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Recovery in Technology, Part II – Sellers

Published
  • November 07 2002, 1:00am EST

Although it is important to understand how and why the state of the economy changes, this sort of analysis never answers the question of when the next change will take place. In other words, our quest for predicting the future of the economy to better position ourselves is seldom useful. There are several economic explanations to the current state of the economy but simply put, it is a time of transition. Several factors change simultaneously. One may argue that business intelligence is basically trend analysis from historical data; therefore, it is not very helpful. This thought is, in fact, contrary to the underlying principles of business intelligence. The goal of the organization must be to understand their businesses and make effective decisions. When this understanding is combined with the organizations unique decision-making framework and the help of technology, you end up with business intelligence.

How does business intelligence help the sellers gain a strategic advantage in times of economic change? Please note that this change could be either a market boom or a market recession. I will take a similar approach in explaining this and look at three core elements: products, services and people

Products and Services

The technology market is a winner-takes-all market, especially nowadays. If the product or service offering is not better than most competitors, the sales team will have a hard time convincing the buyers. The sales cycles will grow longer and longer. The buyers want to be convinced about the impact of the offerings before they agree to purchase. The seller needs to understand its core competencies first. Business intelligence will help the seller understand its competencies. A simple analysis of offerings, profit margins and volume will yield the core products and services, and surprisingly that answer might be different than the perception. Then the seller needs to focus on the market segment in which the offerings are in highest demand.

Business intelligence will help the seller understand the markets. Internal and external market data will help the organization identify key markets for its offerings. After that, the seller must offer its products and services based on that understanding and track its new direction in sales. Business intelligence will help the seller understand its progress in sales. Based on key offerings and markets, organizations must monitor its progress and make corrections if necessary. Since the buyers are no longer interested in buying and maintaining technology without sufficient justification, the sellers must have a very compelling story behind their offerings. The story becomes compelling when the seller understands its offerings and has a better chance convincing the buyers on the economic benefits.

People

In this state of the economy, people at all levels of the organization must contribute to the overall success. In a services organization, this is most important. In a product organization, this is becoming more and more important every day. Any organization needs people to build and support its key products and services, identify the key markets and build an effective marketing plan, talk to existing and prospective clients and convince them on its products and services. The seller at this time needs to attract and maintain key employees. With all the organization changes that took place including layoffs, many sellers need to evaluate their workforce. In that, business intelligence helps organizations understand how many key employees they have left and how many more they might need. It also helps understand how happy the employees are at this time when everyone is trying to minimize the risks associated with employment. It helps organizations convey the right message out to the employees. This message should be focused around the customer concept. Just as the buyers limit purchasing to key products and services with maximum ROI, the sellers must limit the workforce to key employees that would build, sell and support the best offerings.

In summary, whether a buyer or seller (an organization is usually both), business intelligence can and must be built around the concept of "value offering." This system may be as simple as spreadsheets and pivot tables for smaller organizations or as complex as data warehouses and complex analysis tools for large organizations. In smaller organizations, it is easier to build spreadsheets of products and services, financial statements and useful analysis such as sensitivity analysis and regression to understand the core competencies better. In larger organizations, the data is collected at several locations with possibly several different applications. Therefore, the effort to build similar analysis is greater. But the bottom line is that, the scope of the analysis is simple. It is built around the customer concept. The goal is to identify the key products and services, find the market that would benefit from the offerings the most, and direct the people towards achieving these goals. And business intelligence will help you understand, evaluate and decide on the direction of your business from a strategic standpoint.

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