"The goal is to turn data into information, and information into insight.”
Carly Fiorina, Former CEO of Hewlett Packard
Imagine handing a mobile phone to everyone over the age of 85 in your local nursing home.
Firstly, you’d get some blank stares.
Next - genuine confusion.
You could fill each resident’s contacts list full of the numbers of their nearest and dearest and explain how to text, call and email.
But you and I both know there’s next to no chance any of those mobile phones are seeing any action.
What does this tale of technology tease teach you about sales reporting?
Data is useless if you don’t know how to take advantage of it.
These nursing home residents have an almost infinite world of data at their fingertips. But they don’t know how to use a phone. Wouldn’t be much help, would it?
Your sales CRM data is exactly the same.
You need to turn your sales data into actionable insights to improve your sales performance.
The 3 Simple Steps Your Reporting Process Needs
- Automate data collection effectively
- Generate simple, actionable reports from this data
- Use your insights from this data to improve your sales process
This is your sales reporting checklist.
If you can nail these three things you’ll see sustainable improvements.
You can’t afford to become a sales management version of those grandparents at the nursing home. If you don’t have the right tools or skills to make any sense of your sales numbers - you need to prioritize a solution to this problem if you’re serious about scaling your business.
At the same time - too much information is sometimes even more unhelpful.
Processing it can be time-consuming, and it simply becomes easier to ignore the mountain of mystery than to take on the seemingly gargantuan task of making sense of it all.
We want to help you generate the type of insights that will genuinely help you grow your business.
Every sales manager should have this one message ringing in their ear every time they open their CRM app:
“Unless you’re gaining useful insights from your data and information, you may as well not have either.”
Your Practical 5-Step Guide to Turning Sales Reporting Into Performance Improvements
The following five-step guide will make you feel like your data is serving you, rather than the other way around.
Our goal is for you to learn how to repeatedly turn your sales data into revenue growth.
1. Define Clear Objectives That Support Your Sales Goals
Before you can start organizing your data and information into insights - you need to understand what purpose your insights will serve.
Ideally, this should be a collaborative effort.
Engage your salespeople and ask them what info they feel would make it easier for them to do their job. Your business is unique.
The insights you need to close more deals than your competitors depends on your target customers, your region, your industry and a multitude of other factors.
You may have to make some executive decisions separating vanity metrics from the important stuff.
Simple metrics for each stage of your sales pipeline are what you need. Too many more metrics and you’ll start to make analysis more difficult. Spend lots of effort and energy on this part of the process.
And don’t set and forget. Test and revise.
If you’re not generating useful insights from the metrics you set, you’ll find it hard to make sustainable improvements to your sales performance.
You can always add and subtract different metrics from your sales reports in future sales cycles.
2. Streamline, Automate and Cull
“If you torture the data long enough, it will confess.”
Ronald Coase, Economist
Once you’ve determined which metrics are most important, you need to create less work for yourself.
Simplify and automate as much as possible.
This is where a sales CRM becomes an invaluable timesaver.
Make sure you set up your reporting dashboards and notifications within your CRM correctly to suit your specific needs.
Sales dashboards are designed to paint an accurate picture of how your business is performing.
Having a simple, visual overview of your data can not only help identify areas of improvement for your sales process but also simplify your sales cycles. Even better is when the dashboard views are fully adjustable to match your company needs.
Pipedrive’s customizable dashboards give you the ability to easily arrange clear visibility of the specific metrics you want to monitor - so you can track performance in real time. Here’s exactly how to make it happen:
In the future, you should be able to spend more time on generating insights rather than wasting time with the tedious task of gathering and mining of data.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help in setting up your reports and dashboards. Most software companies will offer support or training in some form.
Attend some webinars, watch your CRM provider’s videos, and read as many blog articles as you can.
Once you feel you understand the mechanics of your specific CRM - start setting things up the way you want them.
Be ruthless with what metrics you decide to keep and what needs to go.
We all like the stats that make us look good, but unfortunately, we tend to learn more from the ones that are less flattering.
So while the ‘Deals Won’ report is great for improving the morale of your sales team (and you may want to use it for this purpose) - but there may be more important metrics you want to focus on in your sales reports and dashboard.
Attack the problems. Lean into the Deals Lost report. You’ll learn more from those mistakes.
3. Keep It Human and User-Friendly
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
Albert Einstein (you know who he is!)
If your entire team use the same data - you need to keep your sales reports simple and easy-to-use for people with all levels of experience.
Presentation and organization is critical.
Make sure that the important stuff is quick and easy to find and understand.
Good sales-specific software helps. Of course, the Pipedrive blog would say that, right?
It’s true. But all decent CRMs should be able to turn raw data into visual reports. If you’re left with impenetrable spreadsheets filled with reams of numbers and stats - it might be time to consider a new CRM provider. Reporting really is that important.
Clear, simple data is the first step to generating sustainable business growth.
Without it, you’re just making educated guesses.
Figure out the rhythm of reporting you need based on your specific sales cycle. After each period, follow up and check whether the reports and insights you are generating are fit for purpose.
- Do your team members really understand what they’re looking at?
- Does the information help them gain the insights they need to do their jobs better?
- Are you seeing significant, repeatable improvements?
Canvas each individual rep to check if they understand your reporting - and just as important - if they know how to put your insights into practical action.
4. Develop a Sense of History and Use It
“Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it.”
Chip & Dan Heath, Authors of Made to Stick, Switch
You may already have a wealth of untapped data which you can use to set goals, make predictions, and inform you of new results.
Data becomes meaningful when put into context and past performance has a lot to tell us about the future.
Predictability in sales comes from accurate forecasting and you can’t forecast without knowledge drawn from previous reports.
Decide what time frames are important to your business. Monthly comparisons are okay for most sales teams, but if your numbers are heavily influenced by seasonality - you’ll need to look at aligning data over similar annual periods. The length of your sales cycle also has a lot to do with how you create your data sets.
Analyze existing sales data in the context of your business and you’ll soon settle on a useful reporting and analytics rhythm.
5. Make the Data Work for Your Business
“Data are just summaries of thousands of stories – tell a few of those stories to help make the data meaningful.”
Chip & Dan Heath, Authors of Made to Stick, Switch
You can have huge sets of beautifully organized data and information about every little detail of your sales process and your customers’ behavior and the market you operate in - but if you aren’t formulating actionable tactics from your insights gained, you can’t generate improvements from your reporting.
If you have an existing account or a free trial, start out by customizing some of the basic reports available in your Pipedrive dashboard.
Here’s a helpful video explainer that outlines exactly how you can automate the development of customized reports in the Pipedrive app to make it as easy as possible to extract those precious insights:
One of the most valuable uses of data in sales is the ability to accurately forecast revenue. Reliable forecasting takes a massive amount of stress and uncertainty out of sales - helping you make corrections early enough to avoid a crisis.
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
As a sales manager, you have plenty to do already, so it is important to avoid the pitfall of information paralysis that strikes some people when they start getting immersed in sales data. If you’ve followed the five tips above the process should be simple.
Get data -> Gain insights -> Take action.
If you find that you struggle to turn the first two into the third one, you may be looking at the wrong data.
Always remember that data is only one tool in the salesperson’s kit and needs to be used in service of measurable goals and results.
“An idea not coupled with action will never get any bigger than the brain cell it occupied.” - Arnold Glasow, American Businessman