Reporting allows sales professionals and managers to stay on top of their team’s performance, uncover key insights about customers and the sales cycle, and develop new strategies to increase the effectiveness of their entire sales organization.
But, there’s a downside to sales reporting too. If you don’t take the right approach, your sales reports can be a waste of time– or worse, they can inspire poor decision-making and negatively impact many aspects of your business.
Today’s blog post looks at some of the biggest mistakes you can make when it comes to sales reporting and provides strategies to improve sales productivity immediately.
Sales Reports Mistakes
1. Your sales reports contain inaccurate data.
There’s no way around it– bad data is a sales organization’s worst nightmare. Your sales reports may seem complete and well-organized on the surface, but they likely contain inaccurate, incomplete or out-of-date information. In fact, recent studies suggest that 91% of businesses suffer from sales data errors – and that bad data is responsible for an average of 12% loss in revenue (source).
Running reports with low-quality data has a number of negative effects on business:
- Decisions based on inaccurate data
- Inability to accurately assess your team’s performance
- Poor understanding of your customer and target audience
- Inaccurate sales forecasting
- Impact on total revenue
There are many reasons for inaccurate sales data, but some of the most common reasons behind low-quality data is natural decay, manual data entry, and inconsistencies between tools and technologies.
Solution: Prioritize data hygiene.
To run successful sales reports, you must prioritize data hygiene. We recommend that you conduct a data audit on every program you use to collect and analyze data. Whether you do this manually or work with a data solution, it’s important to look for both glaring issues and smaller inconsistencies.
Focus especially on your CRM or B2B contact database—the data contained in these tools is essential to communicating with your customers, targeting qualified contacts, and much more. We cover this topic extensively here: B2B Sales Intelligence: Bad Data and Sales.
2. You’re running too many reports.
Sales reporting seems like it’s become easier than ever – after all, there are so many new tools and technologies that can provide managers with various reports, instantly. But this new level of access has caused a new problem– organizations are now reporting just for reporting’s sake.
We get it, you want to uncover any helpful insights you can to improve your decision-making and boost sales. But, bogging down your team with a dozen reports isn’t going to improve performance. Your reps will grow frustrated, and your upper-level executives will stop reading them.
Solution: only report on what matters.
Every sales report should help you do the following things:
- Manage activities to increase productivity. Examples of helpful metrics include time spent selling, number of calls made, number of meetings scheduled, quota attainment, lead response time, etc.
- Develop an understanding of sales cycle. Examples of helpful sales productivity metrics include length of sales cycle, sales by lead source, win rate, etc.
- Inform senior management of results. Examples include overall sales made, revenue, average deal size, sales growth, etc.
Look at your past reports and ask yourself: What actionable insights did I get from this report? If you can’t answer that question, consider cutting back on how many reports you’re running.
3. Your reports are hard to understand.
The way your sales reports look is just as important as the information they contain. Your team is trained in sales, not data analysis. So, those spreadsheets full of results and percentages? They’re pretty much useless. Even if you can discover actionable patterns in the endless rows and columns, your team will struggle to grasp those same insights, and executives won’t take the time to understand what you’re trying to convey.
Solution: Create visual reports.
Invest in a tool or system that can turn complicated data sets into visual reports. Not only will your reports be more aesthetically pleasing, but they’ll also be easier to understand and more compelling.
4. You’re cherry-picking results.
You use sales reports to assess how your team is performing– and your executives use reports to assess how you are performing as a manager. For that reason, many managers avoid reporting the metrics that will reflect poorly on them and their team.
Purposely leaving out important metrics for the sake of appearance is only going to hurt you in the long run. Your reports may make it seem like everything is running perfectly, but eventually, the issues you’re sweeping under the rug will affect your business’s bottom line.
Solution: report honestly.
Don’t disregard data that reveals flaws. In fact, reports that include negatives are arguably most important, because they show where you need to improve. To negate the impact of the less desirable metrics, be sure to also include action items. This demonstrates your commitment to improvement.
5. You use reports to micro-manage your team.
Sales managers often use reports as a tool to manage and coach reps who don’t hit quota. There are ways to do this effectively, but micromanaging can actually be a massive detriment to the effectiveness of your team.
For example, one of your reps closes a significant amount of deals, but your reports show that he makes less cold calls per day than his peers. You pressure him to make more calls, so he does – and ends up closing fewer deals. Providing you with a satisfactory activity report became the rep’s primary concern, but as a result, it made him less effective.
Remember: sales reports are there for you to develop insights and inform your future strategies. You should hold your sales team accountable – but that doesn’t mean you should micro-manage them or critique every small metric.
Solution: Develop coaching strategies based on reports.
Don’t be quick to blame your team for any problems that pop up in your reports – instead, develop new coaching strategies to address those problems. For example, your reports show that a lot of prospects are dropping out in the early stages of the sales cycle. Rather than berating your reps, work with them to develop a better strategy for prospects just entering the sales cycle.
Key Takeaways About Sales Reports
Sales reporting can be a bit of a double-edged sword. Your reports can drive you closer to your business goals, with the right approach and execution. But, they can just as easily become a detriment to your organization.
Take a step back and assess your reporting efforts. Be sure that every report is necessary, actionable, and backed by accurate data. It may be tempting to implement the dozens of new reporting tools out there but remember – the quality of your reports will always trump the quantity.
For more information about how the ZoomInfo contact database can transform your sales department, contact us today!