Another great two-day Sales & Marketing 2.0 Conference in San Francisco. This is always a worthwhile investment and trip, with great content, networking, best practice sharing, learning and more.

You can check out my takeaways from past Sales 2.0 events here and here, but below are eight new insights from this week.

Big data isn’t really about big data
Numerous speakers and presentations touched or focused on big data, with several compelling examples of how the “right” big data is helping companies make better customer decisions, prioritize sales calls, coach and mentor employees and more. But as we all know, big data isn’t the real story. More important is a combination of finding & leveraging the right data, plus increasing the speed at which we can use that data (including real-time insights & leverage to customize Web site experiences, for example).

We want specifics!
The best presentations were full of tactical, practical examples of what works. Particularly good was a presentation on the LivingSocial Sales Academy from their SVP of Sales. Tons of examples and best practices (plus a couple things that definitely did not work) from a company that’s doing some amazing things to motivate, empower and train their sales staff.

Sales coaching goes 2.0
Very impressive presentation from Nancy Martini on how to combine traditional sales metrics and personality profiles to customize and significantly improve the impact of sales training. We know each rep on our sales team is different, including how they best work, what motivates them, and what it will take to help them achieve their best. Customizing coaching and mentoring to pull specifically at those individual attributes and strengths is the next frontier for sales coaching, and it scales surprisingly easily.

Thought leaders write books
Was it a coincidence that several main stage speakers have written or are about to publish books? I think not. There are a lot of smart people out there, but those who take the time to “write the book” on a topic they’re smart and passionate about is a great way to increase your credibility, visibility and sales pipeline. It’s not fast or easy, but worth the investment.

Event ROI requires both planning and serendipity
If you make the commitment to attend an event like this, you should come in with a good sense for what success looks like for you at the end of the conference. And those objectives should drive how you spend your time at the show. But you also must allow for time to let serendipity bring a surprise or two as well. That can include a chance meeting with a new prospect, talking baseball with Tim McCarver in the hotel bar (true story), or other real opportunities that could not have been planned, but would not have been possible if you stick purely to the plan going in.

Sales 2.0 is external and internal
Most of the time you hear about Sales 2.0, it’s about externally-facing factors. The buyer’s journey, how our sales teams are approaching their prospects, etc. But this event featured several examples of Sales 2.0 innovations inside the organization as well. This includes coaching & mentoring, account planning, sales floor gamification, CRM and tool set integration and more.

Some of your biggest leaps in sales performance come from non-sexy things
It’s exciting to generate more leads, launch a new ad campaign, hire more sales reps to go after a bigger opportunity. But some of the biggest leaps in results can come from the non-sexy focus areas. Things like how your reps spend their day, how they prioritize their next task, how long it takes them to get things done and use your systems, etc.

You’ve gotta be there
If you watch an event like this from afar (especially a conference like this where the hashtag is particularly busy with quality summaries of the content), you can save a lot of time and money. But there’s nothing like being there. You can’t replace shaking people’s hand, seeing the whites of their eyes, and building real-world relationships. Thank goodness we have such wonderful communication and networking tools to accelerate and scale our ability to foster relationships. But those relationships often get their real start and acceleration in person.

If you were in San Francisco this week, I’d love to hear some of your takeaways and observations below as well.