Understanding and implementing these best practices will maximize the value of your sales reports.
What if you set next quarter’s sales goals without reviewing any reports from the current quarter? Or how about conducting your team’s performance reviews without any performance data?
Would you feel confident you were making the right decisions based on anecdotal evidence or gut feeling? Probably not.
When it’s time to make an important decision, we rely on data. It’s our compass pointing toward True North, our proof of what’s working and what isn’t, our safety net when we go out on a limb.
But just having data isn’t enough. We need good data to make good business decisions. Calling the shots based on untrustworthy reports isn’t much better than calling shots without any reports.
What makes for effective reporting? How can you know if you’ve built the right reports?
First off, effective reporting isn’t just about building the “right” list of reports. There’s no such thing as a perfect list of sales reports. It’s how you think about reporting that will determine the value of your reports.
Understanding and implementing sales report best practices will maximize the value of your reporting and help you make solid business decisions. Here’s what you need to know.
Featured in this article: best practices for sales reporting.
- Build a holistic reporting strategy first
- Ensure that your reports are trustworthy
- Designate a single owner for the reporting function
- Plan to act on key reporting insights
1. Build a holistic reporting strategy first
Many sales teams spend too much time building reports and not enough time building a holistic reporting strategy based on your business strategy. This is a great recipe for doing extra work.
When building your strategy, start at the top. All reports should waterfall down from the main company level. Organize your reports into dashboards that tell a story. The ultimate question your reports (in aggregate) should answer is: How are we performing against the business goals associated with our strategy?
Think of reporting as a pyramid where all of the numbers need to add up. For example, the New Revenue metric on the CEO’s dashboard should equal the sum of the sales teams’ New Revenue numbers. This is a simple yet critical step companies tend to forget.
Another key element of a solid reporting strategy is agreeing on and documenting definitions.
These are examples of the type of questions you need to be asking:
- What is “Win Rate”?
- How does it differ from “Close Rate”?
- Which deals are excluded from “Competitive Win Rate”?
- How is “Customer Acquisition Cost” (CAC) calculated?
The definitions of terms—and their associated documentation—should specify which filters are applied to the reports, and include links to the reports.
2. Ensure your reports are trustworthy
All reports are accurate. But that doesn’t make them trustworthy.
A report will present the data you ask it to present. It can’t tell you if the data it’s presenting is trustworthy. And it can’t tell you if you’re asking the right questions.
The health of your reporting is a good proxy for the health of your CRM. If your sales reports aren’t providing you with data you can trust, it means there are underlying data integrity issues that need to be resolved.
How can you tell if a report is trustworthy? For a sales report to be trusted, the following must be true:
- The report is built correctly, with the proper filters applied
- The right data exists in the CRM, and it’s in the right format
- Data is being input consistently into the CRM
- Clear and accurate instructions exist for inputting data into the CRM
- All people and systems inputting data are following the instructions
If you can’t confidently confirm all of the above, you can’t be totally confident in your data either.
3. Designate a single owner for the reporting function
Chances are you’ve seen firsthand the sort of mess that can happen when too many people have their ‘hands in the pot’ when it comes to reporting. It’s all too common, and incredibly maddening: Two people attempt to create the same report … using the same underlying data … and end up with different results.
Why does this happen?
There are a number of ways two people could generate conflicting reports using the same data. Here are a few of the most common examples:
- Using different filters to pull the data (ex: creation date vs. close date)
- Relying on different fields (ex: account name vs. contract number)
- Defining key terms differently (ex: SQL vs. lead)
Having a single person (or team) own reporting helps ensure both consistency and integrity. It will be easier to get a clear answer to critical business questions. And you’ll get that answer faster from a single, dedicated source.
When reporting is crowdsourced, additional problems can crop up as well. For example, people are less likely to consider the impact their CRM updates will have on reports.
Ideally, a reporting owner is part of an operations team that owns the CRM system used to generate reports. This naturally creates a strong incentive to build and maintain a clean instance and rigorous documentation.
4. Plan to act on key reporting insights
Measuring just to measure is pointless. You could drown in a sea of information without generating a single meaningful insight.
Don’t measure something if you don’t know why you’re measuring it. And don’t measure something if you don’t know what you’ll do with the information. For every report, you should be able to answer the question: What will we do differently if the results of this report change?
What if your cost per lead suddenly spikes?
What if there’s a growing gap in client acquisition rates amongst your business development reps?
What happens if you detect a downward trend in customer lifetime value?
Be prepared to act when a report tells you there’s a problem. A swift, definitive response can make the difference between a successful turnaround and a substantial profit loss.
Implementing sales report best practices in your business
With reliable reporting systems in place, you can be confident you’re getting the data you need to call the right shots. Start with strategy, implement processes to ensure trustworthy reports, clarify who owns reporting, and prepare to take action.
Concerned your sales reports might not be giving you the trustworthy data you need to make good decisions? Iceberg’s expert team can partner with you to develop a robust reporting strategy and build reports you can rely on. Contact us today to learn more.