Do you know the Pulse of your Market?
Do you catch market trends just as they are beginning to form ?
One of the aspects of staying effectively connected with the pulse of the market is to be tuned with the field team and to hear what they have to say. The field team, as a whole, has more information about the market trends than the corporate office. With various layers in between, the information at the corporate office is highly sanitized and abstracted.
In many rapid velocity businesses, when corporate office seeks field feedback on a particular market phenomena (like a change in sales pattern or a competitor’s product scheme for example), it is already an established trend. Therefore, the window of opportunity to capitalize on the information might have been lost.
The sales teams typically get a sense or feel of positive or negative signals ahead of the corporate office. If the corporate office is aware of these signals accurately and in time, pre-emptive actions are possible. For this, the sales teams need to be armed with the right sales enablement tools.
Gather Information. Process it into a signal. Master the trend.
Smart devices make it easy to collect a wide range of information from the field. We can today collect so much information that we are often left wondering what information to capture? And more importantly what are the metrics that these numbers could drive?
Assuming if we could somehow capture any data that one could wish for and configure dashboards tracking key metrics – which data would be more valuable (than others) as perceived by the sales leaders and teams ?
We conduced a study across a broad spectrum of verticals spanning Healthcare, CPG, Consumer electronics & Retail around this topic. The study included field teams and sales leaders of both big corporates and small and medium size businesses. Here are the findings:
Which data is more important? Strategic information about a competitor’s product or tactical month to date sales number?
Tactical information from the field was perceived as most valuable by sales personnel and their supervisors.The top picks were:
1 . Month to date sales numbers: Real time visibility of individual month to date sales numbers and related rolled up metrics was number one across all verticals, with 72% of the field sales respondents marking this in their top 3 choices.
2. Stockist, Dealer, Partner store inventory: 60% of respondents from verticals using channel sales, chose this in their top 3 picks.
On further investigation, we found that the visibility of the channel inventory continues to be a hairy issue that the IT teams struggle to solve using interworking ERP systems. Small and medium size businesses that cannot afford such ERP solutions settle for suboptimal solutions.
We asked the sales team members and their supervisors (using different surveys) about how compliant they were in reporting numbers that could be used to feed business metrics.
81% of the respondents thought that submitting data in time was very important. Also, 93% of the respondents believed that they (personally) submit their reports in time.
The supervisors of the salespersons, gave similar importance to timely data (100% felt timely submission was very important). 75% of them felt that a majority of the team did not report critical data in time – which shows a perception gap between the supervisors and the field team in terms of the current level of timeliness of field reports.
Another important observation was that the sales team gave a lot of value to real time visibility of “daily” inventory and sales data but were comfortable to report (if required) this data only at a weekly frequency. So there was a gap between what the sales team valued and what they were willing to report.
93% of sales supervisors felt that these metrics should be available at a daily or weekly frequency.
Smartphone based solution for business related data collection was the most popular option. A mobile-based solution was preferred most in the 25-35 year age group of salespersons and field teams , where it was preferred by 96% respondents over a PC based solution.
The supervisors (from a broad range of age group), favored mobile-based solution for data collection as well. 72% preferred mobile solution over a PC based solution.
“Will you be open to a mobile sales enablement tool to collect data that can drive your key business metrics? “
The answer was an overwhelming yes.
Better sales collaboration through new technologies
The value of collaboration in sales is well recognized. Research suggests that better collaboration is associated with improved business performance. Further, such collaborations are critically driven by the attitude and support of senior management.
Despite strong evidence in support of better organization of the mechanisms to foster sales and marketing collaboration, most companies are still driven by inertia and use traditional methods for collaborations. For example, marketing sets the strategy and then provides support to the field sales force. Collaborations between marketing and sales happen through periodic reports, meetings, assessments, training programs, and communications via phone. This asynchronous mode of collaboration prohibits quick response to dynamic market forces resulting in lost opportunities and delayed market intelligence.
Availability of new technologies has revolutionized the traditional view of sales enablement tools. Platforms such as Infogeon can facilitate close collaboration not only between the field sales personnel but also between the field sales personnel and the sales and marketing managers. In addition, such platforms offer tremendous advantages in terms of gamification of education and training for improved retention, and monitoring of the results of all kinds of initiatives by the firm through analytics. Needless to say that eventually all firms would adopt some form of collaborative technologies. However, the early adopters would definitely have an edge.
Imagine if key business metrics could magically materialize within a slick app that can be downloaded form your favorite app store and commissioned for your sales team within hours. And all these without elaborate ERP or CRM deployments? The technology is here and now.
Start sensing the pulse of the market, in time to do something about it …
Infogeon helps companies abstract field feedback meaningfully and provide the “processed signal” on any given topic. Thus you can factor these into your critical decisions (product launches, price moves, inventory calls, stock movements, local promotions, bundling etc.) for advantage over your competitors.
Gather Information. Process it into a signal. Master the trend.
Prithvi Banerjee is a seasoned technologist and entrepreneur. He has worked in technical and leadership capacity in several companies and has created solutions for top Digital Marketing agencies of the world.
He holds a B. Tech in Electronics Engineering from IIT BHU, Varanasi and a Masters in Engineering & Management from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, Massachusetts.
He is also author of the textbook “Managing Marketing: An Applied Approach” and comes with a companion volume called “The Marketing Toolkit”, both co-authored with Prof. Noel Capon from Columbia University, New York, USA. The books are aimed at MBA students and practitioners.He holds a Ph D (Marketing) from J. L. Kellogg School Of Management, Northwestern University and an MBA (Marketing & Finance) from University of Illinois.