You’ve set your sales goals and agreed on individual KPIs. You’re tracking performance. Now it’s time to report on your progress.
Sales reporting is one of the most important parts of a sales manager’s role. It’s your opportunity to bring meaning to a range of metrics, such as:
- Deals closed
- Revenue generated
- Opportunity status
- Pipeline size
It’s also how you communicate sales performance to the leadership team, helping to inform strategic direction and decision-making.
So it’s vital that your sales reports are clear, insightful, and actionable. Here’s how to do it.
1. Understand Your Audience
As a sales leader, you have access to a vast array of data, from call volumes to conversion rates to the percentage of time spent on specific sales activities.
All of those metrics are important to you, but only a handful will be relevant to your leadership team.
To make things more challenging, different members of the leadership team will be looking for different information. For instance:
- The CFO wants accurate revenue projections and a breakdown of expenses
- The CMO wants to understand the quality of leads generated by the marketing team
- The CEO wants concise, high-level insights to help them understand what requires their immediate attention
As such, the contents of your sales report should vary depending on who you’re presenting to. If part of your report will only be relevant to one person, consider referring to it briefly, then emailing them a detailed breakdown after the session.
2. Choose Your Reporting Window
The makeup of your sales report should be informed by your reporting window.
In a year-end report, it doesn’t make much sense to drill down into highly granular metrics, like daily call volumes. Instead, you’d pick out overarching trends that made the biggest difference to performance – such as changes in conversion rates – and focus on the most important numbers, like the amount of new revenue generated.
But because those big numbers may not change much over the course of seven days, it might not make sense to focus on them in a weekly report. That gives you an opportunity to drill down to the nuts and bolts of daily performance, like:
- The number of calls made by each salesperson
- The number of emails sent by each salesperson
- The total number of conversations struck up with prospects
3. Pick Out the Key Numbers
As I’ve already noted, different members of your leadership team are interested in different information.
However, there’s another key consideration here: the most important information will vary from one report to another.
For instance, objectively speaking, the size of your pipeline is a very important metric. However, if you have a huge number of leads in your CRM but only close a tiny proportion of them, your pipeline probably isn’t the issue. In this context, conversion rate – and the steps you’re taking to improve it – becomes the most important part of the report.
To help you understand which numbers to focus on, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you above or below your revenue target?
- How does performance compare to the previous reporting period?
- Which product(s) are you selling most of?
4. Gather All the Data
Clearly, you can’t build a meaningful sales report or make data-driven decisions unless you have accurate information.
The problem is, you can likely draw your information from multiple sources, such as:
- Your CRM
- Your sales analytics software
- Custom spreadsheets
To make matters more challenging, some metrics might be tracked across more than one of those sources, but the numbers may not match up.
Before you start compiling your data, decide which is your “single source of truth”, and stick to that source for this and all subsequent reports.
5. Write a Summary
Your summary should provide an overview of all the most important numbers, plus a selection of key takeaways that you can discuss in greater depth later in the report.
To plan out your summary, ask yourself: “What story am I telling in this report? What’s the one thing I want people to take away from it?”
To help answer that question, go back over the data from your previous reports to understand performance trends. If you’ve seen a huge month-on-month spike in revenue, or a big week-on-week increase in conversion rate, that should probably make it into your summary.
6. Visualize Your Information
You might think your data speaks for itself. But unless you present it in a visually engaging way that’s easy to digest, you’ll struggle to get your point across.
Visualizing data isn’t about making your report look pretty; it’s about ensuring the information stands out. Because our brains are hard-coded to process imagery faster than text, we’re more likely to draw meaning from a graph or chart than a spreadsheet of numbers.
This doesn’t mean you need to become a graphic designer overnight. Focus on choosing the chart that most clearly conveys your information, and strip out any unnecessary detail, like extra copy.
As a general rule, you should also avoid 3D charts, because they can make it harder to accurately understand the data.
7. Find Meaning in the Numbers
If I told you my sales team generated $30,000 in new revenue in the last quarter, what would you think? Is that good or bad?
Now, if I also told you that figure was 20% higher than at the same time last year, you’d be able to draw a clearer conclusion.
By themselves, numbers are meaningless; they should always be accompanied by analysis or insight. Include comparisons between past periods to add context. And explain why performance is trending up or down.
8. Detail Your Next Actions
Presenting a sales report should be more than delivering commentary around data; it should be an opportunity to inform the future direction of your team.
Having analyzed all the data, reviewed performance, and deep-dived into the reasons behind the numbers, you need to explain what – if anything – you’re going to do differently.
For instance, if you don’t have enough in your pipeline, maybe you need to invest more resource into prospecting. Or if you’re not converting enough opportunities, perhaps you need to rethink your pitch.