Step 4: Digging In

Are you ready to roll up your sleeves and dig into some of your data? Of course you are! Let’s start with your sales data.

Sales Data — But Not $$$

Dollars and cents are important, don’t get me wrong!

They’re usually the first thing we think of when we think of sales numbers — and for good reason. But we need to think about why the dollars and cents are what they are and how they fluctuate.

Sales Trends Over Time

Trends Year Over Year

Start with looking at your sales for last month. What were they? Compare them to the same month last year. Are they more or less? Now broaden your scope to last quarter, and compare it the same quarter last year. Again, are sales more or less? Finally look at year over year. This will give you a general sense of how your sales are performing this year compared to last year. Depending on your business model, you might want to look more frequently, week over week, but for many businesses, monthly and quarterly comparisons are just fine.

Trends by Month or Season

Now take your total sales for last year and break it down by month. [Bonus points: create a bar chart of this data!] What we’re looking for is a pattern. Are there months that are higher or lower? How do holidays seem to be impacting your sales for a particular month? For some businesses, the summer season is going to be a boon, and for others, it’ll be quieter than usual. Knowing this can help you to plan out your cash flow, for example.

Trends for Categories of Products

The third way you might start looking at your sales data is to do the same exercise but for just one or two categories of your products, rather than for them all together. Let’s take the Tableau Superstore dataset as an example. Say your business sells a variety of office-related products. Now, you can take a look at your overall sales for all your products, or you can focus on just one category, maybe Office Supplies, or Technology, or Furniture. Figure out which category makes up the bulk of your sales, and then see how that changes over the course of a quarter, or a year.

These three strategies will serve you well as you begin digging into your data. Let me know in the comments how you fare, and whether you have any questions.

FREE CONSULTATION OFFER

If you have questions or would like to talk through this exercise and how it applies to your business, I’m offering a free 30-minute consultation via Zoom. Click here for a calendar where you can book an appointment yourself. I look forward to connecting!

[p.s. And I was serious about that “bonus points” comment above. You’d be surprised just how much trends will POP! when you have them in a bar graph.]

[p.p.s. I mentioned Tableau above because it’s a piece of software that I use regularly and find extremely useful. I’m not an affiliate and have no connection with the company.]

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