Six Ways Automated Data Can Boost CatMan & Sales Teams

Oct. 23, 2023

By Zel Bianco, Founder & CEO, Interactive Edge

The industry is evolving rapidly due to various macro factors, such as inflation, supply chain disruptions, and changing workplace dynamics. These changes have added extra tasks to your workload, leaving you with insufficient time to address critical issues that impact your company and its partnerships. You have been creating content for both internal and external stakeholders in the same traditional way, despite the evolving landscape. Unbeknownst to you, your category management and other insights teams invest more time in content preparation and delivery than you may realize. Surprisingly, Brevet’s findings indicate that 55% of salespeople lack the essential skills for success.

While some might instinctively believe that hiring more talented individuals is the solution, the responsibility ultimately lies with the organization. The focus should be on equipping your team, especially those whose job it is to develop category and shopper insights to produce better, more consistent content for retail customers efficiently by removing barriers to success, such as time constraints and data utilization challenges. Organizations that prioritize this approach will not only experience improved sales growth and stronger customer relationships but also greater employee satisfaction.

Challenges Faced by Your Team Today:

To gain a deeper understanding, it is essential to comprehend how your teams, including sales, category management, and shopper insights, prepare for customer meetings. Many of them are simultaneously managing numerous initiatives, including complex technology implementations that demand their attention. Managing and utilizing data from various sources can be a cumbersome task, with Forbes reporting that 95% of businesses struggle with managing unstructured data.

Your team’s current process involves pulling data from multiple sources, formatting it, transferring it to PowerPoint, and crafting a narrative for customer presentations. On average, your team invests 5.5 hours in building a customer-facing presentation for each retail account using this method. While your company may be successful, this approach is time-consuming, and shortcuts are often taken to meet deadlines with demands for more analytics from the retailer as well as senior leadership.

Thought No. 1: Inefficient Utilization of Your Team’s Time

The sheer volume of data available today requires category and shopper analysts to spend most of their time preparing, pulling, and aggregating data, leaving little time for delivering category and shopper insights. While the abundance of data seems promising for building a data-driven culture, it is counterproductive if you cannot make data more accessible and manageable for everyone, especially the sales organization that relies on customized insights to grow volume, share and the categories in which they compete. Forrester estimates that 60% to 73% of data remains unused for analytics, which means that substantial investments in data are yielding only a fraction of their potential value. To unlock the full value, data should be made more accessible and user-friendly to all.

Thought No. 2: Underutilization of Your Data Investments

Suppliers often provide insights that are easy to gather and aggregate but provide a national view that are of little value to the retail customer. However, teams spend excessive time converting these basic insights into PowerPoint presentations. These are typically canned reports, screenshots, or generic findings that lack actionable correlations. To offer deeper insights, your teams need the capability to analyze data, identify trends, and provide informed opinions that help the retailer and in turn help the supplier. Unfortunately, the time constraints put on the shopper insights teams hinder reaching this level of depth.

Thought No. 3: Cut-and-Paste Method Hinders Effective Customer Engagement

Additionally, your leadership expects actionable data and insights. If your approach does not change, you might find yourself in a challenging position. Your standard sales presentation lacks meaningful insights, fails to connect your data-driven story to your customers’ business realities, and may become outdated due to the rapid pace of change. This situation could force you to limit your customer support or resort to shortcuts, making your team generalists rather than specialists. Retailers seek trusted advisors who can help them grow, achieve their goals, and succeed in their competitive environment. While you remain in this predicament, competitors who invest in making data more accessible are gaining a competitive advantage by generating actionable insights and becoming preferred advisors.

Thought No. 4: Maximizing Data Investment Requires Automation and Improved Data Accessibility

Impact on Employee Retention:

Suppose you believe your category and shopper analyst team possess the necessary skills to overcome these challenges. In that case, it is vital to recognize that today’s workforce, primarily driven by millennials, exhibits high job mobility. On average, they change jobs (companies) four times before turning 32. As Gen Z takes a more prominent role in the workforce and remote work continues to grow, job turnover may increase. The barriers to changing employment have never been lower, making it easier for dissatisfied employees to leave. Allocating time to unproductive tasks is demoralizing. Automating these tasks allows employees to focus on their specialized expertise, adding value to the organization while feeling valued themselves.

Thought No. 5: Automation Enhances Employee Satisfaction and Retention

Becoming Trusted Advisors:

For the right customers, your goal should be to become a trusted advisor through various means like category captainship, special initiatives, elevated partnership status, joint business planning, and more. Building strong partnerships with customers is more challenging than ever, especially with remote work and increasing skepticism among retailers. However, trust can be earned through a data-driven approach and a culture rooted in facts. Over time, these natural trust barriers will diminish, allowing you to influence your retail partners’ agendas, thereby unlocking your team’s hidden potential and differentiating yourself from competitors.

Thought No. 6: Earning Trust Facilitates Collaboration and the Role of Trusted Advisor

Barriers to Success:

Your team faces several challenges, including:

• Limited time for fulfilling customer requirements

• Access to vast amounts of data without effective utilization

• The need for a flexible way to work with diverse data sources

• The need for automated visualization of insights for customer interactions

• Time-consuming tactical tasks negatively affect employee retention

• Consistent demand for insights from internal and external stakeholders

• Retailers’ inherent distrust, which can be mitigated through aligned objectives and expertise

To overcome these challenges, the following barriers must be minimized or eliminated:

• Automation of tactical tasks such as data retrieval, PowerPoint, and Excel efforts

• Integration of data from multiple sources to enhance utilization, particularly with complex data

• Automation of dynamic data visualization for customer interactions

• Dissemination of capabilities to various parts of the organization for both internal and external conversations

• Consistent delivery of actionable and objective customer insights, regardless of personnel

In today’s competitive landscape, time savings are pivotal in achieving success. Companies increasingly use technology to enhance productivity, work quality, and consistency. Yet, the automation of sales teams is a concept that often needs to be explored. Automation brings with it the promise of increased productivity, greater capacity, and heightened employee satisfaction.