


ClicData is widely known and praised for its customizable dashboard visualizations which are fantastically easy to understand largely thanks to intuitive visualization options like the “gauge”- a speed gauge style visualization that is color coded for fast insight. This visualization also scores highly in the real-time criteria thanks to the real-time alerts function that lets you know when data enters certain performance thresholds.




Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 12.34.28 PM.png


Criteria Poor Average Excellent
Responsive X
Real Time X
Customizable X
Fast X
Interactive X


Key Features

  • Customizable performance thresholds on every KPI so you are always informed.
  • Color-coded images make insights apparent to everyone in an organization.


VisualCue succeeds in the “fast” category because, unlike every other data visualization tool on this list, VisualCue presents their data not in graph or chart form (though that is available) they instead opt to translate KPIs into images that anyone can understand. You can also seamlessly switch between locational data on a geographic map with a calendar to get added insight. This makes the visualizations extremely intuitive. Take it for a test drive today!


Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 12.34.36 PM.png


Criteria Poor Average Excellent
Responsive X
Real Time X
Customizable X
Fast X
Interactive X


Key Features

  • “Demand Gen Analytics” tracks leads through the pipeline for easy sales and marketing alignment.
  • Activity and results analytics engines make it easy to discover efficiency ratios.


InsightSquared is an expert at following data downstream- whether it’s pipeline management, activity analytics or results analytics no tool makes it easier to determine whether your sales activities are working or not and allowing you to make adjustments accordingly. Although it provides you with deep insights the visualization aspect is lacking and still takes time to read.

Necto by Panorama

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 12.34.41 PM.png


Criteria Poor Average Excellent
Responsive X
Real Time X
Customizable X
Fast X
Interactive X


Key Features

  • KPI alerts make real-time data analysis and action easy.
  • Customizable dashboards with give you fast, meaningful insights.


Necto by Panorama wins in the real-time category thanks to the performance threshold alerts, much like Clicdata. It comes complete with the ability to blend all data into one system, with the added benefit of easy sharing capabilities to keep the rest of your team informed.


Microsoft Power BI

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 12.34.48 PM.png


Criteria Poor Average Excellent
Responsive X
Real Time X
Customizable X
Fast X
Interactive X


Key Features

  • Easy connections to all your data sources, with very intuitive designs.
  • Visualizations for every step of the pipeline makes customer lifecycle analytics easier.


One of the most intuitive platforms available, Power BI is a customizable, end-to-end solution for the data needs of medium to large companies. The best part about this tool is that every step in the pipeline has a visualization, allowing you to measure the important KPIs from lead generation to closing time.

Conclusion: Choose the Right Tool

Given the amount of valuable time it takes to generate a Salesforce report relying solely on the report-generating, data analysis and visualization tools in your CRM, this is not the most efficient way to gain insight from your data. The key to unlocking the value in your data is choosing the right insight tool. That decision should be based on the factors we’ve listed here and the particular needs of your organization: the size and type of data you are gathering especially. Use this eBook as a guide to match the tool to your organization and then, above all, make sure you thoroughly explore the demo environment of any tool you are considering before making a final decision. This way you can ensure that all of your data visualization and analysis needs are met.

The 4 Main Reasons Why Your Salesforce Reports Suck

Salesforce is the world’s #1 CRM for a reason- no other application puts as much data into your organization. But that isn’t to say that Salesforce is a perfect application. There is one area of the Salesforce application that is not necessarily working at peak efficiency- the reporting.

When we say reporting we mean anything from setting the parameters and running your reports to the dashboards you can create from those reports. We will show you how running these reports is rough on your staff for the following 4 reasons and, more importantly, how these inefficiencies are hurting your bottom line.

1.Difficult to Generate
And we mean extremely difficult. Do you know how many steps it takes to know which products are your top sellers? 9. And those 9 steps involve filtering data by active and inactive products, choosing date ranges, using filter logic, product families, opportunities and more. In other words, those 9 steps are the condensed version.

How about what it takes to generate a report identifying your top ten salespeople? It involves first creating a report and then creating a separate dashboard to put the report into. This involves creating custom tables and limiting maximum values. It isn’t a simple matter of totaling up opportunity amounts and filtering them to show which salespeople have sold the most.

What does this mean for your bottom line? Even though Salesforce is gathering real-time data 24/7 your staff cannot act on that information quickly because the report is too long and complicated to generate. This means that while your team is trying to figure out the reports they need to run to find the opportunities they should most be focusing on, the right moment to act has slipped through their fingers.

Reports that are difficult to analyze also means that you have to thoroughly train your team on how to run them, costing you time and money. If Salesforce had an application that cut out running reports or made the most valuable KPIs immediately apparent with minimal effort that would save you valuable resources.

2. Hard to Understand

But let’s assume that a particularly bright sales manager figured it out and is now running reports like crazy. They are producing reports on the historical trends of certain products, the average deal size for particular geographic locations and the best practices of top salespeople.

From the second you click “run report” in Salesforce do you know what you get in return? You get a spreadsheet. Sure you can make the rows and columns what you want but if you are running a report in any kind of larger organization then you are looking at an enormous spreadsheet full of numbers.

Spreadsheets, for anyone not well-versed in data science and analytics, are incredibly hard to understand. This is because when you are trying to find actionable patterns in that data you have no visualization to help you- you are forced to find correlations in numbers, which is extremely difficult for the non-data minded. As a coincidence, very little of your staff are actually trained in data analysis, making those reports that took a long time to generate useless.

3. Not Actionable

But these spreadsheets miss the mark in another key area: even if you find the time to learn how to generate a valuable report and have the data know-how to see a larger pattern in that information the spreadsheets are missing that important “drill-down” element that lets you see what you can do, right now, to change that number and actually improve performance.

Here’s an example- in a “support calls by priority report” you can see which calls are labeled as  critical, high, medium and low priority but it does not give you the information  as to why the calls got there. Sure the report tells you who the case owner is, but if you are a sales representative what are you supposed to actually do with that information? What are the customer’s concerns? What steps in the sales process have they already completed and how long did it take them?

These are questions that your sales reps need immediate answers to if they are to use their time efficiently, answering questions and making the most out of every opportunity. If Salesforce had a way to show not only which opportunities were most in need of attention but all of the customer activity associated with that opportunity on one screen, your reps would be able to answer questions and close deals more efficiently. But, even if Salesforce could compile all that data into a single report we run into old problems: reports are difficult to generate and hard to understand.

4. Incomplete

If you have gone through Salesforce training then you are familiar with what the first step in generating a report always is- finding the right question to ask. Salesforce’s videos start off by trying to train users on what sorts of question they should be asking in their reports. While asking the right question is certainly an important skill to have, immediately demanding it of an untrained workforce leads to negative side effects that hurt the bottom line. You need to train your staff to ask these questions.

For example, a sales manager wants to discover why sales in their team have slowed for the past two months. The manager is now faced with a set of questions and parameters that boggles the mind: what is the right question? Are the sales reps slacking in their performance? If so, which part of the sales process are they struggling with? Prospecting, outreach, follow up? Are certain products not selling as well as they used to, and if so, which ones? Is the issue seasonal, and have sales always slowed at this time of year?

Asking the right questions from your data is a complicated process. These complications result in missed opportunities that hurt your bottom line. If Salesforce had a way to gather every KPI on every sales rep, opportunity and customer and put that data into historical and geographic context it would be significantly less intimidating.

The Solution: Salesforce Add-ons

If you can identify with the above problems you are not alone. For each of them there is a simple and specific solution. Below you will find the problem listed above and which Salesforce add-on provides the perfect solution. Each of these tools excels at tracking sales KPIs for performance improvement. For more on exactly which KPIs you should be tracking positively impact your bottom line, check out our free eBook.

Problem 1 – Difficult to Generate

Solution –  Add-ons such as Salesloft and Qlik make it simple to generate reports for your sales team to use. This process can be done once and shared across the entire workforce, eliminating the need for the untrained to generate important documents.

Problem 2 – Hard to Understand

Solution – Platforms like VisualCue and Tableau make even the most complicated data sets intuitive and easy to understand through their use of symbols, images and colors. This is the key to turning spreadsheet reports into information your teams can use.

Problem 3 – Not Actionable

Solution –LevelEleven and Grow are marketing and sales platforms that specialize in breaking down complex sets of data into chunks of information at the operational level: just set up the system once and your reps will know exactly what to do to improve.

Problem 4 – Incomplete

VisualCue and Domo are platforms that take data from every possible source and put them into visualizations and dashboards that contain every KPI your teams need to make the smart decision in context.

These add-ons are readily available, intelligent, and are the most efficient way for your teams to get the most value out of Salesforce. You can start with a free version of VisualCue today and see how a simple and affordable Salesforce add-on can revolutionize the way your organization handles reporting.

5 Ways Einstein for Salesforce Will Change the Way Sales Reps See Data

You may have heard about Salesforce’s Einstein AI and how it will revolutionize the world’s most popular CRM but wondered what, exactly, there was to get excited about.

If you feel confused about Einstein, then you are not alone. The company has gotten so caught up in features and flash that it neglected to explain how it will affect the average Salesforce user. Rest assured that these features are certainly worth the hype being generated. Not only will they make your sales process smarter and more efficient, but they work seamlessly behind the scenes to enhance your existing workflow.

To learn more about the biggest ways Einstein will change the way you do Salesforce data visualization and processing, consider these five eye-opening benefits:

Generate Predictions and Suggestions Automatically

Einstein automatically scores leads for you. Let that sink in.

No matter what type of business you operate, including one where every product must be customized to fit the customer, Einstein will be able to tell you what your best and worst opportunities are at any given moment.

Knowing for certain that one lead will be more worth your time than another can help your sales management team assign tasks in an instant and without a second thought. The system even shows you the criteria it used to qualify leads, letting you weigh each decision on individual merits rather than a catch-all metric.

Models That Get Smarter Over Time

The way Einstein’s predictions and lead scoring methods are generated are evaluated in real-time. Just like Google and Facebook are always working behind-the-scenes to improve the way they decide what content to show you, Einstein automatically tests data models and pits possibilities against one another.

According to TechCrunch, Einstein then “picks the most robust models and discards the others.” Therefore, nothing is taken for granted but rather continually improved upon.

It Tells You When You Are Wrong

Have you ever assured yourself that sales numbers are going to shake out a certain way, only to have a “sure thing” go belly up? If you had identified the opportunity in question as risky, you could have responded preemptively to shore up the difference, but getting caught off guard is much more devastating.

Einstein actually has the gumption to tell you when you are wrong about things like this. If you score a close at 80 percent likely, for instance, but the real chances are far slimmer, Einstein will alert you so that you can respond proactively rather than reactively.

Natural Language Processing to Catch Small Details

Many AIs still struggle with natural language processing abilities, but they are definitely much farther than they have ever been before.

In the case of Einstein, this evolving technology could soon help sales managers and reps catch small details they may have missed in email conversations. So, a phrase like “perhaps the fourth would be better?” could potentially alert you that you should reschedule a demo or follow-up call rather than having to be told something a second time.

Since reps handle hundreds of emails a week, having a genius help pick up the slack would be a welcome addition.

Helps You See More From Your Salesforce Data Visualization Tools

By teaching users how to spot trends, Einstein will help any third-party Salesforce visualization platforms go farther and deeper. Users can generate intuitive, aesthetically pleasing reports that reveal the whole picture instantly and then use this information to go and give Einstein more to consider.

Perhaps even more importantly, a Salesforce data visualization tool can encourage adoption and use, ensuring that all those smarts do not go to waste on gaps in data and inaccurate reporting.

Get the most out of Einstein, Salesforce and other tools you use by getting started with a Salesforce data visualization app like VisualCue today. Also, if you want to learn how to unlock the revenue potential of your data, check out our eBook “The ultimate guide to turning yous sales and marketing data into gold”.

Five Steps to Improve Your Sales Team Prospecting and Productivity

The Problem: Wasted Time at the Very Start

Old methods of prospecting and productivity are still prevalent throughout many sales organizations. Methods like cold-calling and blind mailers are not as efficient anymore, with the vast majority of salespeople citing this as one of the worst parts of their job.

However, modern data collection CRM tools like Salesforce and Hubspot have put a wealth of potential insights into the sales prospecting process available to anyone capable of seeing that information and acting on it. Systems like these, coupled with a sales performance platform that makes insights more actionable, are allowing top-performing organizations to instantly analyze which lead sources and prospecting practices are resulting in the most leads and enabling them to refocus their efforts on these more promising sources. And it starts by looking at KPIs.

We will go through a set of 5 KPIs that you need to consider in order to  start prospecting the smart way, turning this unpleasant task into a pleasant, productive activity. Art Sobczak, author of Smart Calling, writes “When you systematize your pre-call routine (information gathering, preparing questions, etc.) you can place many quality calls quickly.” To find out more about these KPIs and more that will positively impact your bottom line, check out our free eBook.

Deal Size / Representative Aptitude

The second that a lead comes into your pipeline, whether you purchased the phone number or it originated organically through marketing, it is associated with a deal size. Many modern marketing applications such as Hubspot come with the features built-in to track this information, and purchasing lists of phone numbers from reputable sources always come with the organization attached to them.

Just knowing how large the prospective deal might be is only half the battle. To get the most productivity out of this KPI make sure that you are matching the right representative to the right deal sizes, taking full advantage of their unique skills and expertise. To discover representative aptitude simply track how many won opportunities of each deal size your representatives have. In this way you can easily match the right representative to the right prospect, increasing your odds of success.

Lead Flow / Closed Deals

Lead flow is simply the amount of new leads your marketing or prospecting is generating each month. For the case of prospecting these are the sheer amount of calls or new lead your sales team gets in a given month. The eager Executive might be tempted to send your sales team to a cold-call list in the absence of any marketing leads, but with a little data analysis you can avoid this unfortunate and unproductive activity.

It starts with balancing the lead flow you get from warm sources like marketing or social media with the number of closed deals your organization is producing each month. When you know these two metrics then you can balance out the number of new leads from quality sources and the amount of closed deals, ensuring that your team never has to resort to outdated methods. Ideally you want slightly more leads coming in to your sales team than they are closing each month. Avoid stockpiling warm leads, as these do not have a long shelf life. You can achieve the balance by either suspending new lead generation or cutting your sales force to match the amount of new leads.

Number and Type of Activity / Win Ratio

When it comes to prospecting, not all methods are created equally. To understand the most efficient way of prospecting set your CRM and sales performance platform to collect and analyze the data relating to how many prospecting activities a sales rep performed, and exactly what those prospects were. Collecting this metric will not only allow you to gauge productivity, but will also help you identify a list of best practices perfectly suited to your industry by comparing it with the next metric.

What you need to do is track these activities all the way downstream to the most wins. Many modern sales performance platform comes with the ability to filter data this way, looking at each win historically to discover not only where the lead came from but what kinds of activities were completed at the very beginning of the buyer’s journey. With this data in hand you can set your sales team to only doing the most productive activities that will increase the odds of a win later on.

Revenue by Lead Source / Average Time to Close

One of the best ways to make prospecting more efficient is to focus on those sources that are most likely to yield the highest amount of revenue in the shortest possible time. You can discover exactly what lead sources are the most likely to lead to the best possible opportunity in your own data by correlating revenue earned by where the leads came from. The best method is to go through all of your wins, though if that is too much we would still recommend getting the widest possible sample size to avoid wasting your time plumbing lead sources that were anomalous.

Once you have this information in hand compare it with your average time to close. What you are looking for is the “sweet spot” where you have larger deals closing faster. Of course if some of the deals you have are large enough to be more lucrative even though they took longer to close you should obviously focus your prospecting efforts on those instead. Ultimately through comparing and contrasting these data points you will find a pattern in your data where you will not only know what size of deal is best for fast, profitable closings but will know where they come from so you can focus your prospecting efforts.

Top Representatives / Opportunities Won.

According to Aberdeen research “It costs around $30,000 and takes more than seven months to bring a new sales rep up to speed. Most often, that’s due to a lack of a formal training and onboarding process.” Therefore, one of the best things you can do to improve the productivity of your prospecting is to enhance and formalize your training process in this area. The way you can do this with data is by tracking what activities your top performers are accomplishing and then starting off your training that way. The most basic way of discovering this metric is by seeing how many new leads each of your representatives has.

We know that there is more to being a top performer than just what you do, it’s how you do it. However, once you know the frequency and type of activities these successful representatives are accomplishing then you can make it part of your official training program. Put simply it is starting each of your representatives off on the right foot, equipping them with the customized information they need to know how to succeed in your particular industry.
Track each of these five KPIs through your prospecting and you will dramatically increase productivity. If you are wondering where exactly to begin gathering and monitoring these KPIs try out a free version of VisualCue- it’s a sales performance platform that comes pre-loaded with everything you need to start improving prospecting productivity fast.

How to turn your Sales Reps into Top Performers in half the time

Every sales team has THAT sales rep, the one who seems to drag the numbers down month after month. While every stable inevitably has to have its slowest horse, that does not mean that you cannot raise the minimum standard to improve performance overall. With just a little investigation, some motivation, a data visualization platform and a lot of coaching, you can help this rep retrace their steps through the sales pipeline to find out how to change their rough waters into smooth sailing.

Here are six steps to get started:

1. Start With the Data

Science shows us time and time again that our assumptions are often wrong, no matter how plausible they seem. Only by looking at data can we debunk stubborn interoffice myths like “the best performing sales reps always work the longest hours,” so take a look at your team’s performance data and sales activities to chart some actual trends before you consider your assumptions true.

In the case of weak performers, pay particular attention to how their actions differ from the middle-of-the-pack. Try to identify clear separations corresponding to stages in the pipeline, such as observing that the average employee makes three times as many demonstrations as the person in question.

Put like 3-5 best KPIs to track sales reps performance here –

2. Translate Your Data Into Problems and Actionable Solutions

Once you have taken a dive into your highest selling sales reps’ performance and activity data, you can begin to highlight key differences between them and the other rep who seems to be holding everyone back. Look for differences in:


  • Prospecting activities — AKA, number of emails sent and calls made
  • Touchpoints — Once leads start progressing to the nurture stage, how often is contact made?
  • Conversion rates — How many people get past nurturing into exploring packages and options?
  • Other standouts — Look for things that jump out, such as your weakest lead not calling anyone in a certain region or industry sector

3. Break Your Improvement Targets Into Granular Goals

Once you highlight these problem areas, you can help your weak performer focus on keeping pace with the activities of others, qualifying leads properly and getting better conversion rates.

For the sake of convenience, let’s say your weakest sales performer sends off 150 less follow-up emails in a quarter and converts 20% less people, or 18 total, from the initial inquiry stage to a final proposal.

Setting a goal to have all these performance gaps cleared up by the end of the quarter would feel both unrealistic and unmanageable, but if the rep instead has each goal broken down on a week-by-week basis, such as making 16 follow-up emails a week, then they can start to see the way forward.

You can have the rep make a task sheet for themselves to track granular progress over the day, week, month and quarter. That way, you can see them fall behind as it happens rather than getting caught by surprise.

4. Identify Weaknesses Through Further Observation

Setting goals is not enough if the sales rep lacks the skills to reach them. As they attempt to boost their numbers, sales managers can observe them closely to identify factors that could affect their performance.

So, if the goal is to send more follow-up emails, management can also observe the timespan between receipt of the lead’s email and sending of the follow-up one. They can also check the tone and wording of follow-ups to see if perhaps the sales rep has been deviating from known best practices.

Ideally, every sales goal posited should be accompanied by a recommended skill or practice to help reach that goal.

5. Use Shadowing and Roleplay

The best teacher is experience, but employees usually cannot afford to learn by failing. Instead, they can learn by simulated failure through role playing.

Have a senior staff or top seller assume the role of a lead and evaluate how the poor performer approaches a sales situation. Follow through on each session with tailored coaching, advice, redirects and praise. As the employee recognizes their own failures and successes on a real-time basis, they can see how to adjust their approach in-the-moment to achieve more.

Employees can also learn through observation by accompanying sales leaders during prospecting or demos.

6. Measure, Respond, Redirect Using a Sales Performance Visualization Tool

Setting goals and having one or two coaching sessions is never enough. “Fixer-upper” employees must be observed to ensure that the recommended improvements are actually working. They must also be given tailored advice as they build skills so that they can go from “good” to “great.”

Once again, tracking data is the only way to truly know what you think you know, so make sure you have a data visualization tool that can help you identify performance gaps and strategic improvement opportunities as the rep improves. Eventually, your worst employees could become model employees that help you perfect your onboarding process and lift sales performance overall.

If you have trouble using your current CRM system to track performance and identify issues, then you can take a look at our Data Visualization tool for Salesforce users and get started for Free today!

5 Common Problems with Salesforce that are Affecting your Data

Make no mistake, Salesforce is a powerful tool, and there is a reason so many people are using it. But for all its strengths, it still leaves many companies baffled or irritated at how challenging it can be to use.

Nowhere is this user unfriendliness more apparent than with Salesforce’s reporting tools. What could be one of the most powerful and versatile features of the product ends up being one of the most obtuse. Since your sales organization could be using this reporting information to act decisively and develop more productive strategies, these problems with Salesforce reporting end up holding you back.

To understand more about just how limiting Salesforce’s reporting functions can be, and how they may be hurting your performance numbers, consider the platform’s five biggest shortcomings below

Frustrating Complexity

Reports on Salesforce must be generated upon request using cumbersome tools and a dated graphical user interface (GUI). Put simply: it’s really tough to get Salesforce to do what you want it to do. Finding the actions you need to generate reports can require trial and error, and even when successful, each report only tells you a small slice of the story you want to hear.

Ideally, reports would be intuitive to generate, updated automatically and easy to modify or drill down into. To find these features, companies must increasingly look to third-party Salesforce reporting tools rather than within the platform itself. Some examples are: Microsoft BI, Zoom Data, and VisualCue.

Poor Visualizations = Lack of Visibility

Visualizations have a way of making complex patterns, trends or performance indicators crystal clear. When we can see what we want to know in an intuitive graphic rather than a spreadsheet cell, we can act much more decisively on that information.

Unfortunately, Salesforce reports are not only hard to generate and limited in what they cover but they are also hard to read. Salesforce performance visualization tools can bridge these gaps with easy-to-read dashboards, displays and reports that can tell you the full story at a glance.

Reactive Not Proactive

Because of the on-request nature of Salesforce reporting tools, someone must be actively researching a trend to learn about it. So if, for instance, you have a sneaking suspicion that sales dip towards the beginning of every month, you must go in and explore the sales data from a certain angle to evaluate this hypothesis. That’s a lot of legwork, not to mention the fact that you may not have the time or energy to explore every hunch.

A better solution is to rely on tools that make trends obvious immediately, allowing you to proactively develop strategies to handle them rather than react to them after-the-fact. So, if you have a poor seller or a poor selling period on a consistent basis, you can identify these trends as they emerge rather than weeks later.

Low Adoption Rates

Since no one sees what happens to the data they put into Salesforce, lower-level employees are notorious about skipping out on the data entry component of their job. By being able to see results in the form of visualizations and trends, they may be more motivated to put in that data and see what changes result.

The Salesforce Reporting Tools Are Not Enough on Their Own

The evidence is clear: nearly every major company out there that uses Salesforce invests in outside reporting and visualization tools to boost its abilities. They track performance and identify trends early, helping them manage their staff more effectively and maintain numbers on a proactive basis.

Smaller companies that do not use these tools are putting themselves at a distinct competitive disadvantage. Only by educating themselves about which Salesforce add-on is a good fit for them can they clear the hurdles Salesforce reports put up and get on a path towards smarter and more effective selling.