As a sales leader, you might be wondering what to do with all that data in your CRM.
How do you use it to improve results? And how do you motivate your teams?
This is the ultimate guide to sales dashboards. You’ll learn exactly how to use sales insights to hit quotas, make your sales teams wildly productive and keep your entire organization informed.
Table of Contents:
- Identifying Your True-North Metric and KPIs
- Bringing Your Data Together
- Selecting Your Dashboard Platform
- How to Design Great Looking Sales Dashboards
- Dashboard Views for Sales Managers and Account Executives
- Seven Free Sales Dashboards and Templates
- How to Use Dashboards to Motivate Your Team
What are Sales Dashboards?
Sales dashboards are a method of measuring sales performance from a birds-eye view. They help measure key metrics, individual team members and sales activities. Data is collected from various sources and displayed in a dashboard to generate actionable insights, fast.
Account executives and sales development reps (SDRs) love sales dashboards. They help measure activities and keep them on track of quotas.
You’ll also need sales management dashboards to keep track of how well your teams are performing. Metrics, activities and KPIs will vary depending on incentives and other factors.
As a sales manager, it’s up to you to make sure they’re empowered with the right tools and an understanding of their most important metrics. As Keren Rosenfeld, Marketing Director at SimilarTech says:
“Not all metrics are important to track and depending on your business some will be more important than the others. That being said, there are several that every startup should track.”
The rest of this guide is dedicated to figuring what these metrics are, how to collect data and the tools to build informative dashboards.
Step 1: Identifying Your True-North Metric & KPIs
To build a dashboard, you need metrics.
And to know which metrics to measure, you need well-defined goals.
True-north metrics help everyone in your sales organization understand what they’re working towards.
It doesn’t matter how large your teams are, or the roles within them. Everyone must be working towards this common goal.
You can have a true-north metric for each stage of the sales cycle. This illustration from Tivoli Partners perfectly outlines customer lifecycle stages and the level of engagement required at each of them:
While this covers the entire customer experience, it’s perfect for demonstrating how different goals will align at different stages of the sales cycle.
True-north metrics are a combination of the following:
- Results that contribute to business critical results
- Revolve around activities that can be controlled by several other levers
Revenue is often the most obvious choice. New business = business growth, right?
This makes sense, but it doesn’t always translate into the most actionable KPI. Other metrics may lead to a bigger impact, depending on ticket size and complexity of your offering.
These other metrics can include:
- Deals closed: How many new customers and clients are you closing month-on-month?
- Average order value: What’s the average deal size of new business won?
- Opportunity win rate: What’s the ratio of deals won to deals lost?
These are metrics that everyone in your sales organization must charge around.
However, they’re not to be followed at all costs. When challenges arise, you may want to shift your focus until the problem is solved.
With your true-north metric defined, it’s time to choose the KPIs your teams will be measured against. Typically, these metrics are split into two different categories:
- Results-oriented metrics
- Activity-based metrics
Measuring Sales Performance with Results-Based KPIs
Results-based KPIs focus on the output of sales activities.
In other words, they measure the overall performance of your sales teams based on the results they generate.
Key metrics will vary based on job title and goals. For sales managers, the top KPIs to measure usually include:
- Number of deals in the pipeline: How many deals are currently being nurtured by your team?
- Win rate: What’s the percentage of deals won vs. deals lost?
- Average deal size: How much revenue will each new deal generate on average?
- Average time to close: How long does it take for deals to close?
- Sales revenue: Total revenue generated across a specific time-frame. Preferable over profit margins, as it can indicate positive sales performance even when bottom-line growth is stagnant.
- Sales forecast accuracy: Sales forecasts are never an exact science, but they’re still key when predicting revenue and measuring how close your teams are to reaching them.
- Lead response time: How long does it take for reps to respond to new inquiries and leads?
- Follow-up rate: How persistent are your salespeople? Measure follow-up activity to optimize your average close rate.
Your team should also have its own set of metrics.
These dashboards help boost team morale and lead to more productive sales meetings. Team-based sales metrics include:
- Lead response time: See above. It’s important for teams to understand how reactive they are to new opportunities.
- Time spent selling: Measures the efficiency of your team. Use this to find bottlenecks and leaky holes in your sales process.
- Win rate: Everyone should be fully aware of the average win rate across the team.
- Sales pipeline coverage: Or SPC for short, indicates how full your sales pipeline is compared to your quota.
- Leads generated: How many leads has your team generated/been assigned during a specific period.
- Deals closed: How many leads have been converted into customers?
Finally, account executives and SDRs must measure their own results-based metrics on a daily and weekly basis. These include:
- Sales target: What’s their quota and how close are they to reaching it.
- Opportunities: Keeps details on the number of current assigned opportunities.
- Sales to date: Compares the number of sales generated against historical data.
Your chosen KPIs will depend on the structure of your sales organization. Later, we’ll talk about the benefits of providing reps access to your management numbers.
Measuring Effectiveness with Activity-Based KPIs
So, now you know what your sales teams are contributing to the organization as a whole.
It’s time to figure out how they’re doing it.
With activity-based metrics, you can refine your processes based on the inputs required of your teams in order to reach quota.
For example, you may see a drop in closed deals correlate with a reduced follow-up rate. With this insight in hand, you can work to increase or optimize follow-up activities to solve this issue.
Activity-based metrics include:
- Lead response time: Again, how quickly your team responds to new opportunities is an indicator of proactiveness and action.
- Emails sent: How well does your team perform at outreach, for both warm and cold leads?
- Calls made: Are your sales reps making enough calls throughout the day.
- Follow-up: How many follow-up emails and calls are your teams making?
While these will help you improve your overall processes, do not mistake quantity for quality.
Before working on increasing or reallocating activities, qualify the leads in your pipeline. Figure out if you’re having conversations with the right people.
Step 2: Bringing Your Data Together
You now know which metrics you and your teams should be monitoring.
The next step is to collect the data you’ll visualize on your dashboards.
This requires some auditing. Your organization is likely using several platforms for various tasks. Some may be integrated together, while others sit in silos.
Before you can bring all this sales data into one place, you must first figure out where it’s being stored. This requires going up, down and across the chain:
- Up the chain: what data is being used, created and collected by the boardroom?
- Down the chain: which standalone tools are your reps using to help with their activities?
- Across the chain: how does marketing collect lead information, and what do they do with it?
Instead of scrambling and trying to get information from these people, run workshops to communicate what you need from each stakeholder. This may require three different sessions:
- Organization-wide workshops to bring marketing, sales and senior decision makers together.
- Team-based workshops to figure out which tools and standalone processes your reps use.
- Follow-up workshops to report on your findings and cover next steps.
When running your initial workshops, make sure everyone understands what you’re trying to achieve.
Here’s a great way to articulate your goals:
“Our objective is to figure out where exactly our sales data is being held at all stages of the buying cycle.
This includes marketing systems, CRMs, spreadsheets and any business intelligence platforms that these feed into.
The goal is to create accurate reports to help improve sales performance and increase revenue. Without this data, we won’t know how we can do better.”
Mentioning the impact on revenue will get boardroom buy-in fairly quickly.
During the workshop, explain what the end goal is and what you need from each stakeholder. Follow this structure:
- Introduce what you’re trying to achieve and what the data will be used for (sales dashboards). Explain why they’re important. Refer to this guide and borrow sections if it helps.
- Provide examples of systems that contain sales data. Talk about CRM platforms, marketing automation systems and business intelligence.
Give everyone a checklist of what to do next. Encourage them to go up and down the chain in their own teams and departments. Provide a template (spreadsheet format works best) for them to fill out and send to you. Include columns such as name, website, contact fields (e.g. first name, job role) and the systems they integrate into:
Platforms and systems to audit include:
- Business intelligence
- Marketing automation
- Customer service software
- Email outreach tools
- Chatbots and messaging
- Proposal software
- Tracking and analytics
- Project management software
- Sales intelligence platforms
Once you’ve mapped out the sources of all your sales data, it’s time to bring it together.
Step 3: Selecting your Dashboard Platform
The best dashboard platforms do two things very well:
- They visualize data in a clear and engaging way
- They bring together several sources of data for you
This means you don’t need to invest in another third party tool to organize your data. The best dashboard platforms take care of these integrations for you.
Before we talk about dashboard design principles, let’s check out some of your dashboard software options during this consideration phase:
Dashboard Tool #1: Geckoboard
Geckoboard, is one of the leading dashboard platforms. They integrate with most major data sources, and integrates with Zapier for any that are missed.
Originally designed for television displays, Geckoboard is perfect for keeping teams on the same page. Notable features include:
- Drag-and-drop interface builder
- Advanced collaboration features
- Dynamic and flexible with spreadsheets.
Geckoboard starts at $25 /MO. A 30 day free trial is available.
Dashboard Tool #2: UnifiedVU
UnifiedVU’s product focuses on bringing data from several isolated sources together. This is perfect for collecting several forms of customer data into one place:
As you can see, you get a complete view of your organization’s interactions with each lead, customer and opportunity.
UnifiedVU starts at $15 a month.
Dashboard Tool #3: Plecto
Plecto’s visual dashboard offering is geared towards managing and motivating team members. Use their platform to focus on individual KPI categories.
On top of standard dashboard features, Plecto also comes with some cool gamification features. Here’s how it looks in practice:
As you can see, you can track everyone’s progress across your sales organization and the teams within it. Use this feature to spark some healthy competition, and reward the teams who hit quota first.
Plecto starts at $17 (per user) a month. A 14 day free trial is available.
Step 4: How to Design Great Looking Sales Dashboards
Once you’ve evaluated which tool to use for your sales dashboards, it’s time to design them.
You don’t need any design skills in order to do this. Which is why dashboard platforms are so appealing.
When creating your sales dashboards, aim for clarity. They should convey insights in an instant without the need to hunt for them.
Clear, understandable dashboards have these attributes in common:
- They tell a story: The objective of tracking insights is to answer questions. Allow your teams (and yourself) to do this with ease by creating a clear layout.
- They simplify complicated ideas: Collecting large amounts of data can lead to confusion. Your dashboard must organize the right data in a way that makes it clear for your teams to act on.
- They focus only on what is necessary: As a sales manager, the KPIs you monitor will be different to your reps and account executives. Don’t bog your team down with unnecessary information.
With these principles in mind, let’s look at some dashboard design principles you should follow when creating your own.
1. Consistency is Key
Each dashboard will take your salespeople down a path. And those paths will lead to habits.
Therefore, it’s important to maintain a level of consistency in how your dashboards are presented and accessed:
- Naming structures: The way you represent metrics, units and KPIs should be consistent across all dashboards. Don’t use different names for the same metric or KPI.
- Icons and visual cues: When using icons and other images, make sure these serve a purpose consistent across all dashboards. Using the “💸” emoji to illustrate revenue might work for your sales team, but will it play well at a board meeting?
- Dates and other text-based formats: Make sure times and dates are kept in a universal format e.g. 11/23/2018 vs. Oct 23rd 2018.
- Colors: Use a consistent color scheme. Ideally, choose no more than three colors to use across each of your dashboards. More colors leads to more visual noise.
Some dashboard platforms provide little flexibility on these design elements, which will make consistency easier. With more flexibility comes a bigger risk of miscommunication, so be wary when designing things from scratch.
2. Embrace Minimalism
I’m not suggesting you start throwing out all your belongings. But I am endorsing you to be selective with your choice of dashboard metrics.
As a rule of thumb, include a maximum of 6 to 10 data points. In the SaaS dashboard below, there are only ten top-level business metrics being used:
It can be tempting to throw all of your numbers into one place. But this can lead to messy dashboards that are difficult to understand. Strive for clarity.
Many dashboard platforms allow you to include filters. For example, instead of showing sales figures for every region, include a filter that allows you to output the data for those specific areas.
This approach saves on visual real estate, while creating rich and interactive dashboards.
3. Use a Logical Layout
When creating a data-driven layout, it’s important to use some kind of logic when grouping metrics together.
When creating sales dashboards, I recommend the following structure:
- High-level insights at the top: These would include revenue, number of active opportunities and average order value. In other words, your true-north metrics.
- Trend-based data in the middle: These metrics can include activity-based metrics, such as the number of new deals created within a specific time-frame, emails sent, calls made etc.
- Granular metrics at the bottom: Keep specific KPIs at the bottom of your dashboard. These can include lead response time, follow-up rate and lead response time.
This model looks like an upside down pyramid: business objectives at the top, operational and granular metrics at the bottom.
Whatever model you use, ensure it’s consistent across all of your dashboards.
4. The Right Visualization for Each Metric
As important as the way you lay out your insights is the method of visualizing them.
What do I mean by this?
A pie chart may work for one metric, while a pivot table will visualize another in a clearer manner.
Let’s run through the most common data visualizations that you’ll use when designing your dashboards:
1. Line charts: A popular choice when visualizing trends and comparing them to other metrics and filters (e.g. timeframes).
2. Pie charts: Quickly communicate the “share” that each value makes up of a specific category or metric (e.g. how many opportunities each sales rep generated from the total).
3. Bar charts: Many data-driven experts believe pie charts to be difficult to visualize comparative data, and suggest bar charts instead. They work in a similar manner, but are more linear:
4. Pivot table: While they’re not always nice to look at, pivot tables are perfect when laying out exact numbers across categories and values.
5. Indicators: Provide an instant snapshot of how well a specific metric is performing e.g. number of deals vs. monthly quota. Here’s an example of a gauge indicator:
Dashboard Views for Sales Managers & Account Executives
You now know exactly how to build sales dashboards for you and your teams.
If you’re looking for some inspiration, I’ve collected 4 dashboards you can swipe and apply to your own organization today.
No matter which metrics you’re measuring, you should be able to create these using your chosen sales dashboard platform:
1. Overall Sales Performance [Sales Managers]
As a sales manager, it’s your job to guide your team. But that’s only possible if you know how well they’re performing:
In the example above, you can see how well your reps are performing, the amount of revenue generated and how many deals are sitting within each stage of the pipeline.
Use this dashboard to focus on the right activities and motivate your team.
2. Daily Snapshot [Sales Managers]
Along with the team performance, you should have a dashboard to provide you with a daily snapshot of results-based numbers:
As you can see, this dashboard from InsightSquared gives you an accurate view of progress, as well as how close you are to reaching your goals.
Again, you can use this as part of your team meetings to help motivate teams. Use this to show them the impact they’re making.
3. Sales Productivity [Sales Reps]
Your sales reps should have their own daily view of how they’re performing. As discussed earlier, they should be monitoring both results-oriented and activity-based metrics:
Here, reps have a complete view of the number of deals they’ve generated as well as the total value.
But the main difference to sales manager dashboards is the primary focus on sales activities. This is what drives results for reps on a daily basis, which is what they focus on.
4. Executive Summary [C-Suite Executives]
Finally, the boardroom needs a complete view on how the sales organization is performing and how you’re contributing to business results.
In this example, you can share your monthly and quarterly performance with your CEO, as well as comparisons against forecasts:
The dashboard examples above are designed to provide the right KPIs to the people that need it the most.
Your reps need access to activity-based metrics to help them gauge their progress. While directors need to see contribution to the bottom line.
This comes back down to necessity. Focus only on the metrics that make an impact to each group.
7 Free Sales Dashboards and Templates
We’ve covered some sophisticated solutions to sales dashboards in this guide.
But what if you’re not ready to invest in dashboard software just yet?
We’ve got you covered.
First, let’s talk about Excel. Spreadsheets can be a great starting point to help small business owners track sales -- from managing and modeling data to visualizing data into graphs:
For a “microsales” operation, this can be a quick and easy solution to your CRM (as long as you’re abiding by data protection laws in your region). However, the amount of data you manage can quickly spiral out of control.
If you’re serious about growing your team and your business — implement a CRM and upload your data as soon as possible.
The longer you leave it, the harder it is to get that data into your chosen CRM platform.
With that in mind, here are 7 free Excel templates you can use to create your own dashboards, fast:
- Pipedrive’s Sales Pipeline: This template provides a basic solution to visualizing your sales pipeline. This is key when managing dealflow and keeping opportunities flowing through the sales cycle. This template will help you keep an eye on your progress.
- Sales Dashboard Package: This collection by Chandoo has pretty much everything you need to monitor your sales performance. It’s a comprehensive list, so we’ve mentioned our favorites below:
- Bar-chart dashboard: shows data by region, customer type, salesperson and product.
- Line-and-bar chart dashboard: Ranks your salespeople by performance, shares regional data and interrelationships and trends in terms of product-region-customer type mix.
- Mixed chart type dashboard: Covers a broader range of business intelligence. This customizable template includes a map, a chart for performance comparison per period and a budget compliance snapshot.
- Table-and-graph dashboard: Includes filter support and an executive summary, showing comparative salesperson performance as functions of time, region and product.
- Bar-type dashboard: Features graphs on performance across periods and a performance milestones summary for each personnel.
- Bar-chart dashboard: shows data by region, customer type, salesperson and product.
- Pipeline Velocity Analyzer: Measure combined KPIs across several departments and keep track of your overall sales velocity.
Unless you plan to set a low growth ceiling for your business, you’ll eventually need a CRM.
Do you expect to have the same number of sales personnel two or three years from now? If not, then a smart CRM will simplify your life and make it easier to achieve your sales goals.
So, use a good sales template for now. But be sure to transition to a CRM before you reach the tipping point.
Remember, the smaller and simpler your dataset is, the smoother the transition.
How to Use Dashboards to Motivate Your Team
Managing and motivating your sales team is one of the biggest benefits of having a sales dashboard.
But you’re probably asking; “how can I use this data to effectively guide my team to a higher level of performance?”
Here, I’ll outline 5 ways you can use your dashboards to help your reps get better results and progress their careers.
1. Celebrate The Metrics
We’ve talked a lot about using dashboards to identify leaky holes in sales processes.
But what about the things that are going well?
Rahul Alim from Custom Creatives says numbers should do the talking:
“I like to show my team how close or far we are from weekly, monthly, and quarterly goals. If we are behind, we do a big push. If we are ahead, we want to crush it and get way far ahead. The motivation lies in the outcome of what we do.”
Check the overall performance of your teams. Look for things to celebrate, such as:
- Sales activities that exceeded quota
- Increase in results compared to previous period (week, month etc.)
- Individual team members who have improved in performance
This insight is all available within your performance dashboards. Look for areas that can be celebrated, both for individuals and as a team.
2. Get a Contest Started
Earlier, I shared how gamification can create a competitive spirit among sales teams.
Take this one step further and create incentivized sales competitions.
Here are a few creative ideas to get you started:
- The Pitch-Factor: Just like X-Factor, but for sales pitches. Each rep anonymously submits their sales pitches and the rest of the team votes which is the best. You can also do this with cold email and cold calling scripts.
- Snooze Buttons: Let reps win a late start/early finish during the working day. Reward this to the first rep who hits quota first. Early weekend on a Friday afternoon, anyone?
- Performance Alliances: Team-up your high performers with low performers and get them to work together. Encourage them to share new ideas. The duo with the most new sales at the end of the contest period wins.
Come up with your own ideas by tapping into psychological triggers. Try and create competitive scenarios that encourage teamwork, not cutthroat backstabbing.
3. Use Data to Set New Paths
Not all goals should be set in stone.
Sure, quota is there for a reason. But challenges will always come up in different shapes and sizes.
Dashboards can indicate points of friction, leaky holes in the pipeline and areas that need improvement.
When these problems arise, it’s important to address them.
Because fixing them will help you reach quota.
Look at it this way: your revenue target is the goal, sales activities are the path and those challenges are the obstacle.
For example, response rates have started significantly dropping from your sales emails. Here’s how I would tackle this challenge:
- Look at historical data during the same time period, this may be a seasonal reaction.
- Re-allocate time into other levers, such as follow-ups, cold calls and any other sales channels you follow.
- Measure the same outcomes and compare them to the previous period.
Look at these as experiments. What will happen to outcome x if we do activity a instead of activity b? Apply any successful experiments to your future processes.
4. Use Data to Fuel Transparency
It’s important to get your sales reps on board with every decision you make. Sure, you can explain your reasoning to make a case, and that may work…
...but nothing beats backing it up with data.
“Not everyone will always agree with you, but they’re much more likely to respect the decision if they understand the thought process behind it.”
Back your decisions up with data and demonstrate that your intentions are in the right place. This shows you’re using objective facts to drive your decision making, not gut feeling or a sense of entitlement.
5. Fuel Autonomy with High-Level Numbers
This tip is counter-intuitive to the ‘share only what is necessary’ rule.
But there are benefits in sharing your high-level “management” numbers with your reps.
Some sales reps are high performers because they’re always looking to improve. This often leads to experimentation and trying out new things
By sharing high-level metrics, they can see things from a 360 perspective. Allow them to use these numbers to come up with ideas on how they can make their own jobs easier and more effective.
Of course, this requires some humility. Some sales managers may scoff at the idea of letting reps “tell them how to do their job…”
Leave your ego at the door and focus on serving your reps. Let them make a dent in the organization and further their career. That’s what great leaders do.
Over to you...
You now have a complete toolkit to create sales dashboards that motivate your team and get results.
When you’re done following this process, you should have clear processes in place that help you refine your activities and generate better results.
Now, I’d love to hear from you. How are you currently measuring team performance? How do you plan on using what you’ve learned here today? Share your thoughts in the comments below.