Our managing director, Dr. Parsis Dastani, had the opportunity to be a lecturer at the University of St. Gallen at the intensive seminar ‘B2B Marketing and Sales’. In a subsequent interview, Maximilian Pahl, Head of Studies at the Institute for Marketing at the University of St.Gallen, spoke about the decisive role of predictive analytics applications in the B2B business of the future.
DC: Dear Mr. Pahl, how important do you think predictive analytics applications are in B2B business?
MP: Anyone who wants to use their sales time more effectively has the advantage of data-driven support. For B2C customers, who in individual cases are looking for smaller amounts of money, I see the first leverage for predictive analytics in the segmentation area.
Predictive analytics is even more important in B2B business. The core element of data-based evaluations for sales is effective sales management by identifying suitable offers and sales opportunities. All areas can benefit from this. In the B2B business, for example, we have highly specialized key account managers in the company. It is extremely important to manage your time and focus it on the right activities.
When it comes to tailoring special services to key customers, we face a high-risk, high-return strategy. This means that a large customer can offer a promising opportunity, but at the same time there is also a high cluster risk. Predictive analytics applications can help here to approach customers with professional preparation and tailor-made solutions in order to increase success.
I would also like to consider the psychological component: Many field sales representatives only visit their existing customers because they experience a certain reluctance on the part of new customers. The phenomenon is similar to the classic call center employee in cold calling. At this point, matching with a predictive analytics tool is helpful to increase employee success under uncertainty. If the sales people are more successful with the new tools, the barrier to new customer acquisition disappears and growth targets can be better achieved at the employee level.
DC: What are the worthwhile benefits of predictive analytics applications?
MP: The applications from Dastani Consulting cover different areas. In my opinion, the focus is on “Next Best Offer” for performance gaps, which are shown as so-called “White Space”.
I would like to look at the advantage from the sales side: Sales activities are becoming more and more complex and the service portfolio of providers in solution sales is becoming more and more confusing. At the same time, employees are confronted with more and more tasks and are working hard at their limits. For exactly this reason, the question arises as to how sales will be aligned in the future and how its tasks can be streamlined. Predictive analytics is able to uncover customer potential and propose recommendations for action with which sales can achieve success. The problem I experience myself is that many sales managers spend their valuable time administratively entering useless data into CRM and evaluating confusing data sheets. But these evaluations are never particularly good, because they were not made by a specialist. Exactly in this valuable time, in which the evaluations are carried out, the claim would rather be to say: How is it possible to send a sales manager with a precise forecast into the market?
Matching can take place in different dimensions and is incredibly diverse. As an example, I would like to mention a large training provider who can connect people who can work well together on a project basis within the framework of “Swarming”. Predictive analytics provides a solid basis for customer opportunities and the efficient use of resources – but it also helps to identify when the sales force is wasting time unnecessarily and creates space for more customer contacts.
DC: Do you think the applications are only interesting for large companies? You need a certain database to make predictions.
MP: An infinite amount of data is accumulated in B2C. In B2B, that would be much more worthwhile. However, less data is collected there, which in turn represents a major challenge for the database. The up-to-dateness of the data is also often low – the first step here is to do your homework and clean up your own data attic.
I also experience again and again that CEO’s want a toy robot because they have heard something about digitization that can solve any problem. Before you set up an application, you need a clean analysis of your processes. Predictive analytics applications are incredibly useful when the basics are right and they are connected to an effective point in the customer process. Mapping, in particular, of course encounters resistance, because every salesperson claims to be a great artist and that his processes cannot be grasped.
Digitization is therefore a possible option at the end of an optimization, but not an immediate goal. First of all, it is important to track down best practices and mistakes in the sales process to date and make the process measurable. Many companies fail to transform because they are introducing digital solutions without properly working out the analog processes. As a result, there is a lack of clear levers, starting points and namable goals in the end.
A competent consultant understands this problem. He knows when complex fields have to be decided by humans and when it is a matter of a linear process or pattern recognition that can be automated with a tool.
DC: What are the impulses of Dr. Parsis Dastani’s lecture?
MP: We received positive feedback about the presentation from many participants of the intensive seminar ‘B2B Marketing and Sales’. Dr. Parsis Dastani showed us how important predictive analytics applications are in B2B business by means of many clear and realistic case studies. He clearly presented how the applications can be transferred to different industries. In addition, many participants were surprised that the applications can already be implemented with manageable means. In many industries, the question is no longer “if” analysis tools should be used, but “when” and “where” – because the competition does not sleep.
In B2B business in particular, it is very important for managers to have someone at their side who can show them when digital solutions should be sought and when other optimisation options are available. Digitalization should be seen as an opportunity, but never as an end in itself. It is not a non-plus ultra, but an ad-on, if it helps.