With all the tools emerging in the sales space, both risks and opportunities with respect to data have also emerged. Specifically, I mean the ability to understand territory health, and risk of “burning out” data. By the latter, I don’t mean “data decay,” which involves a contact or lead changing jobs and making your database inaccurate. Instead, I’m talking about the idea that an outbound rep may risk “burning out” of too many accounts in his territory, or instead leaving green accounts untouched for longer periods of time.

Database Exhaustion

Let’s imagine you’re selling some sort of SaaS product. While all the other sales development reps (SDRs) give you flack over the great territory you were just assigned, this is of no concern to you — you’re going to be booking demos left and right. “I’ll be booking so many meetings, my company is going to have to hire more account executives,” you think as you ride public transportation home on that Friday after you just completed training.

Monday morning rolls around and you’re ready to hit the ground running. You start sending e-mails, and quickly realize that if you just use some kind of merge tag with the first name, you can blast the contacts in your best accounts in one fell swoop. You place hundreds of contacts into an email campaign, then hit send.

But the response is underwhelming. You receive some out-of-office replies, a couple of “Stop e-mailing me, please” responses, and one or two meetings. You just blasted all of the (presumably) most important companies in your territory, and because you didn’t do your research first and create personalized and relevant messaging, your prospects blew you off. This can be problematic should this strategy become pervasive across a sales team.

SDRs need balance between spending time creating meaningful, relevant, personalized messaging and sending generic email templates to hundreds of people per day. Effectiveness aside, the risk of doing too much of the latter is burning out of too many accounts in your territory, and over time, the number of untouched, high-value companies available to your sales team will decrease.

Territory Health

While database exhaustion is a term used to describe the fallout from blast-type selling, territory health describes the size of the “green fields” in one’s territory, and how long they’ve remained in that state. Historically, territory health has been difficult to track. But as time goes on, I’m confident we’ll begin to see a trend emerge among sales organizations placing a greater emphasis on identifying territory health.

When examining territory health, consider the following questions: What percentage of the accounts in a territory have been contacted in last six months? What percentage of the accounts in a territory have had opportunities that resulted in closed lost? And of those, how many could be prospected again, and when?

The Human Element

Our team talks a lot about what we call the “human element” of selling. But what does that actually mean? Consider two SDRs assigned to the same territory. For purposes of this writing, let’s consider all things as equal: they have access to the same companies, the same contacts, the same sales tools, the same incentives and the same salary (save commission).

After one month of selling, it is highly unlikely that they will have produced the same metrics. One may have chosen to send generic emails to many prospects, while the other may have chosen to make lots of phone calls. One may have chosen to supplement phone calls with highly personalized, targeted and researched e-mails, while the other made phone calls on generic e-mails the recipient viewed. One SDR might have chosen to call on large enterprise customers, while the other called on SMBs, or smaller organizations. At the end of the month, one will have no doubt outperformed the other.

This is the human element: the activities that make some salespeople better than others. It cannot—and should not—be automated. Instead, sales leaders need to make it easier for their teams to add the human element to their selling, rather than solely relying on data. The human mind is largely under-appreciated in the workplace, and the sales industry is no exception. Figure out what is it in the sales process that you need a human to do and try to automate everything around it, but never underestimate the human element selling.

The risk of burning through your data is real. There’s no undo button, which is why it’s imperative to think strategically about database exhaustion and territory health before you face the consequences of an empty pipeline. The spray-and-pray or smile-and-dial approaches no longer work. To fix this, encourage your sales reps to engage in high quality communication with personalization and relationship building at it’s core. There’s no substitution for the human element. Teams, managers and reps who understand this will thrive in this competitive B-to-B sales environment.