Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Gene Marks: Best Sales Reports

A guest post by Gene Marks

Oops…just got a call from that guy.  He’s the sales manager and he just moved jobs.  “Gene,” he yells at me over the phone (they always seem to be yelling at me, why is that?).  “I just switched jobs.  Instead of selling industrial waxing balls I’m now selling fabricated wood slicers.  I have a sales group of ten.  I need you to come in here,  put in the same system  I had at my own place and get me my damn reports.  Oh, and I want this done tomorrow too.  Call me!”

And believe it or not, I actually like getting these calls.  They happen a few times a year.  This is a guy who knows what he’s doing.  Sure, he’s loud and obnoxious.  But give him a break.  He’s a sales guy.  And  he gets it.

As most of us are aware, the economy isn’t great.  Estimates of our economic growth are ranging around 2-2.5%.  Unemployment is still high.  Consumer and small business confidence remain at low levels.  But some companies are doing pretty good - those in industries of higher growth, like energy and healthcare and retail marijuana sales for example.  And others are doing OK too, mainly because they’ve got competent sales management.

Because even in a slow economy the sales managers and business owners who are hustling and paying attention to their numbers are succeeding.  They are using data to squeeze out every available dollar from their customers and prospective customers.  They have customer relationship management (CRM) systems and they’re pulling relevant reports out of their systems in order to manager their sales teams as effectively as possible.  And it all comes down to reports.  Getting the right information makes all the difference in the world.

So what are the reports that “that guy” wants from me?  They’re usually the same.  In fact the really good sales managers and business owners usually ask for the same three reports.  And they are:

1.  The Pipeline Report.  This lists all of your potential opportunities.  This tells you not only the name of the customer but the value of the opportunity, products, salesperson, expected date to be closed and “confidence level” – that means what percentage (20%? 50%) that the salesman expects this deal to go through.  It also shows notes, the last thing done on this opportunity (An email?  A call?) and the next scheduled follow-up.  This report is the holy grail of sales management.  How do you know what’s out there if you don’t have this?

2.  The Activity Report.  This shows past and future activities for each salesperson.  Why is that guy meeting with that customer who’s about to place a $100 order next week when he should be meeting with that other customer who’s looking to spend $10,000?  Some of these salespeople need a slap upside the head!  And how can you do that if you’re not following their activities?  Big brother?  Yes.  Do it for everyone?  No.  You know which guys need closer supervision.  Those are the guys you track.

3.  The Lost Sales Report.  Are you brave enough to run this?  Sure you are, as long as you’ve had a shot of Jack Daniels right beforehand.  But it’s worth it.  This report shows all the ones that got away – the deals that didn’t close.  Why didn’t they close?  Did the customer buy a competing product?  Was the price too high? Did they fall off the radar?  As long as your salespeople are completing their open opportunities with the right explanation you can start learning more from your failures.  Ugh.

Having a slow year in a slow economy?  It doesn’t have to be.  Maybe you’re missing deals because you’re not paying enough attention.  Maybe there are opportunities that can be further exploited.  Maybe that sales guy is spending too much time meeting with the pretty buyer from We-Don’t-Care-Corp when he should be visiting I’m-A-Big-Fish-Inc., even though their purchasing manager has hair on his palms.  Big deal.  A sale is a sale.  And it’s all about using the data to close the right ones.