Analytics are good.
Just ask sales and marketing teams. Or ask the companies that aggregate, integrate, and clean the data. You can also ask the companies that provide the analytics platforms to give those of us without PhDs in Mathematics the ability to make sense of all that Big Data. Everyone seems to agree on the universal goodness of more analytics.
However, there comes a tipping point in most things where more is not better. For example, an hour of exercise a day is something your doctor may say is a great, if elusive, accomplishment that will benefit your health. But, try exercising 24/7 and you will likely seriously hurt your health.
Such is the state of the well-intentioned, yet often counterproductive, analytics reporting that pharma sales teams gaze into much like they would a crystal ball, trying to decipher its deep mysteries to learn of their sales fates.
While analytics reports can provide tremendous value in helping your reps deliver the right message, the right number of times, to the right customer, they can also serve as a drag on productivity. Reps often feel overwhelmed with the complexity of trying to base decisions on multiple reports that might actually show conflicting results. Most of us, and certainly including myself, cannot do a multivariate analysis in our heads as we are preparing for a call. So why do we expect our reps, who typically receive no formal training in analytics, to be able to figure out how to make sense of volume and share trend lines vs. sample activity vs. call frequency vs. speaker program attendance to decide if their strategy and tactics are effective or need to be changed? Too often we resort to simply dumping volumes of static and silod reports on employees and expect them to make sense of it all.
The nature of an indirect sales model, and you can't get much more indirect than pharma, is a delay in sales reporting. Most of the time, reps are looking at Rx data that is 4-6 weeks old. The challenge often becomes how to reconcile this historical data with more current activity data from their CRM reports. They may see a change in prescribing behavior that forms a trend looking back 2-4 months. To make sense of that, the rep would need to look at multiple reports to see what their call activity looked like during that period, what their sample activity looked like, what competitive activity took place etc. This is time consuming and it can be very difficult to make rational decisions in the present based on what occurred so far in the past.
How much time do your reps invest in analyzing the various reports they get from home office? How much formal training do they have in being able to make good business decisions based on that data? How many of your reps are creating their own spreadsheets to try and fit the data to their specific needs? How often, as a sales leader or marketer, are we pushing out reports and just expecting reps to understand how this reflects their business and know how to respond?
From a sales rep perspective, it is not about the data itself, but about the decisions they make that impact results. They care less about trend lines and more about the action steps that are in their control that drive outcomes. While it is tempting to give them all of the data, at the end of the day they just need to know what works at a tactical level and do more of that. Unfortunately, most analytics reporting today is descriptive in nature and not directive. Companies should work towards putting real decision tools in the hands of their reps, freeing up their time to execute and to focus on those strategies and tactics that are validated as driving results.