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  • David Kohar

Three Guiding Principles of Sales Modernization

Like many industries, Manufacturing experienced challenges this past year – shifting many employees to work from home, facing supply chain disruption and complex customer needs – all while needing to service customers better than ever.

That said, Sales modernization took a rapid step forward during this time, pushing sales organizations to operate 100% digitally. The teams that could pivot the fastest were the ones that have a unified view of sales, service, and operations, using that data to better anticipate customer needs. These organizations have higher Data IQ and started the process of future-proofing their business. Manufacturers that were still using various legacy applications to manage data across numerous third-party sales and service applications found it extremely complicated to unify data and drive insights for sales leaders and sales team members.

In a recent live cast, which you can stream here, I spoke with industry leaders about some of the guiding principles they used when modernizing their sales and service platforms, and I’d like to share with you some of their key takeaways.

Principle 1: Change Your Data Culture – Improve your Data IQ

To get to a point of a solid data culture, you must change mindsets and workflows. If you get buy-in throughout your enterprise to keep your processes and data capture consistent, you’ll get better data and greater insights. There must be a desire to drive this consistency, because ultimately, that data will differentiate the way your company can do business. This may seem obvious but surveys and research from organizations like Harvard Business Review and NewVantage Partners reinforce that over two-thirds of organizations do not have a data culture.

In the live cast, I spoke with Greg Stokes, Global IT Director for Kennametal, and asked him about their journey to get to a more data-driven culture. “A key area we focused on is data governance,” said Stokes. “And that's really through a clear, rigid process to have this understanding of the value of data… That was a cultural shift, which took a little bit of time to get there.”

Principle 2: Use Transactional Data to Start

Most manufacturers believe that their data is “not clean enough” to do anything valuable with. They believe that they need to get to a certain level of data maturity, and that’s not the case. What we have found is that the best place to start is with one of your cleanest data sets – sales transactional data. From this one data set you can start to learn where you are being most successful in converting quotes to orders, run RFM analysis, or even begin to look at product and sales recommendations.

“Understanding how we can use data to accelerate business decisions is key. …using transactional data first for us made more sense because really, that's where we knew that data was pretty clean,” Stokes said. “So easy starting point and then you see the value and then you can start to then look and realize ‘hey, our pipeline data isn't too bad.’”

Principle 3: Make the Data Work for the User Community

The need for data insights varies by role, so, what works for a sales director might not work for an inside sales rep. It’s vital to provide the right data at the right time. Look at each key sales and service role then align each role’s needs with the appropriate data points they’ll be served.

For sales reps they may need insight on what pricing has succeeded with a product, customer, or segment historically to maximize the probability of converting to an order. For account managers about to call on a customer, what products are out of buying pattern or have not been purchased at all but are complimentary to their buying history? For sales directors, how accurate is the sales forecast and what deals are most at risk?

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