For any airplane pilot, the auto-pilot is a valuable companion. It can automate routine tasks such as maintaining altitude and direction so you are free to focus on the next tasks needed to reach your goal destination.
Airplane auto-pilots can handle many tasks for the pilot. They can:
- Follow programmed climb and descent rates to pre-set altitudes
- Turn the plane to a specific direction
- Line up for landing on the runway
- Execute missed runway approach procedures, like climb away from the ground if the runway approach lights are not visible
But amazing as auto-pilots are, aviators are aware that the auto-pilot does not fly the plane for you. You are still always responsible for reaching the goal destination.
Business analytic tools – particularly those with predictive methods – can function a lot like an auto-pilot. They reduce workload, prioritize tasks and standardize best practices so you can focus on things the auto-pilot doesn’t do: continuously improving human performance, anticipating hazards far in advance, and staying ahead of the navigation tasks.
Like auto-pilots, how can automated analytics contribute to sales enablement and productivity?
Pilots joke that flying is a long span of boredom followed by moments of panic. Perhaps like all the sales activity during the final days of the quarter? In flying, reducing mundane workload is a top concern and this makes a big difference in the most crucial aspects of flight such as preparing for landing. Sales teams could offload mundane workload to auto-pilots as well.
Here are some ways analytics can reduce workload so you can perform where it counts:
Less time searching. Time spent searching is hard to document, but costly nonetheless. Smart Selling Tools suggests that only 218 days a year are “selling days” – that’s only seven and a half months of the year!
Align customer-brand preference. Manufacturers and brands run promotions based on their needs: clearing inventory, launching new products or gaining competitive share. These initiatives are often brought to the attention of sales reps in an ad hoc informal way. But by using analytics to identify customer brand and product preference, price sensitivity and other customer attributes, reps can take advantage of promotions opportunities and contact targeted customers who are most likely to respond.
We all prioritize tasks, either by design or default. In the high-stakes world of aviation, prioritization brings a whole new level of professionalism, airmanship and eventually, delivery of consistently successful outcomes. Because successful outcomes must be achieved. Doesn’t that sound like a sales wish list?
Here’s how prioritization via predictive analytics can help your sales teams:
Prioritize based on predicted value. Sales reps must allocate time to customer conversation, learning, research and administrative work. Beyond applying good time management techniques, advanced analytics can further boost sales productivity. You can do this by creating a predicted value measure of customer interaction. How?
Predicted value could be the sum total of expected new orders, new product categories, and average order size of repeat orders. Based on this, the frequency and type of contact with the customer, level of effort/time, and type of offers could be varied to realize the value. Without this approach, sales reps are likely to focus on the trailing twelve month revenue which is a lagging rather than a leading indicator.
Suggest a “best course” workflow. It is not realistic to expect reps to know preferences across all customers and circumstances. But there are metrics that create a chain of sales activity – like a decision tree – that if optimally followed will result in a significantly higher customer value. How can reps achieve this?
Determining ideal “horizontal contact strategy” – in marketing parlance – is perfectly suited for predictive analytics. Rather than stop at one or two actions, this allows reps to see the relationship as a nurturing continuum. This workflow can then integrate with campaign management approaches so reps get additional support from marketing.
STANDARDIZE BEST PRACTICES
No pilot will fly without a checklist. A checklist is neatly categorized with specific, sequential tasks to be done in a short amount of time, or a related set of maneuvers to do. For example, checklists include tasks for pre-flight, taxi, take-off, climbing and landing. The task instructions for each section are also specific to each type of aircraft, and they include manufacturer recommendations, learnings from experienced pilots, and recommendations from NTSB investigations – in other words, time-tested best practices.
Do checklists have a place in sales? Yes. You can use them to:
Test and Learn. Like marketing will test customer contact points — such as catalog page layouts and e-commerce offers — establish sales rep dimensions to test. These can be customer portfolio mix, product penetration, growth and customer loyalty. Test various combinations for sets of reps and determine the most profitable combination for customer, product and sales rep. These combinations become a checklist to follow.
Build analytics that recognize rep attributes. Some reps get growth from a small set of customers, others do well in certain product categories, others do well with a certain size book of business. Through predictive analytics, you can avoid painting reps with a single broad brush that may be counterproductive, and instead craft individual performance levels that are driven by how similar reps have performed historically.
To be effective, sales teams can benefit from centralized formation, the ability to derive insights, and the fortitude to simplify actions. This provides a sense of urgency that can best be leveraged through both predictive analytics, and the integration of these solutions into the daily stream of the rep’s work.
Just as safety is paramount in aviation in all aspects of flight, efficiency is critical to sales. Analytics can deliver that efficiency as a true companion in all aspects of selling.