Turning the Sales Team Into A Sales “Force” with Analytic Applications

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Superhero sales repDo you know how effective your company’s sales efforts are?  Who’s selling, and who’s not?  Which customers are buying which products?  What your profit margins are?  And do your sales reps have the right ammo (information) in hand to increase the value and quantity of orders during customer calls and visits?

In today’s unstable economy, brute marketing force alone will not defeat the competition or provide answers to questions like these to ensure a competitive advantage.  Arming the sales team and business decision makers with product, customer and sales data has become the weapon of choice for today’s discerning enterprise.  Serving up this data is a popular breed of analytic software applications designed to help businesses maximize sales efforts while keeping corporate strategies and goals on track. 

Gaining Sales insight

Today’s analytic applications for sales and marketing can provide precise answers to questions relative to the profitability of individual products and customers, and the success of sales promotions and campaigns.  Businesses can use these types of solutions to analyze customer buying patterns and trends as they develop.  And, gain greater insight into the overall dynamics of the sales equation by having the ability to easily analyze bookings, lost sales, inventory stock levels, external (syndicated) data, and other pertinent information.

Analysis by company, customer, salesperson, territory, warehouse, item division and class, or any combination of these criteria, can display profitability, yearly comparisons, trend charts and rankings.  Measuring sales volumes, costs and quantity usage can spot seasonal or recurring trends in your business.  With this information, today’s sales and marketing professionals can quickly identify profitable or unprofitable customers and items and improve customer relations based on volumes, costs and profitability.

How Analytic Applications Work

Analytic applications capture information from Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), CRM and other transaction-based systems and then organize and store the information in a central repository so everyone is working with the same numbers.  This certainly seems like a sensible way to handle business data; but the surprising fact is that many companies today continue to pull their information from multiple databases.  As a result, few people’s numbers from the CEO on down actually sync up, causing a real nightmare for many a sales executive, CFO and entrepreneur!

Unlike traditional business intelligence “tools” that require the building of applications from the ground up, today’s analytic software solutions also offer a variety of pre-packaged reporting “templates.” These templates give users a complete view of their unique customer-centric data.  And by having access to this kind of information online and in real-time, they can determine, for example, if a customer qualifies for a volume-based discount … illustrate how products are performing … and show customers the profits they have made, or will generate, with their products.  This enhances users’ credibility and knowledge base when dealing with existing clients and gives them an edge in attracting new customers.

What I’ve Heard From the Trenches

The VP of Sales & Marketing for one of the country’s largest dairy producers once told me that his company also added sales planning and forecasting information to their analytic database.  This provided the sales force with store-level knowledge regarding the number of units and appropriate dollar value that needed to be sold to each customer.  “The fact that customers are more sophisticated these days means that sales and marketing presentations have to include really good plan and performance statistics, along with charts and graphs that illustrate how our products are performing for them.  Analytic applications provide this capability and empower our sales reps to manage their accounts and prospects in a consultative way,” he said.

A leading specialty chemicals manufacturer is using several analytic applications to look for patterns of sales history. This allows them to identify which customers haven’t placed orders within certain timeframes; and because they can clearly spot the sales gaps, they can use the software as a defensive tool against competitors who may be encroaching on their territory.

A manufacturer of tools and fastening products selling more than two million line items monthly is marrying point-of-sale data from their largest hardware retailing customers to their own sales data so they know what kind of traffic flow their customers have and how their products are selling in relation to that.

Like these companies and others, businesses are changing the way they do business in order to exceed in today’s world.  They must provide better customer experiences.  Gain business insights in real time.  Make decisions faster.  And strive to improve business performance.  Arming sales professionals with the information they need to build profitable relationships with their own clients is a key component of the business performance equation.  It lets them sell more … and sell smarter.

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This post was written by Pat Hennel