Excel with Pivot Tables

March 23, 2010

My previous post outlined the perils of using Excel as an inventory management tool. This time let’s look at one of the most powerful and appropriate business uses of Excel – the pivot table report. In my experience, this is one of the least understood tools available to those who use Excel to analyze and report on data. And yet for many it should be the tool of choice. 

Pivot tables facilitate summarizing and thereby analyzing data. Let’s use the example of an ERP system that stores all your inventory and sales data in a database format that can be accessed via Excel. You would create a live link to your ERP data from within the Excel workbook, and return the data as a Pivot Table report. What you’d get initially would look something like this: 

Pivot Table Blue Link

Click Image to Enlarge

So you have a list of the fields available from the database to which you’ve linked. You can now use simple drag and drop to determine what you’d like to analyze in the rows and columns of the Pivot Table, and what data should be summarized. In this example, I’m analyzing sales data by product by country for the year 2008. It took me less than 30 seconds from start to get this: 

Blue Link Pivot Table Example

Click Image to Enlarge

Once again, simple drag and drop will allow me to change the content and even layout of this report instantaneously. In a future post, I’ll explore this a little further and also try to answer any posted questions.

Customer Service and Good Manners

March 1, 2010

I had two phone meetings scheduled for today, and in each case the other party, a potential supplier, was to call me at the pre-arranged time. They had an engaged sales prospect who had requested a phone meeting, which in these tough economic times is gold – or so one would think.

My 10am meeting called me around 10:07, with no apology for being late. No big deal, you may think, after all it was only seven minutes. But remember, you only get one opportunity to make a positive first impression. My feeling when the meetings started was: if this is how I get treated when they’re trying to woo me, imagine what it’ll be like if we’re actually “married”.

My 2:30pm meeting has not as yet called, or emailed an apology, which I guess is why I have the time to write this now – at 2:50pm. As you can imagine, I have zero intention of doing any business with either of these companies. I have the perhaps old-fashioned view that if you ask someone to set aside time to meet with you, whether in person or by phone, you either show up on time, or let them know ahead of time if you’re running late.

Remember Sales 101? Treat your prospects and customers with respect. That means being polite, punctual and honest. When you go into a meeting, arrive on time, put away your Smartphone for the duration, and give them your 100% undivided attention.  And guess what? It’s even more effective than it used to be, because so many of your competitors have abandoned good manners.

My customers are my business partners, and I go out of my way to nurture those relationships. I’d like to feel the same way about my suppliers – and in general, I do, because I eliminate those that treat me poorly, no matter how good their product appears to be.

Potential Blue Link suppliers: you have been warned!

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