Sales management is increasingly forced to squeeze greater efficiency and effectiveness out of their sales teams. Historically, the need to grow sales
meant hiring more sales people. However, with new more cost-effective solutions, sales management can turn to data analysis as a way to gain more
productivity out of their sales teams. Using data analysis, management can identify which activities are driving sales, better target prospects, and improve
sales team incentives – instead of resorting to simply increasing headcount. While these types of analyses have long been performed by analysts in the back
office, hosted business intelligence (BI) offerings are pushing these types of capabilities throughout the organization and putting actionable information
directly in the hands of individual sales people.
For many companies, sales team members receive data in excel spreadsheets that are general for the entire organization – forcing sales reps to “hunt and
peck” for data that is relevant to them. With the advent of newer reporting options, however, companies are re-examining the way they communicate
information seeking to make data relevant for the end user. Determining which metrics and information to display poses a challenge requiring organizations
to consider both the audience and the role. The data needs of sales management versus field sales representatives are similar in that both require relevant,
timely information to make better, more informed decisions. However, the specific metrics they prefer to track differ depending on the role.
The objective of sales managers is to improve the effectiveness of their sales teams. Their concerns are more strategic in nature. They need:
- An aggregate understanding of which activities are driving sales
- How the overall sales strategy is tracking to goals
- Managing whether representatives are performing the expected activities
Sales persons have a slightly different objective from sales managers and are usually more concerned with operational information, including:
- How much money am I making relative to my compensation plan?
- How do I compare to my peers and my goals?
- Which targets represent the best opportunity?
- How are my specific accounts ordering?
Creating relevant metrics and filtering information specific to the user can help answer the top concerns within each role.
While the newly revised metrics (determined by role) may specifically address the initial concerns posed by the sales team, additional questions will
likely arise. Companies then face an additional challenge to balance the need for simplicity (so that all sales team members can understand what is being
communicated) while adding more complex functionality (e.g., drilldown capabilities) to allow the team to dig deeper and answer their secondary questions.
Drilldown capabilities, for example, enable the team to look at further subsets of information (such as going from national, to district, to territory level
slices of information). The key is to offer advanced functionality but ensure that the solution is simple enough to be understood in order to avoid
confusion and limit adoption of any systems put in place.