Written by Jesse Lerner, a manager of Renewals and Retention at Slack Technologies with specialized expertise in client management across several industries.

“Disarm them with the data” my manager wrote.

It took a few minutes to internalize what she Slacked me and what I thought she meant.

Up until the point of reading that Slack message it hit me that I really didn’t understand how to interpret or analyze data at all. In my 5 ½ years of working in New York I’ve met plenty of people who tell me that they work in data analytics. In fact, one of my oldest childhood friends worked in data analytics when he lived in the city and founded his own data analytics firm (you’re probably familiar with Charlie and Render Analytics by now or else you wouldn’t be reading this). And truth be told, I still struggled to fully understand and explain to people what he did up until a few months ago.

I’ve worked in various sales roles across a few different industries since moving to New York. Having worked mostly in Account Management, there has always been some type of historical context for how my customers have either successfully or unsuccessfully engaged with the product I’m selling. I’m used to being given access to “data” to some degree, but only very high level metrics that don’t do much to drive the conversations that I’m having forward.

That all changed once I joined Slack Technologies as a Renewals Manager.

“This customer has almost tripled the amount of licenses they signed for since the beginning of the year and all of their employees that I’ve spoken with are happy” I thought to myself. “They know that though, and they still want to cancel their subscription just because of the price. What are they failing to see?”

I read the Slack a second time and the message started to become more clear. “Disarm them with the data.”

I started to frantically pull all of the relevant data points on the customer that I had access to. After about an hour of compiling different usage trends, looking at how they integrated certain features and automated various functions, and studying how, when, and where the employees were engaging with Slack I sat back and was stunned.

There was SO much more to the story that I was failing to share with them, and I was doing a disservice to my clients, and ultimately to myself, by not making them aware of what I found.

My analysis led me to find that they were one of my most mature clients, but also a customer who thought they were just overpaying for an expensive internal chat tool. In reality, the data showed a customer who used Slack so maturely that they had begun to automate certain tasks and functions that ordinarily would need to be done by an employee, that they engaged with Slack more frequently than our company average across multiple domains, and that they effortlessly adopted a new product roll-out that allowed them to communicate in Slack with external vendors and their own clients. If they decided to rip Slack out, that abrupt of a change could have a damaging, and potentially lasting effect on their business and their employees.

I compiled all of what I found into a short presentation ahead of an already scheduled Zoom call with my client. After the call ended and I had had a chance to walk them through everything that I had found, I got a note back from the decision maker. He told me that not only was the presentation incredibly helpful and useful for the decision making process, but that up until this point they had been unaware of most of what I had shown them. They needed to reevaluate, and wanted to revisit renewing their subscription after all.

Price certainly plays a major role in contract negotiations. Oftentimes though, price doesn’t tell the complete story. There’s always more value waiting to be applied to the product, people just don’t know where to look to find it.

Data analysis is no longer a buzzword I hear at happy hours when people try to quickly tell me what they do. Data analysis, for me, has now become an important pillar of being a great salesperson. Knowing how to incorporate data analysis into the negotiation process is the foundation for a salesperson who not only fully understands the story they need to tell, but one who can properly consult their clients to help them make the most meaningful, positive, and lasting decisions for their businesses, teams, and customers.

Wherever I go with my sales career, I always plan to disarm them with the data.