Sales Ops
9 min read

Sales reporting: steps, best practices and tools

Benefits, essential steps to follow, best tools on the market... Qobra's experts reveal everything you absolutely need to know about sales reporting!

Simon Laurino
Simon Laurino
Head of Growth @Qobra
August 8, 2023
Sales reporting: steps, best practices and tools

📊 Sales reporting involves collecting and analyzing data related to sales activity and sales team performance, and is considered paramount for most companies.

And for proof, according to a survey conducted by Deloitte in 2020, around 87% of companies consider sales reporting to be an important or very important priority.

In concrete terms, sales reporting enables us to measure individual and collective performance, assess the extent to which objectives have been met, and monitor the various sales activities.

Sales reporting is a tool mainly used by sales management and general management to manage the sales team, but it is also used by the salespeople themselves to assess their performance and compare them with the other members of their team!

The benefits, the essential steps to follow to build a good sales report, the best tools on the market... Qobra's experts reveal everything you absolutely need to know about sales reporting!

1. The benefits of sales reporting

The benefits of sales reporting are numerous, both for sales teams and general management!

📌 Broken down into 5 main categories, here are all the reasons to set up sales reporting :

Identify areas for sales improvement

  • Efficiently deploy sales force efforts
  • Understanding discrepancies
"Sales reporting has enabled us to identify opportunities to improve our sales process. By looking at conversion and pipeline data, we were able to pinpoint underperforming steps in the process and improve them. This has had a significant impact on our overall results and profitability."

Mark, Sales Manager

Identify sales performance levers

  • Guarantee the use of reliable, real-time data
  • Share best practices and sales tools
  • Promote team learning and improve efficiency in the field
  • Detect trends and make decisions for the future
  • Analyze performance and focus efforts where they are most needed
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of your sales strategy
  • Choosing the right performance indicators
  • Adjust sales management according to results.
"Sales reporting has really improved our understanding of company performance. Before it was implemented, we lacked visibility of our sales and targets. Now, thanks to reporting, we can track our results in real time, identify trends and make informed decisions to achieve our goals."

Sarah, Sales Manager

Motivating sales teams

  • Visualize performance and boost motivation

Aligning marketing and sales

  • Provide qualified leads through marketing
  • Introducing marketing tools into the sales process
  • Measure the relevance of communication tools and the effectiveness of lead follow-up
  • Facilitating communication and decision-making
  • Save time on reporting

Gain market visibility

  • Ensuring the attractiveness of market offerings
  • Identify areas where sales staff can be concentrated
  • Materialize data and make them understandable 
"Sales reporting is an essential tool for me as a sales representative. It allows me to track my own performance, see which products are selling best and identify opportunities for growth. I can also analyze historical data to adapt my sales strategy and maximize my chances of success."

John, Sales Representative

As we've just seen, commercial reporting offers a multitude of benefits for a company, whether it's a small structure or a large organization.

For management, sales reporting provides invaluable information for assessing the effectiveness of sales strategy, making strategic decisions and measuring return on investment

🎯 Ultimately, sales reporting is an indispensable tool for any company wishing to optimize its performance, achieve its objectives and remain competitive in the marketplace!

2. Steps to follow to create a sales report

Just as Rome wasn't built in a day, neither was building a sales report! 

This requires a methodical and structured approach, without which the company will not be able to set up sales reporting that will help it make informed strategic decisions and optimize its sales performance.

📌 So here are the key stages not to be missed:

1. Define sales reporting objectives

  • Identify areas for sales improvement
  • Identify sales performance levers
  • Motivating sales teams
  • Aligning marketing and sales
  • Gain market visibility

2. Define the frequency of sales reporting

  • Identify the best recurrence for sales reporting based on activity (weekly, monthly, quarterly).
  • Automate reporting by linking it to various databases and tools

3. Define sales reporting format

  • Choose from different formats (Excel, Google Sheets, CRM, specialized solutions, etc.)
🐍 The Qobra example

Like many companies, our sales reporting has been created and is available directly in our CRM solution, Salesforce, one of the best solutions on the market.
  • Create several views of sales reporting based on different hierarchical levels. It is essential to have several levels of granularity, as this makes it easy to identify where the company is experiencing difficulties, and to take corrective action where necessary to achieve the desired objectives.
🐍 The Qobra example 

We have 4 reading levels. The first is company-wide, i.e. reporting on overall activity (revenue generated, number of customers, average basket, churn rate, etc.).

Then there's a second level dedicated to the various teams, i.e. SDR and Account Executive. The information will be more or less the same as at the first level, but we'll be able to detect the actions to be implemented in each team to help them improve.

The third level will focus on indicators by country, in this case France and the UK at Qobra.  

Finally, the last level is individual, and will enable us to personally support each member of the sales team in identifying their weaknesses and improving, as well as observing the best salespeople and understanding their success.
  • Take care of the visual aspect of the reporting by prioritizing information and defining an intuitive and visually pleasing design.

4. Define and monitor the right indicators

According to a 2019 KPMG study, 79% of companies use KPIs to measure their business performance and make strategic decisions.

So it's vital to choose the right business indicators to make reporting easier to understand and read. And among all the existing indicators, there are 7 main categories:

  • Sales activity indicators (number of appointments made, number of calls made, time spent prospecting, etc.).
  • Prospecting indicators (number of calls made, number of emails sent, cost per prospect, etc.).
  • Sales indicators (sales achieved, number of new opportunities, conversion rate, etc.).
  • Revenue indicators (profit margin, customer acquisition cost, etc.)
  • Marketing indicators (lead tracking, NPS score, average basket, etc.)
  • Quantitative indicators (number of sales closed, in progress and lost, frequency of commercial interactions, etc.).
  • Qualitative indicators (market expertise, conversion funnel, level of lead qualification, etc.)

5. Collecting reliable data

  • Ensure that all data relating to team activity is taken into account and properly linked.
  • Use analytical tools to create links between data
  • Ensure that employees enter information correctly in the software used
💡 Good practice

To ensure that the right information is included in sales reporting - in other words, reliable data - it's important to synchronize all the tools used by the sales team, whether CRM, data visualization tools or others (Aircall, Ringover, Outreach, Salesforce, Docusign, etc.).

6. Communicate

  • Communicate the value of reporting and highlight relevant data
  • Demonstrate the benefits for sales teams
  • Communicate regularly

7. Regularly review reporting

  • Remain agile by regularly questioning the choice of indicators and the nature of the information to be transmitted

🚀 By following the key steps outlined above, companies will be able to use sales reporting to maximize the productivity of their sales teams, and ultimately their profitability and long-term success!

3. Focus: The best sales indicators to track

As we have just mentioned, sales indicators are an essential part of sales reporting. 

It's essential to select and monitor the indicators that will enable you to accurately assess the sales team's performance.

📌 Here is a list of the most relevant sales indicators by category:

Sales activity indicators

  • Number of appointments booked
  • Number of calls made
  • Time spent prospecting
  • Number of quotations or sales proposals sent
  • Number of sales
  • Sales generated
  • Gross margin achieved
  • Lead-to-customer conversion rate
  • Number of new customers acquired

Prospecting indicators

  • Time spent from prospecting to final sale
  • Number of calls made and/or e-mails sent
  • Number of successful calls and/or e-mails opened
  • Cost per prospect or lead

Sales indicators

  • Sales achieved
  • Number of new opportunities
  • Conversion rates
  • Medium basket

Income indicators

  • Profit margin
  • Customer acquisition cost
  • Customer lifetime value

Marketing indicators

  • Lead follow-up
  • Number of tickets closed, opened and processed
  • NPS, CSAT or CES score
  • Order volume
  • Drop-out rate
  • Average basket per order
  • Number of claims
  • Customer acquisition cost
  • Average length of telephone conversation per agent
  • Sales by geographical area or department

Quantitative indicators

  • Number of sales closed, in progress and lost
  • Number of customers won and lost
  • Medium basket
  • Frequency of business interactions

Qualitative indicators

  • Market expertise
  • Conversion funnel
  • Lead qualification level
  • Performance rates (effectiveness rate, prospect/customer conversion rate, customer retention and attrition rates)
💡 Good to know

It's up to each company to determine which indicators are best suited to its business strategy!

4. Focus: Sales reporting communication

As mentioned earlier, communication is one of the steps not to be neglected when setting up sales reporting. 

And for good reason: like any project, no matter how well it's carried out, if communication isn't worked on accordingly, the project won't be understood and therefore ignored. 

📌 So for sales reporting to be a success, here are 3 main principles to follow:

1. Communicating a relevant message

Meaningful business communication means conveying a message that facilitates decision-making. To this end, it is crucial to think about the message to be conveyed and what the company wishes to demonstrate with the help of the selected data. Managers must carefully select the indicators they wish to highlight! 

For example, the cost of customer acquisition can be put into perspective with other indicators such as MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue) or Customer Lifetime Value. Indicators that can be illustrated with references to put the figures into context. 

Indeed, it's important to provide a context for data and graphs. For example, you can compare your figures to a previous period or to a specific target.

2. Highlighting relevant data

To make an informed choice about which charts to use, it is essential that the manager considers the nature of the data and the information he wishes to communicate to his sales team. 

There are four main categories of analytical objectives, each corresponding to a type of chart. The manager can opt for :

  • Illustrate relationships between variables
  • Decompose data according to a dimension
  • Comparing data
  • Segmenting data

For example, he may use graphs to represent changes over time. They may prefer a bar chart to compare items in the same category, or to represent segmented data. Whether curves or bar graphs are used, they must be easy to understand. 

On the other hand, understanding can be more complex when business reporting includes pie charts or Sparkline charts, which are less legible.

3. Communicate actively

Above all, sales is a team effort. The good news is that sales reporting supports real-time communication: actions taken, position of customers in the sales pipeline, etc.

It's also a useful tool in the event of an employee's departure or absence, or to provide work support for mobile sales staff who don't have the opportunity to talk to their colleagues on a daily basis.

At the same time, this improved communication fosters marketing-sales alignment. A godsend, since both departments are required to move forward hand in hand (the marketing department provides the leads, the sales department turns them into customers) to ensure that the company's objectives are met!

5. The best sales reporting tools

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, sales reporting is essential for any company!

As a result, many companies have entered the market and developed their own solutions to overcome the drawbacks of default solutions such as Excel and Google Sheets.

A 2019 survey by Ventana Research found that only 23% of organizations were using an advanced tool for business reporting, while 43% were still using manual tools such as spreadsheets.

"Before, we had to collect sales data manually, which was tedious and time-consuming. Now, with an automated reporting system, we save an enormous amount of time and can concentrate on analyzing the data and making strategic decisions."

Laura, Marketing Manager

🛠 After an in-depth analysis of the market, here are the 5 best tools identified by Qobra on the sales reporting solutions market:

Looker

Looker

Looker is part of the Google Cloud Platform, and is logically geared towards non-technical users. One of Looker's main advantages is that, once configured, it requires few additional adjustments. Users can create their own analyses without having to write SQL code, making it easy to access and explore data.

Looker offers a library of pre-configured visualizations, as well as the option of creating custom visualizations.

Once Looker has been set up, it's easy for professional users to explore the data without the need for advanced training.

Tableau

Tableau

Tableau is an advanced Business Intelligence (BI) tool widely recognized on the market. Tableau offers robust features for data visualization and analysis, making it easy to explore information. It is particularly suited to medium-sized and large enterprises.

Tableau's user-friendly drag-and-drop interface is highlighted, as it enables users to easily create dashboards and in-depth analyses. What's more, the tool offers the option of configuring alerts and subscriptions for reports, facilitating information sharing within the organization.

Microsoft Power BI

Microsoft Power BI

Microsoft Power BI is business intelligence and reporting software specializing in data management. 

It enables data to be imported, processed, modeled and presented in the form of reports. Power BI offers a unified platform for analysis and reporting, both self-service and enterprise-wide. Thanks to the use of advanced artificial intelligence, access to analytical information is fast.

Power BI's strengths lie in its multilingual support (DAX, Power Query, SQL, R and Python) and its extensive data integration capabilities, with over 120 free native data source connectors.

Salesforce

Salesforce

Salesforce CRM's Reporting and Dashboard features make it easy to track leads, conversion rates and the sales pipeline in real time, providing a complete view of the state of the business.

Salesforce's CRM analysis tool lets you quickly create customized sales forecast reports, using an intuitive interface to select the desired fields, filters, groupings and graphs.

The Dashboards function is also useful for staying organized and proactive. It lets you examine key indicators, find the data most important to your company's success, study sample dashboards and create customized dashboards.

Hubspot

Hubspot

The HubSpot CRM add-on reporting module enables users to explore data related to marketing, sales and customer service. Users can create customized reports and dashboards from scratch, or use pre-defined reports.

For companies using HubSpot's marketing, sales and customer service centers, no integration is necessary to access the required data. HubSpot can also generate reports on data from integrated applications if you use external platforms.

The last word...

Detecting areas for sales improvement, identifying sales performance levers, motivating sales teams, aligning sales and marketing, market visibility... There's no denying it, sales reporting is essential! 

But as we've seen, it's also important to follow a number of precise steps to ensure that sales reporting is a success and delivers all the promised benefits. These include the choice of sales indicators and communication.

Once you've done that, all that's left to do is choose the right tool to ensure that your sales teams are enthusiastic about sales reporting!

Sommaire

Simon Laurino
Simon Laurino
Head of Growth @Qobra
August 8, 2023