I plead guilty to enjoying a cold beer or two, and I’ve watched with amazement as the decade-long bull market in the craft beer industry shows no signs of abating.
Fueled partly by this industry’s continuing obsession with the 1992 movie “Glengarry Glen Ross,” the myth of the hotshot sales pro retains much of its power today. Who doesn’t want to be the Al Pacino figure, closing with a wink and a smile as the Jack Lemmons of this world look on in envy? Like all the best myths, there’s a grain of truth to it. Charisma, natural talent, and determination will carry you and your team a long way.
But not all the way. Any executive looking to take his team to the next level will have to contend with bigger companies, with bigger budgets, who have dedicated analysts mastering big data for them. They’re not necessarily better at sales than you, but because they’ve reduced the complicated, messy process of understanding their clients to a computer algorithm, they have a clear advantage when it comes to winning new customers – and retaining existing ones.
Data scientists earn a lot of money, and for good reason – with better information, a sales team that makes use of their customer data is much more productive than one contending with a mass of spreadsheets, struggling to remember who they last spoke to and when. However, getting to grips with customer data doesn’t automatically make your average salesperson great: all things being equal, an Al Pacino will always beat a Jack Lemmon. But, unless you’re leveraging technology correctly, all things won’t be equal.
Luckily, these days levelling the playing field is simpler than ever. Business Intelligence software is affordable, intuitive, and gaining traction in sales and marketing, and if you get on board with it now, you’ll gain serious ground on your larger and more affluent competitors. Use it well, and you will:
1. Convert more leads.Today’s sales pros are more mobile than ever, and for good reason – prospects are unlikely to just turn up at your place of business with a sack full of cash. Modern sales entails meeting multiple leads per day, and keeping track of all their information. We’re no longer in an era where this means carrying around a briefcase that’s bursting at the seams with paperwork, but even with modern computing, it can still be difficult to keep track of everyone. When it comes to managing your relationships, this can be a serious problem – as you well know, every potential account expects you to act as though they’re the only thing occupying your attention.
Sales is no longer a memory game, and it’s now much easier to convince a potential customer that you’re familiar with their every demand – with no prep time whatsoever. Got an all-important meeting coming up, but no time to rehearse every detail? With Business Intelligence software, you can retrieve all the critical information you could possibly need by typing a name into a search bar. And you can do all this on your way to the meeting!
2. Spot trends quickly and easily. To a data analyst, every spreadsheet tells a story: customer trends, interactions and sales patterns of thousands of customers. To a salesperson or marketing executive, however, a spreadsheet is a mass of information that is hard to digest and nigh on impossible to understand.
But this data is vital – and you don’t have to hire a specialist data geek – or worse, make your sales and marketing departments decipher the most important sales ready information – anymore. Business Intelligence tools can identify useful trends, and through predictive analytics, make recommendations about what to do next. For example, if there’s been a seasonal uptick in the purchase of keyboards, the right program will identify it – and recommend that you run a targeted marketing campaign that offers half-off on computer mice.
Without spending hours trying to identify correlations, your salespeople can spend more time on the customer-facing and revenue-boosting parts of their jobs.
3. Retain your existing customers. New business is no good to you if it doesn’t stick around, and when it comes down to it, it’s your existing customers who are going to keep the lights on. To paraphrase “Mad Men,” a good account manager meets their client’s needs; a great one makes the client feel like they don’t have any needs at all. Business Intelligence software can help you anticipate – and address – their requirements well in advance. For example, if you sell stationery, your customer won’t always remember that they bought it from you when they’re running short: they’ll just know that they need more pencils. In this scenario, the right analytical program will tell you when their stock tends to deplete, giving you the chance to call them with an irresistible offer – before a competitor does.
Sales and data analysis are separate, but increasingly integrated disciplines, and mastery of both is becoming a prerequisite for business success. It’s no longer about who can afford an in-house data scientist, or who can commit resources to data analysis. Relatively inexpensive technology is now widely available that is helping to level the playing field. Those companies that can take advantage of this and use it to give their sales teams the necessary information to help generate more sales and retain more customers, will get and stay ahead of the competition this year.
Kevin McGirl is president of sales-i, providers of sales intelligence software that helps salespeople understand their customers.