Sales Managers are Reporting Regulators

Sales managers are a pivot-point for reporting within an organisation.

Accurate, relevant, simple reports built around appropriate data enable sales managers to know what has happened, what needs to happen and what’s likely to happen if an individual or team maintains the status quo. Running your sales team without effective sales reporting is like riding a motorbike blindfolded.

If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it

And just as importantly, as a sales manager you need to be reporting inwards to assist leadership in making decisions and setting priorities. Reports from sales should be providing marketing with the intelligence required to develop appropriate market-engagement plans and content and R&D should be guided by what sales are hearing from the market to guide or confirm development decisions.

One of the challenges I faced in sales management was ensuring the reporting demanded of me, and that I asked from my team, was really necessary and added value to the business. All too often I found management requesting reports that were difficult to justify, time-consuming to produce and added little or no value to the productivity of the business, or my sales team. Likewise, a sales manager needs to ensure the reports that he requires from his team provide measures that help both the sales manager, the team and the individuals achieve their goals. Reporting on appropriate metrics should help identify areas for improvement, not catch people out.

To help you manage and supervise the performance of your team, the reporting system should help you, your team and the business understand:

  • Who your customers are
  • Where your leads are coming from
  • What prompts customer to buy
  • What keeps customers buying
  • Specific campaign success rates
  • What the customers define as ‘value’
  • Levels of customer satisfaction

These days sales reporting has been largely automated with even the smallest business able to access CRM packages that allow the sales team to be more organised, track performance and follow up on opportunities. However, as a sales manager you need to be closely involved in defining the characteristics of your reporting system. In specifying your reporting system, you need to keep in mind the real purpose of reporting – to ensure all customer information and records of contact are available to relevant staff when and where needed, help with the delivery of a better customer experience and to help you manage the performance of the team.

“War is 90% information” – Napoleon Bonaparte

Building a Reporting System

Whether establishing a new reporting system or making upgrades to an existing one, getting buy-in from your team is critical. The very best reporting system will not work unless all who are using it, use it properly and diligently.

You then need to decide what data is going to be collected and why. There is a vast amount of information that can be reported and you need to ensure what is reported is adding value to the team and the business – don’t let your team get bogged down in administration – they are salespeople. Reports should be kept as simple as possible – here are some examples of basic reports that your CRM should provide:

  • Customer or Prospect profile – details of key contacts, business focus, purchase history, competitor involvement etc
  • Call reports – activity reports are most important for non-strategic, transactional based sales people, and also those salespeople still in the early stages of career development
  • Sales pipeline – what opportunities are being worked on?
  • Sales forecasts – short and long term projections
  • Quota progress – how is each salesperson and the team performing?
  • Top opportunities

When assessing or designing a reporting system, there are some basic characteristics that should be considered:

  • is it a seamless tool that will save you time, optimising your efficiency and effectiveness?
  • is it an integrated system that is understood and valued by ALL stakeholders?
  • does it provides trustworthy information?
  • does it allow customisation to deliver relevant data in appropriate formats that are beneficial to you, your team and the company?
  • does it provides timely information that allows you to be proactive, not reactive?
  • do you know how to analyse, interpret and act on the information?

Getting reporting right is not easy. You will get pressure from above for reports that will be of little benefit to the team and the team may resist the need to report on ‘their’ clients, but if you do implement an effective reporting system, you will see benefits including:

  • shorter sales cycles
  • highlight opportunities that lead to greater lifetime value from a client
  • help align sales with other aspects of the business such as marketing, production and R&D
  • assistance in removing ‘deadwood’ from the team the the greater good
  • identifying development opportunities that lead to greater success for individuals
  • highlighting activities worthy of reward and recognition
  • increasing responsibility and accountability
  • enabling the team to operate in a healthy and open environment.

Developing, maintaining and participating in reporting is an essential part of your sales management role. You will often get ‘push-back’ from the team unless you ensure they see real benefit from the reporting system. And you will be pressured to provide reports to other departments that will not warrant the time and effort. It’s your role to make the system practical, effective and efficient. You’re a regulator of reporting, just another of the many hats you have to wear as a sales manager.

This article was previously posted on Linked In.