What does a dashboard on a car do? It provides information to the driver about fuel, speed, miles traveled, and other relevant information. This data is helpful while driving a vehicle. Anybody that has driven or has traveled in a car knows that car dashboards give information that facilitates in making better driving decisions. For instance, indicating low fuel levels should alert the driver to refuel at the nearest gas station. The driver can also gauge how far away the car is from the intended destination by reading the miles covered or avoid traveling in the night if the battery levels are low.
In the world of business, specifically sales, sales dashboards can help to fulfill similar useful functions. The sales dashboard is a control panel that visually displays most information/data, on a single platform, needed to achieve one or more sales objectives. Perhaps the best definition of a dashboard is offered by Stephen Few, author of the book Information Dashboard Design, “A dashboard is a visual display of the most important information needed to achieve one or more objectives which fits entirely on a single computer screen so it can be monitored at a glance.”
The sales dashboard helps sales managers and executives to get a view of their sales organizations, all with juxtapositions at a glance. The data is current and relevant, comparative, and concise. Depending on the nature of the dashboard it can be referred to as a “Performance Dashboard”, “Business Dashboard”, “Executive Dashboard”, or “Metrics Dashboard”.
Sales managers can configure any of the above dashboards depending on the nature of their sales organization and goals set forth by the strategic sales plan and who is the reader of the dashboard. A dashboard can inform a sales manager about things such as: sales per rep by region, call to close ratio, margin analysis, what is the recent success level of any particular sales representative relative to other sales team members on his team; whether the sales figures in the current quarter are on target to meet sales goals; or are the sales figures in this quarter better than that of the sales figures of the same quarter the previous year. All of this rich and relevant data is only 1 mouse click away,
The Ideal Sales Dashboard
A sales dashboard carrying real time data is a unified interface that facilitates efficient and convenient access to the latest data among users in a business environment. Real time data on a sales dashboard cuts away redundancy in information and agonizing waiting periods. Access to information is instantaneous or with negligible latency.
A well managed real time sales dashboard minimizes wasted time and overheads by giving access to data and helping in taking decisions. Web analytics master Avinash Kaushik opines that, “dashboards empower a rapid understanding of business performance by tracking the critical business data in an easy to understand manner. Effective dashboards can be a very powerful communication medium and greatly accretive to driving actions.”
Some of the salient components of the above statement are:
- Critical business data
- Easy to understand
- Accretive to driving actions
Critical Business Data- The data entered in to a dashboard should be critical to the business. The aim is to bridge the gap between strategic objectives and operational behavior. The data should align with strategy and there should not be any disconnect between what is measured and what is achieved. Since dashboards need to be concise and not lengthy like reports, all the data entered into them should be relevant. It then obviously follows that they should be accurate and not misleading.
Easy to Understand- Simplicity is another essential trait of good dashboards. Dashboards should be simple and easy to understand. They should isolate key metrics and incorporate charts wherever required.
Accretive to Driving Actions- The purpose of a dashboard is to provide information which could help in taking further actions. Nearly eighty percent of Web Analytics dashboards are extra Excel sheets that are not helpful in taking further actions. Wayne W Eckerson suggest in his new book, “Performance Dashboards”, “Performance Dashboards let busy executives, managers and staff view the performance of key business metrics at a glance and then move through successive layers of actionable information in a carefully guided manner, so that they get the insight they need to solve problems quickly, efficiently and effectively.”
At the touch of a button, a dashboard can unearth delinquent and deficient activities.
But for the dashboards to be effective, sales mangers should ensure that they keep these things in mind while preparing them:
- Concise- Unlike reports, they don’t tell a story, they tell specifics. They just tell if sales are better or worse, but do not tell why it is so. Dashboards help business decisions by presenting key performance indicators (KPI) and have to be concise.
- Relevant Data- Data that is remotely relevant should have no place in real time data dashboards. Inclusion of such data would make a dashboard unnecessarily lengthy.
- Latest- The real time data must be current. Old data may be included for reasons of presenting a comparative picture. Data that is redundant has no use.
- Clearly Visible- All data presented in the dashboard should be clearly visible and be available on a single platform or page.
- Easy Access- Dashboards should be easily accessible by people for whom they are intended.
- Updated in Real Time- Dashboards carrying real time data should have the feature of getting updated in real time and from remote locations if need be.
- Graphs and Charts- Maps, charts, graphs, dials, and traffic lights can be included in the dashboard only to make data distinctly visible and not to make it look flashy.
It is in the interest of sales managers and organizations to recognize that a sales dashboard is only an enabler and not an answer. Creating and managing a sales dashboard is only a part of the bigger picture and should work towards bringing organizational change. Managed effectively, real-time data dashboards could be potent tools in aligning resources with strategy and realizing business initiatives and goals.
About the Author:
Doug Dvorak helps companies and professionals achieve results through customized, creative and non-traditional sales training systems that are “one size fits one” and developed to the unique business needs and “sales pain points” of each client. He is available to speak on these topics.
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Copyright 2008 The Sales Coaching Institute, Inc.
Sales Skills Training Strategic Sales Coaching
Doug Dvorak, CEO of DMG International, is the Author of the forthcoming book “Build Your Own Brand” (Pelican, 2009)