How can managers best create sales reports?
With ever increasing volumes of data, business intelligence (BI) software is becoming essential to help maximise sales opportunities. BI software helps managers report on their sales processes more accurately and gain insight into their customer's buying behaviours, to adapt better to the needs of the market. BI reports are of particular importance as they give decision makers actionable insights that will directly influence the business' strategic direction.
Overall, BI is changing how we measure and view valuable data, and ultimately how well you sell.
There are a few different ways sales managers and decision makers can gain insight and clarity which vary in effectiveness. This blog will discuss the options available.
Option 1: Spreadsheets
Although technically spreadsheets are not classified as “BI software”, they are most commonly used in businesses where analytics software is not present. With spreadsheets, businesses need to export data and manually create a set of reports. Spreadsheets, like those in Excel, are quite widespread and thus many are familiar with its style and process.
Limitations: The limitations to the spreadsheet method are largely centred on the time it takes to create the reports, and the likelihood of errors occurring. Complex spreadsheet reports are time-consuming to create and may thus be outdated by the time they are complete. This could mean your business cannot respond in a timely manner to emerging trends before they present problems. Not to mention that if one single error is made, it can completely change the insights you gain from your report. This can happen to anyone, from someone who is new to spreadsheet reporting to the most seasoned professional.
Option 2: ERP/CRM system reports
This option involves multiple canned reports to choose from, depending on what you want to analyse; it is comprehensive and integrates well into sales systems. Reports from these systems are based on real-time data and are therefore more accurate than those created in spreadsheets.
Limitations: Reporting directly from ERP and/or CRM systems tends to be complicated for any ad-hoc or custom reports, requiring the help of your IT team. And, if you require a report that draws on data from more than one specific data source, you may still find yourself combining data in spreadsheets.
Generating detailed reports often involves unnecessary complexities as you may find yourself spending more time generating multiple reports to answer specific questions. For example, imagine you discover that sales are down in a specific region. You now want to know whether one specific customer is driving that decline, or if there were a number of customers all showing small declines. And then; was there a decline in a specific product group that could indicate that a competitor has a better offer? Or perhaps a specific sales rep was not aware of a current promotion, and therefore had not sold the expected products? All these questions might mean custom reports from ERP and/or CRMs systems are outdated by the time they are published.
Option 3: In-house built database
For example: Access, Crystal Reports and Cube. This option involves using an in-house legacy system. The major advantage of this system is the ability to completely tailor it to your needs and processes during design and implementation.
Limitations: However, there are several limitations that come from this custom approach. The system and its functionality would typically be based on the business' current processes and the person who manages it. Modification, upkeep and usability are largely dependent on current processes as well. What happens when you need to update your business processes or the staff member responsible for it moves on or doesn't have time to service the system?
Maintenance and updates are not only expensive; too many adjustments can make the software sensitive and temperamental. Despite considerable money and time being devoted to the system, user satisfaction and uptake can be minimal if the system is difficult or frustrating to use.
Option 4: Business intelligence analytics
Business Intelligence (BI) has grown rapidly in its popularity in recent years. It is easy to use, and the depth and variety of the reports available have made it a must-have for businesses wishing to improve their competitive advantage.
It addresses all the problems of the other systems by offering mobile, easily created and easily interpreted reports. Most BI solutions run off cloud computing and this makes it possible to access reports and keep them updated across all your devices while on the move.
The software also offers easy customisation of your reports - you tell it what you need to know and it responds. If new questions arise, you can get a clear answer in a few button clicks, without requiring assistance from your IT team.
The best part of modern top-tier business intelligence solutions like Phocas is that it requires very little training. It is built with the end-user in mind, and offers easy to use analytics for even the least technical users.
Which is best?
The four sales reporting options suit different businesses differently. Typically BI solutions fit those businesses who want answers fast, want to use their business data to uncover opportunities and cut costs, and who do not want to rely on the IT department to generate reports and then more reports that didn't contain the information in the first report.
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