Here we tackle one of the most challenging issues facing every business: unlocking the commercial opportunities that exist when you get your act together with data.
I’ve touched on this before but it’s worth a re-visit. As, like it or not (and it has to be the former), your business will be generating plenty of data.
Organising information and using those insights to drive profitable growth should be a given. Yet too often we fail to make the required investment and realise the opportunity.
We all know that smart companies have robust policies and systems to manage activity. However, applying the same principles to our own organisation appears to defeat many of us.
I was with a company the other week which illustrated this perfectly. We were talking about how to ensure we kept in touch with past, current and prospective clients. This is a successful company but its processes and systems haven’t kept up and growth was starting to slow. Now turning over many millions, I asked this question of the CEO. “How are you keeping track?”
“What do you mean?” he replied. “I mean you have a lot of people you’re talking to and you need to ensure you have a process, otherwise opportunities will be missed. Do you have a CRM system?”
“Yes, yes of course we do”
“Great, may I see it”
“Because I want to see what’s there and how it’s helping you keep track”
“ Well, it’s not really up to date”
“Because we don’t really use it, to be honest we all keep our own records”
“Ok, can I see yours then?”
“I don’t write mine down, it’s all in my head”
Does the folly of this need pointing out? Hopefully not. I explained to the busy CEO that he was attempting an impossible task and that keeping a live record of client contact, purchasing history, a timetable of future actions and enabling his colleagues to view activity, would pay dividends.
Like many CEOs he was often frustrated with the team’s commercial planning, but was a leading protagonist of this failure. It’s for another day but a business leader was once again setting the wrong example.
Reluctantly he agreed to change his act and ensure the CRM data was current. Only then, I explained, could we have a meaningful discussion about the opportunities this data might offer. In December I’m meeting him and the team again. I’m expecting improvement but it will probably take more than one attempt.
Contrast this with a similar fast growing business where the CEO recognised the opportunity and took a very proactive stance.
“We’re generating lots of customer data and I think it’s a bit of a goldmine, question is how can we get the most out of it?”
We reviewed how the information was managed and how we could organise it in a way that made sense for the business. We concluded that Sales Force (software management tool) was the right system. Significantly it would integrate with and eventually replace our own inadequate IT platform.
That was only stage one. The company needed to organise the data and produce actionable information reports that would reveal new commercial opportunities. This posed more of a problem, but only for the short term. At stage two we hired a data analyst, familiar with Sales Force, who could provide the required insight.
Stage three required the executive level to act. So we ensured that customer contact, pricing, trends and a host of other ‘goldmine’ information guided and influenced our everyday activity. And the commercial effect on the company performance was apparent.
What is the Monday Revolution lesson here?
Ask these questions:
What data are we generating and how is it managed? Who is responsible for interpretation and making recommendations to identify commercial opportunities?
Who is accountable for making it happen?