May 9, 2017

How to Produce Reports Your Sales Team Really Wants

by Digital Marketing Institute

Great sales teams are built around three things: expertise, experience and data.

Get the first two items right and you’ll create a team that can capitalize on new opportunities and convert just about any prospect into a customer. Get the third right and you’ll gain a new level of insight into the effectiveness of your sales efforts, all while discovering new opportunities. While it’s easy to use data in your sales process, using data effectively can be much more of a challenge.

As marketing science guru Mike Grigsby says, “analytics not guided by strategy is like a special effects movie with no plot -- there may be explosions and cool battles, but there’s no point to it.”

Put simply, the data you use to guide your sales efforts and influence your sales team needs to have a purpose. It needs to be part of a bigger strategy. It also needs to be the data your sales team really wants to see.

Below, we’ve shared our favourite tactics for producing reports that give your sales team more than just data, but usable data that has a real, measurable impact on your team’s ability to find new opportunities, close new deals and generate new revenue for your business.

Use waterfalls graphs to measure daily activity in a larger context

One of the most common sales reporting mistakes is taking too large a view of your sales and marketing activity.

Many businesses, particularly startups with a focus on long-term growth, track monthly metrics like total revenue generated and new deals closed over the course of the month.

Waterfall graphs let you track your daily and monthly progress at a glance, giving context to your daily sales activity. Source: HubSpot

This isn’t a bad thing -- it’s good to have a long-term view -- but a focus on long-term progress alone can prevent your sales team from measuring its daily activity and recording results that take place over the course of the day.

One of the most effective ways to create real value for your sales team is to break down your monthly or quarterly revenue targets into smaller measures of progress that you can track on a daily basis.

The easiest way to do this is through a daily sales report.

A daily sales report breaks your monthly performance down into a day-to-day chart that tracks your sales team’s progress. When done right, a daily sales report gives your sales team a view of monthly progress but puts it into context using daily sales performance.

One of the best daily sales report formats is a waterfall chart. A waterfall chart measures your daily progress towards your monthly sales goal visually, using a rising tide that shows you how close your real progress is to the projected progress you need to reach your milestone.

There are several ways to make daily sales reports for your team. If you like to track sales the old fashioned way, you can do it in Excel or other spreadsheet software using HubSpot’s guide to creating waterfall marketing charts.

HubSpot use the example of measuring website traffic, but the method is the same for revenue, transactions and other common sales metrics.

Sales and CRM tools like Salesforce include a variety of chart formats that provide similar levels of insight and motivation for your team.

The beauty of a waterfall chart is that it provides a daily recommendation of exactly what your sales team needs to focus on.

If the chart shows that your real progress is ahead of what’s required to meet your monthly goal, your sales staff know to keep up the current pace without increasing activity. If it shows that your progress isn’t adequate, your team knows that it’s time to pick up the pace.

The best reports put small-scale activity in context as part of a large-scale goal. Turn your daily sales report into an opportunity to track small goals within the context of larger ones and you’ll give your sales team an extra level of insight and day-to-day motivation.

Include sales activities and KPIs in your daily report

In addition to a waterfall graph showing your team’s daily progress towards monthly or quarterly sales goals, a good daily report will also include data on the activities your team completes over the course of the workday.

KPIs like the total number of calls made or emails sent by your sales team provide insight into how and where your sales reps spend their time. These metrics can play an important role in helping your sales team reach its monthly or quarterly revenue and growth targets.

For example, over time, you’ll be able to quantify the approximate value of each phone call or email for your business. With this data, you can break down your long-term revenue goals into daily targets, such as several hundred phone calls or a certain number of cold emails per day.

Understanding the value of each action completed by your sales team makes it easier to guide your sales team in a specific direction, such as prioritising phone calls instead of email and physical meetings instead of online conference calls.

Digging deeper into your sales activity data also lets you correlate the performance of your top sales reps with their daily activity. A quick scan of your team’s activity report can help you see which reps are performing above average and which reps need extra help or encouragement.

Measuring your financial results and growth is a great way to track the 'big picture’ side of your business. But it’s daily activity -- phone calls, emails and meetings -- that drives your sales team and produces measurable results.

Correlate sales activity with prospect/customer engagement

Waterfall graphs give your sales team a visual indicator of financial progress on a daily and monthly level. Sales activity KPIs provide an activity-related measure of how that revenue is created.

Software like Yesware makes it easy to correlate your sales activity with prospect and customer engagement, helping you view the results of your team’s day-to-day activity. Source: Yesware

Activity vs. engagement reports provide a new dimension of sales data by showing how this daily activity correlates with engagement from prospects and customers in the form of clicks made on email links, replies sent and time spent reading your company’s sales materials.

Creating activity vs. engagement reports on a weekly basis gives your sales team a detailed look at how closely prospects respond to their efforts.

With software like Yesware, you can create activity vs. engagement reports that plot the activity of each customer relative to the amount of activity your sales team has invested.

Activity is measured by the amount of emails sent and calls made to the customer. Engagement is measured by the actions the customer has taken in response to your sales team, such as the total number of emails opened, links clicked and replies sent.

The value of an activity vs. engagement report is twofold. First, it lets you quickly identify sales prospects that aren’t engaged, giving your team a chance to follow up to inject energy into the sales process and win back their attention.

Second, it helps you identify the overall level of engagement prospects show in response to your sales and marketing strategy. If your total activity level is high but most customers aren’t highly engaged, it’s a good indicator that you need to change your sales and outreach approach.

Monitoring your average sales cycle lets you see how efficient your team is at converting leads into customers compared to other companies in your industry. Source: HubSpot

Your average sales cycle is the amount of time it takes your sales team to convert a lead into a paying customer, averaged across all of the deals you’ve successfully completed over a certain period of time.

Paying attention to your sales cycle length is important, as it lets your sales team see how they stack up compared to industry averages.

An overly long sales cycle can indicate that your team moves too slowly and could benefit from taking a more forward, hands-on approach to communicating with prospects. A fast sales cycle could indicate that your team is missing out on opportunities by moving too fast for prospects.

It’s important to remember that a “good” sales cycle depends both on the industry you operate in and the size of your average customer. Generally speaking, the more expensive your product or service is, the longer you can expect your average sales cycle to be.

If you’ve established buyer personas for your target customers, you can break down your sales cycle data to find out how long it takes your team to close deals with each type of customer.

Like most “big picture” data, your average sales cycle is best analysed every month or quarter in order to help you get statistically significant results. Review your sales cycle length too often and there’s a possibility of the small sample size affecting the quality of your data.

Our recommendation? Includes sales cycle length in your monthly review to help your team get a better understanding of how efficient they are at converting leads into paying customers.

Want more sales tips?

Improving your reporting is one of the several steps you can take to give your sales team more data and empower your sales staff to make smarter, data-supported decisions.

Other good ways to improve your sales efforts include aiming for alignment between your sales and marketing campaigns and helping your sales staff develop key skills that make selling your product in a digital environment easier.

Finally, mastering the art of great writing -- whether in a brochure or a sales email -- can have a measurable positive impact on your sales team’s ability to attract and convert prospects into real customers.

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