On March 13, more than 150 students gathered at Elon University for the “Using Data Analytics to Drive Sales” panel discussion hosted by the Center for Organizational Analytics and Direct Selling Education Foundation. The panel featured Bassam Alqassar, Vice President of Information Systems and Technology at Princess House, and Yemi Mateola, Director of Solution Delivery and Architecture at ACN. The panel was moderated by student Matthew Jegier, graduating class of 2018, a finance and management double major.
How data drives sales in direct selling companies is unique, due to independent sales representatives, who are also consumers. “We look at how we can build information between devices and networks to best understand behavior,” Mateola says. A company’s ability to use data to anticipate and prepare for the future is critical. “It’s not just looking at the data and reporting what happens,” says Alqassar, “but also recognizing patterns to determine what could happen.”
For any direct selling company, integrating analytics into company culture can be challenging, but well-worth the effort. “It’s no secret, data drives everything nowadays,” says Mateola. “Culturally, every department has to find ways to take data more seriously, because using it produces better results and longevity as the business moves forward.” Alquassar agrees. “The biggest lesson we learned at Princess House was that people have to first change their mindset of how they think about business,” he says. “The three key aspects of embracing a data-driven culture include spending time analyzing not only what happened, but also what will happen; ensuring data quality because without that, data can be misleading; and knowing your focus as a business, so you can accomplish what you set out to do and not become lost in the analytical process.”
What are the most important trends in data-driven sales, in the next five years?
“Deep learning as a compliment to machine learning is at the top of my list,” says Mateola. “The importance of the Internet of Things cannot be understated.” Alqassar agrees.”There is so much information we cannot comprehend,” he says, “and with computer power we are able to input information, make a correlation and establish a cause and effect.”
In a data-driven age, employers are hiring college graduates that have a full complement of skills. Hard and soft skills go hand-in-hand when it comes to success. “You could have the greatest analytics idea,” says Alqassar, “but if you don’t know how to present it you will not be able to move forward and deliver your message effectively.
Technology needs to be part of, not separate from, a company’s business strategy. “Every company today is a technology company, so it is key to look at the business first and then see how technology can enable the company to deliver the business goal,” says Mateola.