By Paul Black, CEO, sales-i

The world is changing. New technology is released every week which can make current processes seem obsolete. With this change comes new catch phrases and ‘buzzwords’ that often seem only to complicate things; phrases such as Business Intelligence and ‘Big Data’.

‘Big Data’ is a term that is bandied around more so than any other in today’s business world. Put simply, it refers to the enormous quantity of data that is now available to organisations. What’s important is that when analysed properly, this data can provide companies with actionable information - enabling them to make better, more informed decisions.

Companies that don’t have the capability to process the information available to them immediately put themselves at a disadvantage. This is especially true when it comes to competitive disciplines such as sales, where you need to identify your customer buying habits and trends in an instant to spot opportunities and make sales.

One of the best ways businesses can make the most of the vast amounts of the data now available to them is to use Business Intelligence software to manage it. Collecting and analysing data quickly provides salespeople with the exact information they need to identify opportunities and target prospective customers. Companies no longer need to rely on traditional sales techniques such as cold-calling to make a sale.

Out with the old...

Sales is an age old profession, and I’m not saying that traditional techniques are in any way redundant because of new technology; more that they are enhanced by it.

To succeed in a career in sales, it takes determination and a huge amount of hard work. Inevitably the best salespeople are often competitive by nature. According to a recent survey by sales-i, a third of respondents acknowledged that competitiveness was their strongest childhood characteristic. This is supported by the 70 per cent that competed in a sports team as children and the 66 per cent that say they were popular or very popular at school.

Competitiveness is a useful trait in a salesperson, but it needs to be complemented by organisational skills. Many salespeople have thousands of prospects and customers to manage and a whole range of products to sell. Each of these has its own specific case file, record card, order forms and comments that need to be stored, kept up-to-date and accessed at the drop of a hat. Papers can be lost, even the most organised people can quickly become overwhelmed and it’s increasingly difficult for managers to keep track of what everyone in their team is up to.

Access to customer information and buying behaviour is a must, but information overload only damages performance. On top of the need to manage reams of data, an employee must be able to turn this information into something useful that will enable them to make a sale but trawling through spreadsheets and paperwork is a very inefficient approach to selling. with the new.

Forget the buzzwords and latest trends; what’s important is to take advantage of the tools available in order to give salespeople the information they need, when they need it, without having to negotiate endless spreadsheets. That’s where Business Intelligence comes in.

Business Intelligence software can identify customer buying patterns to provide sales people with actionable insights. For example, it might flag up when a particular customer is likely to run out of a particular product. It will also highlight cross-selling and up-selling opportunities. For instance, if a salesperson sees that a particular customer purchased a large shipment of bricks but no cement last month, they immediately know it’s time to pick up the phone – but, more importantly, they know how to start the conversation.

Business Intelligence can also identify wider customer trends, including the best selling product lines and seasonal changes. This can help companies run highly targeted promotions and marketing campaigns that are based on data and fact, rather than on opinions and the gut feeling of a few people in the marketing department.

The advance of technology such as Business Intelligence software does not negate or diminish the skill required to succeed in a career in sales, nor should it be viewed as something only the tech-savvy can use. It simply helps streamline the sales process, providing sales professionals with the information they need to make a sale. Sales teams no longer need to spend the majority of their time churning through spreadsheets speculatively cold-calling prospects, with little or no return on their efforts. In a world where new technology is accessible every day, why not take advantage of it and leave sales professionals with the time to do what they do best: sell more?