BI Helps Sales Reps Score
All too often, business intelligence tools are stuck in the manager’s office. This is unfortunate because the real value of business intelligence is driving action. A good way to realize this value is to get business intelligence (BI) out of the office and into the field. As an example, here are three basic ways a good BI tool can make outside reps more effective.
Spot low-hanging fruit
Get the right product in front of the right customer, and the deal will practically close itself. The trick to scoring easy wins is knowing how to spot them. Pushing the same top-ten items at every customer isn’t an effective strategy. Instead, reps should look at each account in context. They need to consider what is “normal” for a given customer and how they compare to others in their market.
BI tools provide an overview of an account’s current and historical activity. They make it easy to see patterns and changes in a customer’s buying behavior. If activity is different in some way, it may signal an opportunity. Reps can ask a customer about specific products they ordered last spring, discuss current trends in the local market, or find out how to better serve the business’s changing needs.
Avoid getting blind-sided
“I’ll get back to you” is a terrible response to a customer question, but sometimes it’s the only option reps have. Every account has different pain points, and predicting the issues a client will bring up requires going over a huge amount of information. Combing through an account’s open quotes, past sales, late invoices, and current backorders prior to every meeting isn’t realistic.
BI tools let reps prepare for meetings in a short amount of time by consolidating multiple areas of data. For instance, instead of reading several reports, reps can view summaries of a customer’s recent purchases, backordered items, open A/R, and available credit on one screen. It’s easy for reps to spot outliers, anticipate what issues a customer will raise, and prepare a response.
Beyond increasing sales and avoiding trouble, a good BI tool improves service quality. Customers appreciate a rep who knows their company. When a rep demonstrates she knows important details of a client’s business and understands what they need to be competitive, it strengthens the relationship and improves customer loyalty.
BI tools can also help reps improve their own operation. For instance, instead of returning with a customer’s general complaint that “deliveries are always late,” reps can use a BI tool to find specific instances of late deliveries. This gives them something more concrete to investigate and a better chance of resolving the issue.
What Makes a “Good” Sales BI Tool
Business intelligence benefits many people, but BI tools aren’t one-size-fits-all. An application that works well in the office may not be a good fit for the field. If you’re considering a BI tool for your sales reps, here are a few things to look for.
Information isn’t helpful unless it’s easily consumable. A mountain of spreadsheets will just make reps’ eyes glaze over, no matter how valuable the data. BI tools with easy-to-read charts and graphs convey trends and patterns in a glance. Reps can spot the outliers without reading pages of numbers.
An effective sales BI tool allows reps to prepare and adjust on the fly. That benefit goes away if the application is intended for an office desktop. An effective BI app should be optimized for mobile devices such as tablets. This makes it easy for reps to quickly review an account’s status wherever and whenever (such as their car, three minutes before a client meeting).
When reps know they have current, accurate data, they’re much more confidant when speaking with customers. A BI tool that integrates with your primary accounting and inventory management system eliminates the risk inherent with using multiple sets of data.
Businesses that can give employees critical information in an accessible format have a huge competitive advantage. The people in their organization can make smarter decisions and take more effective courses of action. Getting a good BI tool into the hands of outside sales reps is the first step in changing the perception of business intelligence from “reporting tool” to “change agent.”
Kevin Hughes is a productivity solutions consultant for DMSi Software. He specializes in DMSi’s business intelligence tools, BInformed and the Customer Scorecard, as well as sales tax automation.