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Data That Delivers

July 30, 2020
Industry execs need to leverage data to survive and prosper in these uncertain economic times.

It has been a very strange year. 2020 got off to a pretty good start way back in January. But since then we have seen:

The COVID-19 pandemic become a leading cause of death in the United States in less than 100 days;

  • A complete collapse of oil prices;
  • Financial market instability;
  • Unemployment rates close to the Great Depression;
  • Stay-at-home orders;
  • Revenue losses of  90% or more in the airline, hotel, restaurant and entertainment sectors;
  • And the shutdown of the automotive manufacturing industry.

These grim realities, along with partisan media reporting and justifiable racial tension magnified by some occasionally biased police actions have the entire country set in an uneasy uncertainty.

Because of these and other factors, the underlying dynamics propelling the electrical economy are more complex today than they were a few short months ago. Market data is key to making complex strategic and tactical decisions in this environment.

As we saw in the latest Channel Marketing Group/ DISC Corp. market survey, some companies are starting to experience hesitant economic recovery. Yet for the industry as a whole, DISC’s current forecast is for our industry not to return to pre-pandemic revenue until 2023-2024.

How do you as a manager get there faster? Pressure to perform and bring in bottom-line results in today’s environment is intense, to say the least. Are you leveraging your business intelligence data (internal from your ERP and other systems) and combining it with external data to perform analytics?

Start by understanding your sales versus the market size to garner current market share. This can be as simple or as complex as you choose to make it. Markets expand and contract, and your company’s sales strategies should align with these movements.

Measure sales and margin over time against market data and see if you have a trend. You should break it down by region, territory, branch and salesperson. This analysis provides a map of not only performance but also territory alignment. To better understand your marketplace, you can take this to the next step and look at market size by verticals and industry segments. Here are some examples:

  • Construction — residential, commercial, industrial, buildings
  • Industrial — manufacturing and transportation/warehousing niches
  • Commercial/Institutional – campuses, malls, hospitals, media, etc.
  • Utility – wastewater, power and communications

Business restrictions caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus continue to impact our expectations for a return to prosperity. One thing is for sure: The dynamics of social and business interactions have fundamentally changed. The way we look at and measure business success must change as well.

Sales teams face unique challenges because the definition of a sales call has undergone profound changes. The most recent DISC Corp./CMG market survey found that sales and customer behavior is fundamentally shifting toward protectionism, with people fearing exposure to a potentially deadly virus with no current effective treatment or vaccine. What will the near-term effect be on years of relationship-based selling and the training we provide the next generation?

Gauging sales performance by merely looking at revenue, margin growth and activities listed on an expense report no longer tells the complete story. We need to be far more analytical, benchmarking against leading and trailing indicators. Understanding market share, along with measuring web-based sales presentations, e-mail send and open rates, phone meetings, marketing campaigns, lead generation,and new contacts should be a part of the sales manager’s effectiveness toolkit. These factors require some retraining as well as a data-based mindset. Those who are hyper-aware of managing targeted market penetration and are pursing it with dedication and persistence with data will be the ones who survive today and prosper tomorrow.              

To learn more about DISC’s electrical market data and forecasting services, contact Christian Sokoll, president at [email protected]/346-339-7528/

About the Author

Christian Sokoll

Christian Sokoll Bio

Chris began his career in the electrical industry 30 years ago in Spokane, WA, in the way so many in the electrical wholesaling space have – working the counter and the phones. He relocated to Phoenix, Arizona, and continued his career progression in an inside sales role with King Wire covering the Southwest. His next stop was Atlanta, where he continued to learn the business and worked the Southeast region. Little did Chris know that a move back to Washington state would start a career with Houston Wire & Cable that would span nearly three decades.

Chris was named “New Salesperson of the Year” in 1991 for his outstanding results and won additional awards for sales growth by supporting oil and gas exploration in the North Slope and managing a joint contract with Boeing. He progressed in his career taking an outside sales position in Lexington, KY, working with electrical distribution business development on major corporate accounts such as Mead Paper, DOW / Dupont, and the Savannah River Project. Chris was promoted to Regional Manager over the Southeast and again proved himself by significantly growing both sales and profitability.

Chris was asked to take on a turnaround project for Houston Wire & Cable’s Midwest Region, headquartered in the Chicago metro area, where he nearly tripled the region’s sales – from $24 million to $74 million. During his tenure in Chicago, Chris won numerous management and vendor awards for new product rollouts, sales growth, and national account management. His team won more “President’s Circle” sales awards than any of the other 11 Houston Wire & Cable locations. This high level of performance resulted in Chris earning a position as Regional Vice President.

Chris’s next stop was as Division President for Southern Wire, a heavy lift equipment wholesale subsidiary of Houston Wire & Cable based near Memphis, TN. He took this position post-acquisition and integrated the division, managed a transition of computer systems, and developed a segmented market plan while retaining all employees. Chris was able to buy out a competitor’s inventory, resulting in their exit from the market, and then hired their VP of Sales to step in as President of Southern Wire. This facilitated Chris’s next role as Corporate VP of National Business Development based in Houston, where his first responsibilities included continued oversight of Southern Wire, managing the Cable Management Services Project Group, and directing the National Service Center, a training and development group for new sales professionals entering the industry.

During this time overseeing so many critical divisions, Chris became more immersed in business intelligence and market data analysis – leading to innovative internal changes at Houston Wire & Cable. Chris learned to use and blend data from multiple sources such as DISCCORP, Industrial Information Resources (“IIR”), and ERP and CRM data to aid the company in embracing data and visualization tools in a completely new and unprecedented fashion. Chris deployed industry-leading corporate analytics and business intelligence tools such as Tableau, Power BI, Alteryx, Access, and Excel to inform and improve decisions and track KPIs. Likewise, he provided reporting for the board of directors and senior management team both in spreadsheets and in various advanced visual presentation formats. Chris also designed, tracked and approved compensation programs for sales reps and agents, and was also instrumental in the design and tracking of customer rebate programs.

In 2019, after working closely with DISC Corp. as a customer for five years and thus seeing the ongoing need for quality market intelligence data for the industry, Chris left Houston Wire & Cable to purchase DISC Corp. from its founder, Herm Isenstein. Along with being the leading economist in the electrical market for more than 30 years through his work at DISC, Herm was also a prolific author for Electrical Wholesaling magazine.

Herm passed away in Sept. 2019, but Chris continues to grow DISC’s vision while maintaining its leadership position as a trusted data source. By diligently working alongside  DISC Corp.'s economists, programmers, and marketers, Chris embraces his passion to ensure that DISC continues delivering high-quality business intelligence and forecasting to further the future of the electrical wholesaling industry.

Chris holds a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership from Roosevelt University in Chicago and a graduate certificate in finance from the University of Chicago. Chris has completed various Microsoft training programs in Excel and Access in addition to data science theory, and he has written college-level course material on Microsoft Power BI and Excel.

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