How to calculate incremental sales and what it means for your dental lab

Marketing is all about supporting and improving sales outcomes. By measuring incremental sales, marketing teams, sales managers and dental lab owners can better understand the success of their promotional sales and marketing activity and direct future investment accordingly.

Depending on your dental lab, for example, you might want to quantify the results of initiatives like:

  • Short- or long-term advertising campaigns geared at driving new business

  • Upselling or cross-selling activities carried out by sales personnel

  • Special deals or offers extended to existing accounts

In every case, incremental sales is a valuable tool for interpreting marketing-based outcomes in financial terms.

With the pandemic receding, spending on advertising worldwide is expected to resume its growth trajectory and surpass $630 billion USD in 2024.

To help you make the most of your sales and marketing budgets, this guide will break down the question of what is incremental sales by examining why it’s such an important number to measure, how to calculate it and what to watch out for when you do.

What is incremental sales (definition)?

Incremental sales refers to the value of products or services sold during a tracked period of time that goes over and above what your dental lab might normally sell.

Because the difference being measured is typically the result of carrying out a specific promotional activity, the incremental sales definition can be extended to also describe a sales metric that functions as a key performance indicator (KPI) of marketing effectiveness.

By comparing your actual sales over the course of a particular promotion, for example, with your promo-free sales expectations for that period, you can measure the financial performance of a dedicated marketing channel or sales campaign.

In marketing and advertising, you may also use “incrementality testing” to measure the impact of your campaigns and how many new customers they brought in (versus your usual marketing strategy).

Why it’s important to measure incremental sales

Now more than ever (according to Gartner) demand generation relies on collaboration between marketing and sales.

With the core aim of marketing to drive demand and generate revenue, vice president analyst at Gartner for Marketers Noah Elkin says, “Implementing a shared vision and processes enables both departments to focus on collectively serving the needs of their highest-value customers and prospects.”

So, how can you tell if your company’s joint efforts to meet prospect and customer needs is making a financial impact? One way is by using incremental sales to understand the effect of your promotional work on total sales growth.

Measuring incremental sales helps gauge marketing return because it highlights new revenue that can be traced back to a specific sales promotion or marketing event. When it comes to attribution, it is vital that you know which sales and marketing activities have moved the dial.

That makes it an important metric for:

Sales teams. Incremental sales helps show how well you’re attracting qualified leads and converting them to paying customers.

Sales and marketing managers. Demonstrated revenue growth tied to specific activity helps direct promotional initiatives and sales training programs.

Your company in general. Using performance metrics like incremental sales is the only way to know if your marketing spend is productive and whether you’re meeting key financial and dental lab business goals or not.

According to Google, identifying the true impact of a given change in marketing spend is a fundamental sales challenge. Calculating incremental sales can help you accomplish that goal.

How to calculate incremental sales

Because the incremental sales formula shows an increase in sales as the result of promotional activity, to calculate it, you’ll first need to pick a dedicated timeframe to measure and a marketing, media or ad spend to target.

For example, you might want to test the effects in a given time period of your annual investment in specific…

Content marketing channels

Social media channels

Activity or customer touchpoints

Product add-ons or upgrade promotions

PPC (pay-per-click) advertisement models

Once sales results are in for the timeframe you’ve chosen, you can use tools like your CRM’s insights and dashboards to collect your historical sales data from previous (promo-free) periods and create a simple chart like the one below.

It’s usually best to include data from three to five years for annual spend activities, or from at least the past 13 months for monthly promotions.

Armed with this chart, you can now move on to calculating your incremental sales figure.

Incremental sales formula

Using the example chart above, it’s easy to plug the total sales from your 2020 promotional period into the formula below:

Incremental Sales = Total Sales - Baseline Sales

Incremental Sales = $190,000 - Baseline Sales

To get the baseline sales amount for the same period, however—which is the sales volume you’d normally expect to generate during that time—you’ll need to perform some educated guesswork.

One common approach is to roughly calculate your company’s average annual sales growth using the previous (promo-free) periods in your chart, like so:




Average Annual Sales Growth = $25,000+$35,000+$30,000 = $90,000 ÷ 3 = $30,000

Now, you can calculate what you’d normally expect to see for sales volume in 2020 (your baseline sales) and plug that amount into the incremental sales formula.

Baseline Sales 2020 = $140,000 (2019) + $30,000 (average annual sales growth) = $170,000

Incremental Sales = $190,000 - $170,000 = $20,000

Make sure you don’t confuse your increased sales volume ($20,000, in this case) with profit. Because most marketing activities, though a measure of profitability, will have a price tag attached, you’ll need to subtract the cost of your ad, event or promo from your incremental sales figure to gauge the financial benefit gained.

Factors affecting sales volume variance that you’ll need to take into account

According to The Nielsen Company, measuring “incremental lift” is especially beneficial for determining whether your marketing is working within a particular segment.

In their article, the company says: “If you’re trying to reach a certain audience, and there isn’t a strong lift with that group, you can change your messaging (or offer) to reach them more effectively.”

But while promotional efforts drive incremental sales, interpreting the results of your calculations won’t always be an exact science.

As we’ve already seen, for example, baseline sales estimates rely heavily on best guesses derived from historical data. Equally important is the fact that total (or gross) sales can be impacted by more than just the marketing campaign you want to measure.

To help take these discrepancies into account, let’s look at six internal and external factors that can affect sales volume variance and change the incremental sales metric.