More and more distributors are embracing Big Data and analytics to accelerate sales and profitability. Indeed, many experts are pointing to a data arms race within industries, placing pressure on sales and profit teams to up their game. Yet, for many, their historical experience with data and analytics has left them skeptical of its potential benefits.
How can we resolve the promise of pricing and sales analytics with the often-underwhelming experiences that many organizations have struggled with? It starts by examining some of the hidden traps – dirty secrets – that undermine performance and lead to disappointment. Identifying and remediating these issues will help market leaders escape the traps of the past and connect to their data-driven future.
1. “Power Users” Rarely Have Power
How many times have you seen cool business intelligence or BI widgets with drilldowns, filters, and dazzling visualization? The big question is are the dashboard widgets actually empowered to change the outcome being examined? The tech enthusiasts inside the organization rarely have the power to change outcomes and behavior, so even the most valuable insights go unfulfilled.
Most people with the power to change outcomes have tool aversion. Sales reps and branch managers are not librarians – don’t expect them to be. The Give-to-Ask ratio is broken because too little is given and too much is asked.
Solution: If you want data-driven performance improvement, provide front-line teams with sales analytics. Just for them. Just enough. Just in time. Never just in case!
2. Many Sales Teams Can’t Start an Analytics Initiative with Pricing
It’s sort of like trying to sprint before learning how to walk or jog. Maybe 10 percent of sales teams prioritize margin improvement as their top objective. The other 90 percent? They prioritize sales improvement. Guess what happens when the pricing and sales analytics journey starts with their secondary priority in tension with their first priority? You get the picture. Many sales teams aren’t yet strong enough or skilled enough to effectively build an analytics initiative with strategic pricing.
Solution: Diagnose the problem first to determine where your data-driven journey should start. While executives sometimes favor pricing because it can squeeze more profit out of existing sales, sales growth analytics might deliver value to the sales team that gets them engaged bought in to the process.
3. Workflow Integration Matters
Spreadsheets and email never go viral or become integrated into the workflow. Every computer comes with spreadsheet tools, so that’s where most analytics (especially do-it-yourself, or DIY, analytics) originate.
That customer special pricing agreement from last week? It’s a spreadsheet embedded in an email. Good luck getting sales action on that one. A distribution company escapes getting absorbed in the email/spreadsheet rabbit hole by adopting a CRM system that delivers sales insights to your team.
Solution: Pick a platform that reps love to work in and make it the only platform. Hint: it won’t be a spreadsheet and it won’t be email.
4. Training is Critical
Every analytical tool that drives business outcomes involves two intertwined activities: setting and getting. Analytics determine what to do (set targets); training shows how to do it (get results). Analytical tools without training have compromised value. Unfortunately, training provided poorly tends to be unpopular with sales teams.
Solution: Support your pricing and sales analytics journey with relevant training material presented in an engaging and consumable way. Push beyond the typical PowerPoint presentations and aim for interactivity to engage learners’ behavior.
5. The "Forgetting Curve” is Real
The one-and-done approach to training and communcation that is usually a death-by-PowerPoint lunch-and-learn just won’t stick. Within 30 days, learners forget 90 percent of what they’ve learned if it’s not reinforced and practiced regularly. Just as the concept of a learning curve is a very real thing, so is a “forgetting curve.”
Solution: If you want to drive adoption of sales, profitability, or pricing analytics, you must facilitate ongoing training and support.
6. It’s a Buyer’s World – Unless You Tilt the Tables
Ninety-six percent of sales reps had less than one day of professional negotiation training in the last 12 months; while 70 percent of buyers did. Is it any wonder that some sales teams have a hard time getting sellers to sell what the analytics recommend, at the target price points?
Solution: Complimentary skills training will help sellers engage buyers on equal footing and bring back the deals they deserve.
7. Without Practice, the Game's Almost Impossible to Win
While many organizations have struggled in the past with analytics, they can embrace the benefits they bring today with confidence. Incorporate analytics geared towards sales growth and integrate this into a CRM or workflow platform your reps can use. Your team will need training on these tools for them to gain footing. As noted above, behaviors change from steady training and practice. Just as in sports, without practice and coaching, game time performance will collapse.
Solution: Train your team on the analytical tools you integrate.
Data-Driven Sales is the Future
We live in an era of unprecedented analytics that accelerate sales and profitability. Yet, years of unresolved roadblocks can dissuade many teams from committing to the journey they know they need to make. If you can address the factors listed above, you can ride the new wave to elite performance. Elite companies commit to the data-driven future and resolve the legacy issues above.
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