A client asks, "I manage a sales force of six, but don't have a good grasp on what they are doing on a daily and weekly basis. What kind of information should I ask them for? How often should it be turned in? What should I do with it?"
Running a sales organization without effective reporting is like driving with your eyes closed: you won't get where you want to go. The three reports that are essential to any well-run sales organization, no matter what the size, are the daily call report, the productivity report, and the sales forecast.
The Daily Call Report
The daily call report tells you how and how often your sales representatives are calling on the accounts in their assigned territory. The specific data asked for in this report varies by company and industry but most commonly includes what companies the salespeople called on, who they spoke with, whether the calls were in person or by phone, what they talked about, what the next action steps will be and when the next scheduled calls are.
Daily call reports should be turned in (or run, depending on your level of automation), on a daily basis and read carefully at least every other day. Reviewing them every few weeks does not allow you to verify information in the report on a timely basis.
The Productivity Report
The purpose of the productivity report is to keep you informed about the level of activity taking place within the sales organization and to make sure that each salesperson is meeting or exceeding the productivity standards you have established. The data often includes the number of outbound calls, conversations, voice mails, customer meetings, and sales presentations. The report should compare actual results against the benchmarks you have established for each activity.
Productivity reports should be turned in (or run) and reviewed on a weekly basis. Many managers compare the activities on the productivity report to both the phone bill and the daily call report to verify what is being reported.
The Sales Forecast
The sales forecast has multiple purposes including helping to estimate revenue, determining what opportunities need executive attention, and paving the way for post-sale product or service delivery. The accuracy of a sales forecast strongly affects the entire organization and is therefore the most important report generated. This document generally contains prospect names, sales opportunity sizes, indications of where the sales opportunities are in the sales cycle, and what the customers are buying. It is the sales representative's best estimate of which sales will close during the next 30, 60, or 90 days and, in most companies, is due at the beginning of each month with occasional revisions due mid-month if the need arises.
Each sales representative must clearly understand what criteria a potential account must meet before they are allowed to put it on the forecast, otherwise the data will be meaningless. Once an account has been placed on the sales forecast, it must not be removed without the salesperson having discussed it in detail with their manager.
Reviewing these reports is time consuming. But keep on top of them. If the sales staff suspects that you don't review the reports, they will make a token effort at writing them and you will start to lose touch with the sales organization. Remember the old adage "inspect what you expect." By setting goals and letting your salespeople know you are committed to tracking progress toward them, you will vastly increase the performance and predictability of your business.