“I Need A Report”
“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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