Companies who monitor and evaluate their sales data systematically are far more successful than those who don’t. To do this successfully requires a well thought out systematic approach. Companies who only analyze their sales figures on an ad hoc basis will find that they are missing essential data when they do so and will have problems with the interpretation of the data that they have.
Sales analytics is not an end in itself. It is there to support the management in different areas and at different levels in both planning and day to day sales management. For both, sales analytics serves as part of a closed loop. Consequently we first have to ask ourselves which are the decisions we have to take in conjunction with these tasks and then conclude which information would help us in taking these decisions. And not only this, we also have to decide how frequently we need the information and with how much accuracy. Then we have to find out, which data we need and how we can extract the required information from them.
Let´s start at the highest level, the sales strategy. For this we have to know the key drivers in different market segments, the main trends, and our position. Only then we can devise sales strategies which are in line with the overall company strategy and are realistic enough for being implemented successfully.
For concrete implementation, we also have to know the required resources, the lengths of the sales cycles, potential obstacles, the productivity of our sales force, and many other things that determine success or failure. This already has to be pretty detailed since different products or market segments may vary significantly in the lengths of their sales cycles or the amount of resources required. While this information has to be accurate and reliable, it does not have to be available on a daily basis. It is there to support more long term decisions and planning purposes.
At the lowest level we are looking at the day to day management of our sales activities. Here speed is a decisive factor in order to reflect the dynamics of the business. We need information that enables us to provide reliable forecasts, see whether we are on track against our plan and spot adverse trends as early as possible. For this it not only has to be up to date, it also has to be available in sufficient detail for starting appropriate corrective actions.
At this level we monitor the productivity of our sales force and the performance of individual sales persons. We want to coach our team and for this purpose we need a clear dashboard, pointing to the critical issues and providing us with the possibility to drill down to the details whenever needed.
With good sales analytics we will develop better strategies, make more realistic plans, and manage our sales teams more successfully. To achieve all that, we have to carefully define the needs for the outcome of the analytics at each level, develop adequate metrics, and make sure that we extract the right data from our Sales Force Automation tool and CRM, which we hopefully have in place.