The importance of sales reports cannot be overestimated. They help managers to monitor the performance of their sales team, plan effective sales strategies, decide on a sales forecasting process and most importantly, maintain or reduce the length of the sales cycle.
The Importance of Sales Reports: An Interview with Marta Segarra
For this article I wanted to conduct a brief, but in-depth interview with Marta Segarra
Marta is the Sales Operations Director here at ForceManager and personally, I don’t think there’s anyone better qualified to explain the importance of sales reports in business.
But before we get stuck into it, let me give you a little more on her background.
Marta graduated from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia with a both a degree and masters in industrial engineering, specializing in industrial organization and management.
Since starting her career Marta found herself drawn to sales, particularly the development and implementation of processes and sales training programs. As a head consultant at the Barna Consulting Group she lead projects at various multinationals working to improve their field sales performance.
Marta, how would you describe your position as Sales Operations Manager at ForceManager?
My role is to provide support to the sales manger by implementing sales processes, organizing sales training sessions, tracking KPIs, forming the weekly sales report etc. I guess one way you could put it is a sort of “sales chauffeur,” allowing the sales manager to focus on helping their team sell better, faster and close more deals.
It’s also my job to look at how to:
- Effectively track the performance of our sales team.
- Ensure they have the necessary sales collateral to support their pitching.
- Work as a link between the marketing department and sales.
From my experience, many companies lack a clear line of communication between these two departments despite the close proximity within which they work.
For example, marketing are often charged with producing the content sales teams need to help with selling. However, if there is a disconnect between the two teams and general confusion about exactly what type of collateral is needed, it can cause a real kink in sales process efficiency.
Having a person who works as a go between makes sure everyone is working off the same page.
It seems your role requires you do be in many places at once, wouldn’t you say?
Exactly. I’m essentially there to support the sales director in keeping the sales processes running as smoothly as possible.
The day to day work of a sales manager is incredibly complex meaning they need as much support as possible, not only to take some of the pressure off themselves but to support the teams selling on the front line too.
What is the importance of sales reports in business?
Sales reports are extremely important for sales directors since they’re the primary tool with which they can track sales revenue, opportunity status, pipeline health and any number of metrics you choose when making a sales report.
However, I believe the importance of sales reports is sometimes lost when it comes to individual sales representatives.
Why? Because it provides them with context.
For example, if a salesperson enters recent activity with a client into ForceManager – or any mobile sales management system with real-time reporting capabilities – when the time comes to prepare for the next visit they have all the information they need accessible at the click of a button.
I have worked with sales reps who assure me “not to worry, everything that happened is stored to memory so just ask if you have any questions…” Some people do have an extraordinary memory able to recall the minutest of details, but if you manage a sizeable client portfolio I’m 100% sure there’s going to be some information lost along the way.
The importance of sales reports from a sales rep’s point of view is that they summarize and pinpoint exactly how many deals they have at each of the sales process.
They also package the key information surrounding individual opportunities into digestible, and more importantly, readable snippets accessible before visits, allowing reps to fully prepare before meeting face-to-face.
From a sales director’s point of view the importance of sales reports is outlined by the visibility they provide of the team’s performance.
Thanks to sales manager reports directors can locate blockages in the sales funnel, help reps in closing sales, coach and improve their weak points and discover positive trends throughout specific territories.
If a sales director lacks visibility, then they can’t help anybody.
Another area that I think really highlights the importance of sales reports is the loss of data. If you work within a large sales network you’ll have probably experienced a high turnover of staff.
There’s nothing wrong with that per say, as people move on to advance and pursue other opportunities down their career path.
However, a problem can occur when a centralized sales reporting system is not in place. What you’ll find is that a lot of that important information, held by each individual sales reps walks out out the door with them. On the other hand, if all this has been reported to the CRM when reassigning the accounts, the new manager will have 360 degree visibility over all past actions.
What is the importance of sales reports in monitoring the performance of your team?
At ForceManager, all contact sales reps have with clients is reported in real time: calls, emails, visits etc. It’s incredibly easy to do so thanks to the tool’s UX and ability to report by voice.
With this information, we hold weekly meetings with sales reps and SDRs (in person and online for those who work internationally or unable to make it to the office), where we discuss how their funnel is progressing and some sales pipeline management best practices.
We also run through:
- New opportunities generated.
- Number of first-time visits made.
- The nature of conversations had with prospects.
- What their opinions are and whether they need to be moved along down the funnel.
The importance of a weekly sales report is therefore clear; it provides the sales director and operations executives, as well as the field sales team with a “global vision” of the funnel status, and where extra effort needs to be applied to ensure they hit their sales forecast.
There are 5 different states, depending on the probability the opportunity has of closing, how advanced talks are and the movements that have been reviewed.
In addition, with ForceManager we have customized reports for each field rep, which allow us to streamline these meetings by focusing on the most important:
- ARPA (Average Revenue Per Account)
- The opportunities and their position in the pipeline.
- Quarterly forecast.
- Activity KPIs
- All listed accounts: those without activity in the past 15 days (for account managers).
So, what’s the importance of sales reports in increasing or maintaining a high performance sales team?
They play a vital role in pointing out exactly what training a sales rep needs and with which particular aspect of the sales process.
For example, if a sales rep was set a target of increasing revenue from new prospects by 10% but only arrived at say, 4%. Thanks the sales report, you detected that they made only a fraction of visits to new prospects compared to the rest of the team. Of course, spending less time prospecting means the amount of business generated from that particular sector is going to fall, so as a manager you’d can then step in to offer advice or training to amend this.
Also, if a new product has been launched but you notice its not being sold in the field, this could indicate the team needs more training on how to use it (so they feel more comfortable selling it) or perhaps their approach needs adjusting.
Either way, the sales reports identify areas for potential improvement in field sales performance.
When organizing these training sessions we try to focus on empathy and the important role it plays in building lasting relationships. In other words, getting the sales reps to put themselves in a client’s shoes. Then, and only then, can they provide true, honest value to clients.
Finally I want to mention something that’s proved particularly successful in improving field sales performance here at ForceManager – coaching on the job.
When a sales report indicates say, low conversion rates from face-to-face visits, it might be worth sending the sales director along on some of the calls, just to get a better feel for what’s happening in the field.
Often you’ll find rep’s are often fail to prepare visits sufficiently, meaning they come across as disinterested or lacking the respect a buyer expects from a representative.
It could also be that they are strong at presenting, introducing the product and how it helps solving the clients paint point but when it comes to closing, they are little gun shy and lack the ruthlessness sometimes required to get it over the line.
Again, whatever the issue might be, the importance of sales reports is again highlighted to pinpoint these weaknesses that allow sales directors to come in and help fix the problem.
What is the importance of sales reports in keeping your team motivated?
I think what motivates reps varies from person to person. Obviously there is the financial incentive that comes with any sales job but from my experience reps are extremely results-driven, self-motivated people by nature.
In that respect, sales reports play a vital role in highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of each individual allowing managers to deliver a personalized training plan tailored to their specific needs.
One approach you could take is to employ the “sandwich method”:
- Explain what they are doing well.
- Areas for potential improvement.
- Finish by motivating and encouraging them for their upcoming visit, week or quarter.
The way we go about it here at ForceManager is to set objectives at the start of every quarter.
Once they’ve been defined, we hold regular 1-to-1 feedback sessions specifically focused on whatever area it is that that sales rep could improve on. It not only shows the sales rep you are taking a genuine interest in their performance and career development, but by keeping things sharp and focused you don’t waste any of their time.
If there’s anything a field rep hates it’s being pulled away from selling and made to sit through irrelevant or ill-planned “training” sessions.
In conclusion, it is clear that the importance of sales reporting goes far beyond the limits of the sales department; all departments from marketing, operations, management, production and even HR, to a lesser extent, are connected. Sales reports help managers train, motivate and improve the performance of their teams meaning the value of doing them well and with precision is and should always be, one of the priorities of any sales team.