You can do what the data tells you, or you can do what works.

Which do you trust more—the lead generation data manufactured by sales technology tools and artificial intelligence, or your intuition, which is generated by years of experience and your emotional intelligence?

There actually was a time before the internet, before social media, before apps, and before sales technology tools. Back then, we stored and accessed lead generation data in our heads. Sure, we reviewed sales reports, and we knew our quotas and our clients, but that was it. The way we learned about our prospects was to call the corporate communications department and request an annual report. (They mailed it.) That was our data. We also discussed deals with others in our company who had connections in our prospect companies. Usually, the president and CEO knew others in their positions and had forged strong relationships, because that’s how business was done.

It still is, because people still do business with people, not with technology. Data is great, but even the most thorough reports won’t provide as in-depth insights into your buyers as people who actually know them (a.k.a., your referral sources).

It’s easier to go along with what everyone else is doing—writing blogs, commenting on social media, writing catchy email subject lines, relying on inbound marketing to fill your pipeline, and believing that 67 percent of the buying process is complete before prospects ever talk to a salesperson. It’s easier to let the lead generation data tell you what to do, even when you know there’s a better way.

It’s much harder to chart your own course—for how you generate sales leads, how you prospect, how you use technology, and how you sell. Putting a stake in the ground for your beliefs and following your gut instincts feels risky. But if you follow everyone else, you’ll get to the same destination as everyone else. And therein lies the problem.

The Bandwagon Is Already Overcrowded

Buyers today think salespeople are pretty much all the same. Whether you’re inside or outside sales, a sales rep, a sales leader, or a business owner, it’s getting tougher and tougher to reach decision-makers, bypass the gatekeeper, and differentiate your organization from the competition. You know what won’t help you do that? Doing exactly what everyone else is doing.

AI and other technologies enable us to collect meaningful data and interpret it properly in a secure environment, which is revolutionary. But I learned a long time ago that statistics are just that—statistics. Numbers can be configured to support almost any hypothesis. And with AI, the insights that come out are only as good as the data going in. In other words, technology is getting smarter, but it’s still fallible.

So, what do you do? Ignore the lead generation data? Absolutely not. Data is important, but analyzing it correctly is even more important. Once you’ve analyzed the data, it’s time to step back and check in with your gut. You’re the one who knows the right moves. If an analysis doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not.

Don’t Let the Lead Generation Data Make You Doubt Yourself

Trust your intuition? You may think that’s nonsense. I’m sure there have been times when you had a difficult decision to make. You had good data and exacting analytics, but there was something gnawing at you. You had a gut feeling. You chose the analytical path, and the project didn’t play out as you expected. You wished you’d trusted your gut.

You know intuitively whether to adopt a solution or strategy, even if the analysis reports differently. Thinking is good, but the doing is what gets you to where you want to be. And you’ve been there, done that. You know your stuff and you know people. Your AI algorithms and Excel spreadsheets do not.

Intuition has been described as a form of intelligence. So, don’t be so quick to attribute intuition to not having relevance or people thinking you’re unreliable because you didn’t jump on the technology bandwagon.

Women are known to not only have intuition, but to trust it. And several studies have shown that women in sales tend to outperform salesmen.  We don’t always get straight to the point, to the chagrin of many men. We take our time and ensure we understand the point before offering solutions. We take calculated risks, because we recognize there’s a bigger agenda and insist on considering the long-term implications of any decision. We want to know who will be impacted by the solution, and if it will be positive or negative. The best solution doesn’t always mean going from point A to point B in a straight line. Our intuition—about sales and into other people—is a large part of what makes women in sales so successful.

It’s time for sales leaders to take the same approach. Humanize your decisions. Use lead generation data wisely. Don’t get hung up with data. Do what works. Engage prospects and clients in conversation. Find out what’s bothering them and share your insights.

Nothing much has changed, really. People do business with people, not with technology. They always have. Will they always? I’m not sure. What do you think?

Join the conversation on LinkedIn. If you haven’t already connected with me, I encourage you to do so. Just don’t use the automated request. Send a personal message. Even online, relationship-building requires a personal touch.