A solid sales reporting strategy is essential to any organization. Those who don’t set goals and regularly report on progress and results will – without a doubt – be missing opportunities to boost leads and conversions, and to maximize revenue.
To put this into context, imagine that you’re trying to lose weight or get fit. You wouldn’t simply say to yourself that you want to “get slimmer,” or “improve your fitness levels.” You’d create an actionable plan and set specific long-term and short-term goals. You’d set long-term goals of a target weight or being able to run a marathon, and short-term goals of losing a pound a week or increasing the distance you run by half a mile every two weeks.
You’d also track your progress via regular weigh-ins or monitoring the distance you’ve run.
If you would go to all that trouble for a personal goal, why wouldn’t you put at least the same amount of effort into a critical function of your business?
After all, the process of sales reporting isn’t much different: You set long and short-term goals, track progress, and get your reps to report back to you with the results.
That said, there’s much more to think about when it comes to effective sales reporting. Here are three best practices that all organizations should be adhering to when deciding how their sales reps should report, and what should be done with that information.
Metrics and KPIs are commonly treated as one and the same, but there are some key differences between them.
In short, while all KPIs are metrics, not all metrics are KPIs.
A metric is any number that can be tracked. Many of these are going to have little to no bearing on your sales reports or how you track progress.
KPIs are specifically chosen metrics that measure progress within an organization, and where you are in terms of achieving of your overall objectives.
So how do you choose the right KPIs for your business?
KPIs should be easily understood by every single person that plays some part (whether directly or indirectly) in your company’s success. That means all your employees – not just your salespeople.
This means setting clear and simple KPIs that can be understood at a glance. Overcomplicate your KPIs, and you run the risk of isolating team members who are removed from your sales and marketing activities, and as a result, don’t understand the company’s mission, or what they’re trying to achieve and why.
Sales metrics can be broadly grouped into one of two types: outcome metrics and process metrics.
Outcome metrics are those that define the results of your sales efforts: things like leads created, conversions, sales revenue, profit, sales cycle, and churn rate. You might also break down metrics like revenue and profit into revenue per sale and profit per sale.
Process metrics define what’s taking place in order to achieve those outcomes. This might include the number of calls made or emails sent. Again, you might break down those metrics by segmenting them according to whether the action was first contact, a follow-up, or an attempt to close a sale.
Sales reports will generally include a mix of both outcome and process metrics.
There are countless KPIs you could set; however, the more you set, the less weight they will carry within your organization. You’ll also overwhelm your team, the result being that they’ll spend less time selling and more time worrying about meeting targets and reporting on them.
Only set essential KPIs, and ensure that those you do set are the right ones for your business. Don’t worry about what other companies are tracking; figure out which metrics are most important for you.
It’s not uncommon for organizations to ask for monthly progress reports from their marketing and sales teams, simply because most elements of a business are tracked month-to-month.
This is more often than not the wrong approach.
While monthly reporting may be right for some companies, they’re typically in the minority.
How often you should report depends on your sales cycle. Companies with short sales cycles may well benefit from brief daily reports and more detailed weekly reports. Companies with longer sales cycles may only need to report at the end of each month.
Why is it so important to get your reporting schedule right?
If you fail to report enough, you risk missing new opportunities and areas that are underperforming or that could benefit from further investment.
Report too often, and you’ll put your staff under unnecessary stress, all to analyze numbers that in all honestly will probably have very little meaning.
There is little use in sales reporting if the results of those reports aren’t utilized to make positive changes to processes that result in more sales and higher revenue.
We already know that reporting is essential for identifying areas that are underperforming – whether that’s the tools, tactics, or processes you use, or your staff members themselves.
That said, while most organizations will react when numbers go down, the story is often very different when numbers go up. It’s a good thing when that happens, and it means we must be doing something right, so why do anything about it? They’ll simply pat themselves on the back, and move on to the next task of the day.
This is a huge oversight.
Sales reports are just as valuable when things are going well as they are when they’re not.
Use the reports to identify wins and opportunities. This might mean staff members who deserve recognition or rewards, or tactics and processes that can be replicated elsewhere. You should also be looking for (as we mentioned above) areas that could lead to even bigger wins if they were allocated further investment.