Companies generate huge amounts of data in their day-to-day operations: in orders, invoices, point-of-sale transactions, inventory and customer and supplier information. There is considerable value in all of that data: It can help companies respond more quickly to internal and external events; make better business decisions; and gain a sustainable competitive advantage by selling the right products, to the right customer, at the right price.
Software designed to interrogate data and derive meaningful insights has existed since the development of commercial computing in the 1960s, but traditionally, these tools have been difficult and inflexible to use and expensive and time-consuming to implement. And IT departments had to maintain them. Furthermore, access to the data has typically been restricted to executives and business analysts, rather than to the people who are in a position to have the most immediate impact on the bottom line: the sales team.
In the past, sales executives have had to rely on manual analysis of large paper print-outs extracted from complex transactional sales systems to monitor their customers’ buying patterns and try to identify sales opportunities. This is not very practical if your sales team is out on the road, and it’s a waste of valuable time if the sales reps are supposed to be hitting the phones. However, as companies have started to realize the intrinsic value of such information, access to operational data is being rolled out to more and more users, both inside and outside the business. This has required a new class of analytical business software known as “sales intelligence,” which is easier to use, faster to implement and targeted specifically at the sales function.
Sales intelligence is critical to both internal and external salespeople. Companies deploy a variety of tools and technologies to help these different types of salespeople, but fundamentally the sales process for both starts with understanding the customer.
External salespeople are typically road warriors without access to the historical sales information that is locked away in back-office systems. At best, they have paper reports in their briefcase that are inches thick, out of date and take hours to review without providing them with the real insight they require. Sales intelligence solutions provide them with access to information they’ve never had before: Sales history information that is relevant to them and their customers is proactively delivered to their laptops or pocket PCs, allowing them to research their customers before every call, whether they are sitting in the customer’s car park or having lunch at the service station. For many salespeople, this sort of access to this type of information is revolutionary.
Not only is this data delivered direct to the salesperson, but also it is done so in a format that is easy to understand and that highlights sales issues or opportunities. To make external salespeople more effective and stay one step ahead of the competition, companies must adopt sales intelligence solutions that mobilize data and deliver critical sales information to the point of sale.
The benefits of sales intelligence, however, are equally relevant to internal telesalespeople, who spend their days calling customers for orders. There is an increasing trend for companies to get people off the road and service customers from the office to minimize the cost of sale. However, customers receive dozens of calls per day from companies trying to sell them products or services, and it’s getting increasingly difficult to get their time or attention on the phone.
The challenge for companies who rely wholly or in part on a telesales operation is in maintaining relationships and differentiating themselves from their competitors over the phone. Sales intelligence solutions allow telesales teams to understand their customers intimately and make more informed calls. The software arms the salespeople with the key information that will enable them to increase the value of a sale by suggesting relevant or alternative products and to investigate and address any slowdown or drift in spend. Surprisingly, purchasing managers often have poor access to information about what they are buying and appreciate vendors who understand their buying patterns and suggest related products or relevant promotions. This consultative and proactive approach to selling develops stronger customer relationships and larger order sizes.
Distribution of wealth
Sales intelligence is particularly appropriate for markets characterized by high volumes of sales, large numbers of customers and extensive product catalogs, where identifying trends and performing sales analyses is typically seen as difficult or almost impossible with other technologies. Companies that have an established customer base with regular repeat orders—and those that operate in highly competitive markets with few product, service or pricing differentiators—can also derive significant business benefits from sales intelligence.
One such company, a leading specialist distributor of electronic office supplies with aggressive plans for growth, saw concrete results from investing in sales intelligence software. Before the company installed the system, the group selected to test the software had experienced a decline in profit contribution of 9.51 percent during a one-month period. The non-sales intelligence users had increased profit by 6.54 percent during the same period. Since the sales intelligence solution was implemented, the situation reversed.
The company was also able to quantify the reduction of drifting accounts. The company identified 460 customers that had reduced spending and captured
Sales intelligence solutions enable salespeople of all types, whether they’re on the road or on the end of the phone, to be prepared to sell more on every call. Ultimately, companies that deploy sales intelligence enjoy improved gross margins, increased sales and higher levels of customer satisfaction. Can you afford not to adopt sales intelligence?