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“I Need A Report”

by David Brock on September 18th, 2015
call center

“I need a report…..” is a phrase universally eliciting groans from every sales person—at least the good sales people.  Bad sales people revel in these requests, because it means they get a momentary respite from prospecting, meeting with customers, moving deals forward, figuring out how to hit their goals.  Unfortunately, they don’t have much to report on, or things haven’t changed since the last report.

But most sales people just hate reporting–as they should.  It diverts them from working with customers.

Ask any good sales person about this topic, and they usually respond with something, “Why does management need all this information?  What are they doing with it?”

But managers do need information.  They need information to do their jobs—help sales people achieve the highest levels of individual performance.  They need information for their business management responsibilities–helping make sure the sales teams are achieving their goals, and helping the rest of the company have the information they need to do their own jobs.

Information and data is the currency by which organizations run and through which most people do their jobs.

As much as we sales people hate these requests from management, we have a responsibility to provide data, information, analysis and reports to them.  Without that, ultimately, we don’t get the information, support, responsiveness we need from the rest of the organization.

The issue becomes, “What’s the right balance point?”  What is the right level, quantity, time investment required for reporting and giving management the information they need to do their jobs?

As usual, my answer is, it depends.

I’m one of those increasingly rare individuals that remembers what sales management was like Before CRM (BCRM) or even Before Excel Spreadsheets.  In those days, getting the information we needed to fulfill both our roles in coaching/developing people and out business management responsibilities was hell–for us and our sales people.

As a manager, I was always torn about what and how much to ask for.  I didn’t want my people to be chained to their desks doing reports.  But I did needed information to do my job.  Manager, like me, started developing standard reports we’d ask our people to keep updated, say on a weekly basis.  I remember carrying a fat 3-ring binder around constantly–it was my control book.  I remember Friday evenings or Saturday mornings updating my control book–which meant taking out the old reports, replacing them with the updated reports.

I also remember spending a lot of time doing manual analysis, with different reports spread across my desk, taking data from each one–consolidating them onto another report to look at things in a different way.

As a manager, in those days, I struggled with minimizing the time my people spent on reporting, but getting all the information I needed.  Sometimes, blindly, I asked, “Give me everything and I’ll figure it out.”  You know how useful that was to both the sales people and me.

Fortunately, those days are long gone, we’ve had tools like CRM for 20 + years–Post CRM (PCRM).   These tools, appropriately used, make reporting and the ability to slice/dice/analyze easy.  All we need is for sales people to keep the systems updated.

But here’s the dilemma–too often, these tools are sold and bought for the reason of “enhanced management reporting.”  Now we’ve circled back to the original dilemma, hammering sales people over the head to enter endless reams of data into CRM is a waste of time!  With tools like CRM, we have to focus on “how does the sales person leverage the tool to maximize their personal effectiveness.”  For example, in our company, we can’t imagine living without our CRM and related tools.  Without them, we couldn’t manage our time, the quality of our engagement with customers would suffer, our efficiency would plummet.  These tools are embedded into our day to day workflow.  As a result, things are always up to date (or at least by the close of the business day), as the leader of the organization, I have most of the data I need for my “business management” role.

The trick for managers becomes, “How do we embed these tools as value added, critical pieces of each sales person’s day to day workflow?  How do our people leverage these tools to maximize their effectiveness in managing their time and impact in the territory?”  When we solve this problem, we make a giant step forward in sales performance, and we solve our management reporting problem!

The solution to our management reporting problem is not hammering sales people for more reports.  The solution is getting sales people to leverage today’s sales productivity tools to improve their own personal performance, and through this, we get most of the information we need to manage the business.

As a final afterword to managers, just as you need information, your people need reports and information.  Make sure you are using the tools for more than reporting.  Make sure you are providing your people the information and reporting they need to improve performance.

Finally, my thanks to Richard S, a reader, for your thoughtful question.  Hopefully I’ve begun to answer it in this post!

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  1. Chuck Sena permalink

    Excellent balanced commentary .

    As an early adopter of technology (I used ACT! for DOS) I realized how beneficial having automated contact management could be as a salesperson.

    Over the years I have been involved in several CRM software roll-outs, with varying levels of effectiveness.

    In my experience the problems arise when the systems are implemented by starting with the report outputs instead of the user requirements for the front line data entry personnel – who are typically the salespeople. If the managers want reliable data to make informed decisions they must have consistent, reliable data input.

    The best CRM software implementations I have seen focused on making the data entry as simple as possible for the front line users. In conjunction with ease of use, the required data entry processes reinforced the sales process/best practices.

    There has to be sufficient value for the salesperson to ensure that they will enter reliable data. If there isn’t a benefit for them they will find a way to get around the system so that they can focus on other activities that will help them reach their goals.

    • I couldn’t agree more Chuck, if the tool–whatever tool it is—doesn’t improve the effectiveness, impact, efficiency of the sales person, then it’s not achieving it’s goal. Unfortunately, too many of these tools are bought and sold without this in mind.

      Thanks for the great comment.

  2. Hi David,
    Great post, right on the money!

    It’s like you are speaking my own words 😉

    I believe that sales reps have been neglected by technology over the past few decades. It seems that technology disrupted every aspect of our lives, however, sales teams are still updating CRM’s manually and generating reports like we’re still in the 80’s 🙂

    With all the technology advancements, I’m sure that 80-90% of the sales process can be automated and tracked/reported (automatically).

    The time saved will allow sales reps to focus on relationships and sales managers will not have to fight with their reps for those hated reports all the time.

    It’s like a perfect world 🙂
    Less data will fall between the cracks, data will flow upstream to the managers, revenue will grow, and the sales teams would much happier.. Doing what they like best, chasing the kill.

    Would love to hear your thoughts on that.

    • Thanks Ohad. Actually, many of the current tools, like CRM, offer huge value to sales people in improving their effectiveness. The problem is, we lose that focus in the implementation, it becomes a tool for management.

      The true test to whether sales people see value to the tool is the issue of “compliance” never arises. Compliance is a huge issue today–it would disappear if the tools provide real value to sales people.

      Thanks for the comment Ohad.

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