Excel - The Foundations for Great Analysis

Does your team have the Excel skills required to do the basics?

Excel is a an important tool for most analysts, sales people, category managers, and business people in general. And everyone knows Excel, right?  Or do they?  Without basic Excel skills, sales people and category managers can't effectively analyze their business (never mind draw insights from it), administrators can't create great worksheets, and analysts may struggle with fundamental concepts. Never mind the risk of making errors and drawing incorrect conclusions from poorly built formulas and PivotTables. 

So why is Excel training a requirement for organizations when there are automated reports that should give everyone everything they need for their business? Because they don't (and can't!) meet all needs. The reality is, most meaningful analysis requires data manipulation, cutting, formatting and customizing - and that requires some strong foundational Excel skills. 

A few months ago, a client of mine contacted me about the need for some training in Excel skills for one of their sales teams. A sales manager had raised a concern that her team was not able to perform certain Excel essentials like formula writing, building PivotTables and creating charts.  It was surprising to hear that proficiency in these skills was lacking on her team because, after all, everyone knows Excel, right?

After a collaborative meeting with her, I developed a virtual training session that included some Excel basics like moving around in a spreadsheet and sorting data, writing formulas and conditional formulas (SUM, COUNT, RANK, UNIQUE), and creating charts and PivotTables. The session was "opt in", meaning that folks who already had proficiency in these areas didn't need to attend. 


I ran two 3-hour sessions for the client because of the high interest (and remember, this was "opt in", meaning they had the choice of whether or not to attend).  The hands-on exercises and examples were particularly relevant for her sales team, using data and item rank reports - not just creating formulas, but also helping to think about interpretation of the different KPI's, as well as getting participants to think about what the formulas are actually calculating. We used one of their massive automated reports to build a PivotTable - moving them from learning to application - using examples from their own business. The training became, not just conceptual, but practical! 

Here's some of the (unedited) feedback from these sessions:

  • Best 3-hour lecture/class I’ve attended.
  • Time went by way too quickly!
  • I learned many new things, i.e., formula building, shortcuts, and importance of being clear on what I’m trying to say.
  • Handouts were helpful, and I will go back to reference them.

Ask your team if they need Excel basics training! 

You might be surprised by their response.


Learn more about CMKG's Virtual Training Solutions


Virtual training combines the benefits of online (available anywhere, no travel expenses, less disruption to the business) and instructor-led (customized, relevant, answer students' questions) education. Here are some other benefits of CMKG virtual training specifically for Excel:

  • Uses the latest version of Excel software (vs online that usually has antiquated options);
  • Provides materials like student notes, Excel workshops (customizable XLS files using your own data & examples);
  • Includes pre-work to get participants mentally prepared for the course;
  • Includes an (optional) online test prior to the course to gauge students' current understanding and to prioritize what's covered in the virtual session. 

Download CMKG's Virtual Training Brochure


Looking for a quick online accredited course?

Check out our online accredited course on “Building Excel Skills” or watch a video preview of the course by clicking the graphic below. 



Link to Purchase “Building Excel Skills” Category Management Training Course

$125 USD

30-day Access



Reference Guide

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Course Test


Topics: Excel, Analytics Work, Category Management

Written by Sue Nicholls, Founder & President CMKG

Training and learning are my passions. I have felt privileged to have the opportunity to teach others since early on in my my career at P&G in the '80s (when category management was just beginning in North America). I have dedicated my work life to building and sharing this passion with others through active involvement in the industry, including long-term business relationships with large Retailer and CPG executives, development and influence on industry standards, curriculum, and conference education, thought leadership publishing and presentations at numerous industry conferences, and as a member on several university advisory boards. I am also an Adjunct Professor teaching consumer behavior in a Marketing Program.

I have developed over 150 hours of online curriculum, developed and facilitated hundreds of instructor-led training sessions, and had the privilege of working with retailers, suppliers and solution providers around the globe alongside an evolving industry. The challenge is to anticipate what's next and find ways to teach our students the skills required to compete and stay relevant.

Learning is a journey for everyone - individuals, teams, organizations, and yes, even training companies. You can't put training in a can, automate it and call it a day - it needs to evolve, be nourished, and continually improve. Through this blog and other channels, I share my years of expertise with our industry and believe that an open and ongoing conversation can improve any team’s capacity to implement business strategies that achieve their strategic priorities.