Harnessing data that transforms small wins into big wins
Here is the scene: You have a sales team. You have customers. Some are new and the majority are existing. Some of the sales team get more orders than others, some lose money on some orders and some salespeople make a bit more revenue than you expected.
But how could technology improve performance overall?
As the business scales, the successful aspects get amplified and so do the not so successful. But what if we could use historical data to provide the sales team with a suggested sale price that keeps the business profitable.
Whilst we may not be able to share the organisation we worked with personally - we don’t want to give their secrets away - this client story is a pertinent example of using data in the right way. This is the perfect example of finding an area of marginal gains that extrapolate into big wins, which, over time, unlock the next level of growth and profitability.
Once we’d gathered a clear understanding of the problem, the next step was to explore the data that the business had. ERP and CRM systems are a great source of information, especially when configured to capture the relevant information in a structured way. This is exactly where we started to look for useful data.
The challenge here, above the cleanliness and understanding of the data was the scale. Big data to some, isn’t what we would call big data. Millions of rows might sound a lot, but to create an accurate machine learning model, this can be considered a drop in the ocean.
The problem wasn’t so much the scale of the data, but how the data was split up and categorised. Customers and products are all different and the pricing prediction has to have an understanding of this, causing each prediction to have a much smaller subset of data to learn from.
With a limited data constraint, a machine learning model was created. The limitations forced the data engineers to be creative with the post-process to ensure that the predictions were valid and within tolerances.
The next piece in the puzzle was how to get this tool into the sales process.
Can we inject it into existing tools like the CRM? Think of this approach like the assisted sentence filling tools that are in gmail, or pre-populating input boxes that can be overwritten. The key to success here is not to force people to change or to replace them, it is to enhance them.
To introduce the new prediction tool, it was initially delivered via a standalone simple and engaging interface. The salesperson has the power to use it at their discretion. They can use it to generate a suggested sale price and either accept it or alter it and feedback into the system.
Over time, the model is then updated using what it has learned, knowing when it was right or wrong. It also knew when the salesperson was right or wrong, as it knew from the ERP system which quotes were converted into orders and which ones weren’t.
We started out small with the initiative and made it optional to use, giving the solution the opportunity to learn and people the chance to gain confidence in the technology. As a result, it earnt trust and was then rolled out as an integrated tool within existing systems.