Traditional research reports are useless to sales, actionable insights change the game.

The Curse of Research – Sales Perspective

Jyrki Kallinen


“Multitalented people wanted.” Sometimes you see this written in job announcements, but you typically hear about “skill diversity” and “multi-tasking” in the job interview at the latest. Doesn’t it sound unrealistic to outline an expertise scope of an omnipotent demigod, and then position the recruit in a specific work role? Creative teams, focusing on establishing emotionally engaging ideas and concepts, are expected to master digital optimization algorithms. Sales people whose core asset is interaction and negotiation are expected to internalize 100-page research reports, and then take the right actions to optimize sales and field execution.

There is plenty of solid, neuroscience supported evidence stating that multitasking is a myth. While multitasking gives the feeling of accomplishing a lot, neuroscientists say that it actually drains the energy reserves of the brain. Nothing gets done, at least not on the high quality level. Now, let’s take the skill and expertise related stretch into account. Picture a day of a Director of Sales, who cares about making his / her sales numbers with key channel partners, ensuring that the partners are selling out products to consumers in order to create or grow the company business. Plenty of phone calls, field checks to ensure that products are on shelves, comparing the latest sales figures against previous reports. Then the 100-page research report behemoth hits the inbox.

Traditional Research Is Useless For Sales

In his recent blog posting, Jaakko Luomaranta describes traditional customer segment reports as data overkills. This is true; which Sales pro has the ability, time and will to study hundreds of pages of (any type of research) data that has low relevance for field & sales optimization? “Placing products in round stands in the end of the aisle boosts sales among the Millennial buyer segment by 4,3%”. This fact on the page 63 is tough to spot, remember, and convert into action. The latter in the case the action is actually considered meaningful.

The problem of traditional research is clear. Research is conducted by researchers using traditional research methods and language, aiming at representing statistically valid and reliable “bare-bones” data. The focus is on sourcing and providing data that is factually correct. Now, what can Sales people with completely different type of skillset and language make out of it? There is a major mismatch on many levels. One of the most concrete obstacles to bring traditional research findings into retail execution is Actionability. In Sales, there simply is no time to study, understand inter-linkages of segmented data, and adopt it all into the Sales work.

Actionable Insights Over Research Reports

In traditional research, researchers tend to think about research results and reports as stand-alone assets and final deliverables. Their job is traditionally considered to be to produce valid and reliable data that does not include factual errors. The connection to actual commercial execution is often questionable or even inexistent. Based on this outdated way of thinking people at Sales can rarely make any use of the old-school research reports.

In Sales departments traditional research is considered boring for a reason. Companies need more agile and intuitive ways to collect data, interpret the findings, and act based on those.

In Sales departments traditional research is considered boring for a reason. Companies need more agile and intuitive ways to collect data, interpret the findings, and act based on those. There is no point of receiving huge research reports once or twice in a year congesting inboxes. Having a constant, digestible, easy to manage flow of insights is the key. Firstly, the insights come on time, enabling the Sales people to act instantly to influence on the sales performance. Comprehensive old-school reports are available usually too late, providing a reactive view on what has happened. Secondly, regular flow of digestible insights does not confuse Sales, it enables them to focus on things when needed.

Humans See Before Understanding

Numbers, correlation, statistical significance. Things that are not in the mind of a sales guy on a daily basis, or a talking point over a coffee with a colleague. For researchers these are clear as water, but researchers don’t develop sales in the field. In order to make data actionable, other ways of representing data than attention-heavy numbers and text need to be considered. How about pictures taken by consumers at shops? How about buyers’ direct feedback, shown as simplified and automated graphs? Would it be interesting to see the current consumer pulse in real-time?

Things can and should be made simpler and easier. Traditional ways of conducting research does not help people at Sales, and complicated analysis is not an end in itself. Machine learning, predictive analytics, and other developing areas in the field of insights are dedicated to kill complexity, clumsiness, and irrelevance of data. Consequently, the focus is on action and impact that the data enables. Crowst is also bridging companies with real consumers, enabling Sales people to see pictures captured by consumers in stores in real-time. Seeing is believing, being it pictures or automated visuals and graphs.