Vary Reports to Unearth Trends

A reader writes, "A few years ago I started using to create sales reports, which I review with my sales representatives one-on-one and at staff meetings. These reports have significantly increased my effectiveness as a manager and improved the rep's productivity. Lately, I feel bored as I go over the reports and I think the salespeople feel the same way. Should I create new reports?"

This can happen. No matter how effective the sales reports, going over the same information in the same way for a period of time can start to feel stale and uninteresting. Don't give up on your standard reports, though. Anyone managing salespeople needs to have a suite of reports that they review consistently (productivity, sales forecast, etc.). These reports keep the reps focused and accountable and keep you informed. What you can do is mix things up once in a while. Create some new and inventive reports to keep everyone interested and challenged.

Sales by Product

If your company sells many different products, run a report for each sales representative showing them how much they sell of each product. The information always surprises reps and managers alike. Sure, the salespeople might know what their 1 or 2 top-selling products are, but if you dig a little deeper there is a great deal to be learned. 

The first time I ran a report like this for a sales staff, I wasn't sure how they would react. I handed it out and I don't think anyone looked up or spoke for a good 5 minutes. They were completely intrigued with the information. When they finally began speaking I heard a lot of "No way!" "I sell more of this than that!" "I thought that was my #1 seller, not this." Every single one of them took away something from that report that made them a more effective salesperson.

Sales by Product by Rep 

Next, create a report that compares each rep's sales of a particular product to the other sales representatives on staff. Analyze the report to spot trends and inconsistencies.

Product #1    
 Rep ARep BRep CRep D

In this report, reps A, C, and D sell a similar amount of Product #1. But what's going on with Rep B? Her sales of product #1are far behind those of the other salespeople. Why? Is there no market for Product #1 in her territory? Is her product knowledge weak? What is Rep C doing that puts him at the top of the chart? How is that different from what Rep B is doing? Start a dialogue and find out.

Sales by Industry

If your organization sells just one or two products to several different industries, run a report that shows how many sales each salesperson has made by industry.

Sales to Hotels    
 Rep ARep BRep CRep D

This chart tells a different story. Rep C has sales in the Hotel industry that are double those of her nearest co-worker. Are there more hotels in her territory? Does she have better industry contacts? Is it just luck? A more compelling value statement? As a sales manager I would want to know what Rep C rep was doing so that the information could be shared with the entire sales staff. 

Sales by Product or Sales by Industry reports highlight top-performing sales reps. They can also expose weaknesses in the sales organization. More than anything else, though, these reports promote discussion and debate, which can lead to the sharing of best practices and additional sales training. By creating and reviewing these new reports with your staff, the "same old same old" feeling you were experiencing will be a thing of the past. 

In this newsletter I have focused on Product and Industry reports. In next month's issue, I will discuss creating new and different reports that focus on the sales representative's time and territory management.