Introduction to this document

Sales trends analysis

Sales levels can fluctuate for a number of reasons, and where they have declined it is right for the board to be concerned. Falling sales could indicate problems with marketing, distributors, the product, production levels, pricing or customer service. Your role could be to help highlight where that problem lies.

Layered approach

It might be tempting to start analysing straightaway but there’s no point in producing hundreds of charts that don’t add anything to your understanding of the problem. You are busy and so are your directors, so you need to try to find the answer as quickly as possible with the least amount of work.

So before starting any analysis, meet your managing and sales directors to find out from them where they think the problem lies and focus your analysis there. If relevant, also talk to other departments such as customer services or production to get their views.

Sales can typically be analysed at a number of levels, for example, in total, by geography, by customer type, by customer, by product or service line, by salesperson or by distributor. See our Sales Trends Analysis document for an example of the layer approach. Depending on your business, it may be relevant to analyse sales by day, e.g. in retail, by week, e.g. a temping agency, or by month. Each company will have a natural time interval. In our document we have:

  • started our sales analysis at the highest level, i.e. "total sales", and used a quarterly time interval
  • then we analysed total sales trends over the last 15 months so that you include the same quarter of the last year plus twelve months. That way we can compare the quarter in question with the same period from a year ago.

Once you have established the overall trend and having initially spoken to the relevant personnel, you can dig deeper with your analysis.

Graphs and/or tables?

Having collected the data for your analysis, you have the choice of using graphs or tables to present it all to the directors. Use our sales trends analysis as an example of how to present both tables and graphs. It incorporates a couple of the watchwords in presentation which are:

  • never present graphs or charts unless they illustrate a trend or pattern at first glance. Use whichever layout that makes the point the best. Always think visually
  • if presenting a table, always sort the data to illustrate the key point. For example, it’s better to have a table listing products by biggest percentage fall in sales rather than alphabetically by name.