Automate users' key processes. Once an individual's tasks are identified, the information he or she needs to perform those tasks should be designed and
delivered in a way that requires minimal analysis and supports timely action. The end result is to decrease the time and effort
(and human error) involved in understanding and deciding how to apply information to a weekly call plan, for example.
Ask the Right QuestionsEmploying this approach calls for a multidimensional view of the roles, goals, and needs of the sales force. The most effective
way to access this complete picture is by running through a series of questions with sales reps.
Determining what information an individual needs to perform a job requires looking beyond job titles to job roles. One person
can play many roles, and different people can play the same role.
Who on the sales team will use the information? This question looks beyond defined job titles or functional segments and examines the roles played by various people involved
with sales: reps, managers, sales coaches, and analysts. Roles define a generic group of users with similar key attributes,
performing a common function toward a common goal. One person can play many roles, and many people the same role. (See “The
Sales Team and Its Many Roles.”)
What goals does each role have? For each role, an individual will need different information to meet different goals. A district manager, for example, plays
several roles, each with distinct goals. As manager, his or her goal is to ensure that the sales team meets or exceeds area
sales goals. As coach, a manager works to ensure that reps understand what they have to do next to improve performance and
reach compensation goals. As analyst, he or she evaluates a territory's performance relative to other districts and competitors
to identify opportunities. As a salesperson, a manager works toward meeting or exceeding territory sales goals, often jointly
selling with a representative on a call.
What key tasks do these roles perform? Each role requires the team member to perform multiple tasks. For example, an individual who plays a salesperson role performs
weekly tasks such as creating a call plan, visiting doctors, monitoring individual performance against a plan, identifying
any problems that may arise, diagnosing the cause of those problems, and taking actions to eliminate them.
What information do salespeople need to perform these tasks? Answering this question calls for the manager to first assess what the salesperson already knows. For example, he or she
knows that individual compensation is based on meeting or exceeding a quota and that meeting a quota depends on visiting selected
doctors often, delivering an appropriate promotional mix, and communicating appropriate messages.
Data, Insight, ActionThe next step is to determine what the salesperson needs to know. This refers to understanding rather than data or information.
The distinction between data and knowledge—and the conversion of the former to the latter—is critical. (See "Data Into Knowledge,".)
Data consist of raw but organized input—total or new prescriptions in a month, for example. Information is data processed
to reveal significant patterns, such as how a representative's total prescriptions compare to his planned sales goals. Insight
is the fruit of information after it is interpreted, for example, whether a rep is on target and how performance will affect
his or her bonus. The ultimate incarnation of data, combining insights with recommended actions, is knowledge. Knowledge is
what answers a rep's two most important questions: (1) How much am I getting paid? and (2) What do I need to do to make more
If, for example, a rep sees that his projected sales show his quota won't be met, he needs to know:
- which doctors to visit more frequently or less frequently
- which promotions to deliver more often or less often
- whether there is a competitor issue
- whether there is a managed care issue
- what the right message should be.