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For HVAC and plumbing companies, parts and supplies are as numerous as they are varied. Every day, volumes of information are created from the transactions that occur between suppliers and their customers, as well as among the various departments and systems within the wholesale distributors business. This data provides the evidence of activities and proof of performance that help companies better understand their business and customers, what’s working and what can improve. The data provides decision-makers with the validation they need to advance initiatives, increase rebates, slow down manufacturing, hire more staff or launch new promotions.
The data provides the signs that suppliers need to follow to navigate their business through today’s fast-paced, competitive, technology-driven world. Companies that aren’t using business intelligence, and don’t pay attention to their customer data and analytics are more likely to repeat their mistakes and or miss future growth opportunities.
By capturing customer data through business intelligence (BI) software, companies can quickly visualize their operations and make strategic changes to enhance their businesses. Below are four ways customer data can help HVAC and plumbing suppliers grow sales.
1) Improve customer service
Business intelligence will help your sales team better understand your customers by giving you real-time insight into customer buying habits and product preferences; allowing you to be more aware of their needs.
By arranging your inventory and distribution processes around these needs, you can ensure you never have to worry about not having enough furnaces, air handlers, heating coils or condensers in stock. BI software provides complete visibility into your business and enables you to better serve customers. It not only helps you to identify sales trends, it also empowers you to better forecast, which can benefit financial and inventory operations, and identify new sales opportunities such as seasonal buying trends on ductless systems, for example.
2) Guide sales team to relevant information
A sales manager’s job is to guide his or her team to success. Oftentimes, there is too much information for a team to digest. By directing your team to the relevant product, pricing and customer intelligence data, your team will increase its productivity and enjoy a less stressful workload. You can begin by personalizing a dashboard to reveal the most important metrics. This will empower your team members to drill down to more actionable insights. The clarity will guide your team where to best focus their time and efforts. As an example, you may have a customer purchasing outside air dampers, but not air handlers. Knowing this information provides an excellent sales opportunity. Ensure your reports are easy to access and share with each other. Once everyone is on the same page, team members can collaborate and offer constructive feedback.
3) Identify and remedy any gaps in knowledge of team members
Once you have shared essential data with your employees, you can identify gaps in their knowledge that may be preventing them from closing a sale. When you empower your team with data, you are enabling them to develop winning sales procedures and marketing strategies.
Business intelligence can reveal opportunities to improve the knowledge of your team. For example, one team member may be struggling to sell roof top units while other team members may have increased sales of these products. Perhaps the staff member who is struggling needs some training in relation to the benefits of the product?
Having data is one thing, but using it is another. Once you’ve given your team access to data, encourage them to access it from their mobile devices and use the information and accessibility to better prepare for customer meetings. This will empower your team members to make more strategic sales decisions while they’re out of the office.
To encourage your team to embrace your data-driven initiatives, introduce gamification, which is a fun way for team members to compete, learn from each other, detect new opportunities and increase productivity. Having a well-informed and unified team is the surest way to increase HVAC and plumbing sales revenue.
4) Identify cross-selling and upselling opportunities
Upselling and cross-selling techniques motivate your customers to increase the amount or value of what they purchase. To use the cross-selling technique, determine which of your products complement each other. Next, identify your customer’s needs to pinpoint which products are uniquely valuable to them. For instance, you may have an HVAC contractor who makes a steady purchase of air conditioning systems, and could benefit from including air diffusers with their A/C packages.
When using upselling sales techniques, offer upgrades and products that are of a higher value to the product the customer is already buying. For example, suggest upgrading a standard thermostat to the more sophisticated thermidistat.
Another way to increase revenue is to offer bulk discounts. For instance, you may have a customer who purchases 10 furnaces a week. To reduce your weekly shipping expense, you might offer a 5 percent bulk discount for a monthly purchase order of more than 40 units.
Impact of customer intelligence
For HVAC and plumbing suppliers, customer intelligence can have a tremendous impact on sales and relationships. You are likely creating mountains of data every business day, and the volume grows as you add subsidiaries, branches, warehouses, customers, product and financial data, among other sources.
At the heart of BI is the ability to turn raw data into actionable insights, which is defined as “information that can be acted upon or information that gives enough insight into the future that the actions that should be take become clear for decisions makers.” This is data that has already been analyzed and processes and is now presented in clear and concise way. The analysis leaves no doubt what should be done next, and perhaps more importantly, it places a level of accountability on everyone who accesses and uses the BI system. Once you have run your reports, created your dashboard and analyzed the data, your team will have a clear understanding of what needs to happen with customers, products, marketing strategies, inventory, or region.
When customer data is aggregated, and analyzed in an accessible, user-friendly BI tool, you can use the intelligence to identify buying habits and trends, and initiate new promotional opportunities while quickly resolving challenges before they impact your bottom line. 2
Jamie Brooks is vice president of sales and marketing at Phocas Software, a provider of data analytics software for wholesale distributors, manufacturers and retailers. Brooks spent the first 10 years of her career in higher education, developing strategies to help grow and stabilize new campus locations. With Phocas, she is responsible for recruitment, business development, sales and marketing. She works with the Phocas U.S. team to develop educational opportunities to engage current and prospective customers in the business intelligence sales and product training process. PhocasSoftware.com.