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  • Matt Lamb

A Cerebral Approach to Analytics

Why your sales analytics strategy should work like your brain.

I’m going to get a little brainy on you – stick with me. Our brains have two halves, the left and right. They have different functions, and they also support each other. Analytics can work like this, too.

I meet with manufacturers regularly to assess their approach to Sales Analytics, and often they’re sitting on a mountain of data they don’t know how to best use. These same manufacturers have ever-growing growth goals and KPIs – the big picture vision that drives their enterprise. They know there is an opportunity to support those KPIs by capitalizing on the data to give prescriptive, actionable instructions. When they’re working to support each other, that’s when the data is firing on all cylinders. And believe it or not, our brains work very similarly.

While most studies show that brain functions are usually distributed across both left and right hemispheres, there are certainly cognitive functions generally accepted as hemisphere dominant. Reasoning, for instance, is usually attributed to the left hemisphere while creativity is typically associated with the right. Recent scientific studies and theory reveal a further distinction: the left brain emphasizes narrow focus tasks, while the right brain emphasizes broad-focus tasks. Noted psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist demonstrates this hemispheric chasm in his 2009 book, The Master and His Emissary:

"There is a need to focus attention narrowly and with precision, as a bird, for example, needs to focus on a grain of corn that it must eat, in order to pick it out from, say, the pieces of grit on which it lies. At the same time there is a need for open attention, as wide as possible, to guard against a possible predator."

As I was reading McGilchrist’s thesis, I thought to myself, a well performing Sales Analytics program would behave in the same way. On one side, sales management needs to be keenly aware of overarching objectives & measurements that direct sales teams to a big picture goal. At the same time, there needs to be very specific targets & actions that are narrow in focus and deliver against the larger plan. Simply put – what you need to do to achieve your larger desired goal. It’s important to note a distinction between the strategic KPI-driven analytics and the actionable “go do this” analytics application. Consider the below visual of a digital control center for manufacturing sales:

The visual of the brain, in the center, depicts the interconnectedness of the total analytical approach to manufacturing sales and how each side supports the other. Tasks have little purpose without a larger, strategic objective. Analytics is the connective tissue and all objectives, big or small, are kept in focus and on track, just like your brain.

You’ll see Lifecycle Profitability as one example of a big picture goal – a KPI many of our customers are tracking in order to maximize their product lifecycle. To help achieve this, Sales Teams can target specific Parts and Service Leads, driving qualified opportunities across their customer portfolio to improve aftermarket performance.

One approach that supports both left- and right-side analytics is Pinpoint Sales™ for Aftermarket. Pinpoint offers a closed loop feedback system, both giving leadership a clear view into performance and pointing Sales Teams to precise opportunities with a statistically high chance of converting to a sale. For example, Pinpoint provides Sales Executives & Management with insights into top-level KPIs like Revenue by Sales Office, Average On-Time Performance and Margin %. At the same time, Pinpoint delivers prescriptive sales recommendations to Reps, uncovering the highest value opportunities for each of their customers – telling them what to sell and who to sell it to.

During my experience in industry and analytics & data science consulting, I’ve found there is often an imbalance to this distinction in analytics. Interestingly, the imbalance doesn’t always reside in the same side of the analytical program. Without a clear strategic objective, you can’t have strong measurements and activities against it. In contrast, without analytics that provide sales teams the specific actions and insights to go after, overarching targets aren’t supported.

Cultivating both lenses when standing up a new analytics program, or refining an existing one, will be crucial to that program’s success. A connected analytics architecture brings life to actionable insights that ignite your big picture strategic vision.

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