Everyone wants a sales dashboard, but what should be in it?
Many online CRM solutions come complete with out of the box dashboards, but sales managers quickly find this generic information not specific enough to be actionable. What you define as a lead will not be the same as for the next sales team.
What are the essential metrics and how can you customize your sales dashboard so that you can make decisions based on what you see?
First, let’s talk about what NOT to focus on! Many managers understandably look for their CRM to solve an accounting problem. In a business where reports on sales activity from accounting are infrequent or not specific enough, any sales manager would want to know what’s been sold, by whom, to whom and how that compares with expectations. This is really an accounting problem. There’s really no reason the accounting department shouldn’t be able to provide the information needed by the sales manager but, upgrades to their systems or additions to their resources may be required. The best option to add value to the CRM experience for the sales team is to integrate accounting information into the CRM so there is less manual labor involved in giving managers and salespeople the information they need. Often, to avoid complicating the implementation and involving additional decision makers, users, etc., sales managers plan to have salespeople or sales assistants enter sales information into the CRM so that reports on sales results, like quota attainment, can be run within the CRM. This is a mistake. It’s adding to the data entry burden of the sales team and expecting them to become bookkeepers and solve a problem that the accounting department should but, can’t or won’t. The point here is not that sales managers and salespeople don’t need to see their sales numbers. They do! They just shouldn’t be the ones keeping track of it. That’s accounting’s job!
Leads are the top of the sales funnel and are probably the most important thing that sales teams need to measure. Marketing may have a role here as well, and integration of the sales CRM with marketing tools that provide leads and/or track and measure them can be essential. However, the sales team often has a different way of “valuing” leads than marketing and they need to have a clear picture of their entire funnel from top to bottom. Clear lines must be defined to distinguish a name on a list from a lead that the salesperson is pursuing or should be pursuing. That line could be defined by demographics: They’re in a given territory and have certain characteristics of size or need and so, the assigned salesperson should pursue them. Or the line could be based on engagement: They “converted” on the website or or a specific lead generation campaign, they called in or they visited our booth at the trade show.
What must be measured is this:
- How many leads came in from each high level source?: Website, Callin, Trade Show, etc.
- How many of those leads have we pursued? (attempted to contact)
- How many of those leads have we actually contacted? (some kind of conversation)
Tracking leads in this way can be very simple for salespeople. What you’re asking them to do is put all their leads into the CRM, update a “Lead Source” field, and log the calls they make and emails they send.
Of course, the next question is how many of the leads we contacted are qualified? What’s their disposition? This can be a hard one for sales teams to clearly define because the actual dispositions of individual leads can be so nuanced. The best approach is to stay high level and simple.
High level lead disposition can be as simple as Bad/No Contact Info, No Response (after several attempts), No Attempts (we haven’t tried to reach them yet), Wrong Person, Disqualified, Qualified.
What makes a lead disqualified and qualified must be clearly spelled out across the team consistently. It should not be a judgement call,it should be based on objective criteria. Qualified doesn’t mean “ready for a proposal”. Qualified might mean “under contract with a competitor currently”.
Some businesses may want to track a few more specific metrics to better define qualification, but less is more. If you sell auto insurance, you need to know how many vehicles the customer has to ensure to know the economic value of the lead but, you don’t need to know the make, year and color of the vehicles. Not yet.
Some data about the size of the opportunity, the role of the individual in a decision, and the likely timing of a decision can be worthwhile.
Above all, if there is data that the sales team must collect, then it should be entered and tracked in the CRM.
Proposals, Presentations, Quotes, etc
Not all qualified leads get a proposal or presentation. What is quoted to a customer clearly must be tracked so that a forecast of potential sales can be created. This also helps to provide feedback to marketing and measure the real value of leads from various sources. In the same way, a presentation or a proposal can often be the first point at which the customer has an opportunity to truly understand what is being offered and provide feedback about their interest and readiness.
If you typically proposes a small list of standard packages, then just tracking which option was offered to the customers, combined with other quantity info captured, can be sufficient. If every deal is unique, then the specific amount, products and services quoted must be captured.
Customers have a way of demanding changes to the proposal, so be careful not to require so much detail that the salesperson has to make tedious changes to both their proposals and the CRM to keep things straight. It’s important to remember that from a sales management perspective, all you really need to know is who many of the leads are resulting in a proposal or presentation and what the general economic value of those proposals are. It’s not important to know that the customer changed a few of the options included if it only changes the cost by 5%.
The best approach is to integrate the proposal process into the CRM so that the salesperson’s work in creating the proposal also creates the tracking data, without additional effort. This may require integration of the CRM with ERP or other operational systems.
The sales forecast is a function of the proposals “in play” and their likelihood of closing in a given timeframe. It seems simple enough but, the problem is mainly that salespeople tend to be overly optimistic.
Management has to provide objective criteria for assessing the likelihood of each deal and for “killing” a proposal from a forecast point of view.
Salespeople tend to fall in love with each opportunity and unless the customer actually says “the deal is dead”, they’ll be eternally hopeful that this month, the customer will be ready. This results in a pipeline that looks extremely full of deals, most of which were dead months ago.
There is tremendous value in coaching salespeople around clearly identifying the decision making process of the customer, and the “pain” that will motivate the customer to purchase. However, the sales forecast is not for facilitating that coaching. The sales forecast is about forecasting revenue for the business. It is of far greater value to have reliable, consistent numbers with which to run the business. Don’t be tempted to try and quantify or objectify the nuance inherent in the customer’s organization and situation.
The best approach is simple for the salespeople to understand and manage. Identify “stages” of the deal and assign percentages to each stage. The forecast is the sum of the amount at each stage multiplied by the percentage of that stage. Simple right?
The problem arises in 3 areas:
- Proposals are offered too early in the process, and to “unqualified” customers.
- The stages are arbitrary or subjective.
- Deals stall and get stuck in the pipeline.
Best practices in Sales Pipeline Stages
Set very clear criteria that a customer must meet before receiving a proposal/quote/presentation. Ensure that the salespeople aren’t wasting their time on this time-consuming step before the customer is ready.
Base the stages on the customer’s buying process, not your sales process. What are the steps/stages the customer goes through in selecting a product like yours?
Penalize deals that stay at the same stage for too long. Move them out of the forecast/pipeline all together or move them back a stage or two. Make the maximum time frame that a deal sits at one place in the forecast a function of your typical sales cycle. If deals typically go from proposal to close in a week, then a deal shouldn’t stay stuck for more than a couple of days. If the cycle is several months, than perhaps a deal could stay stuck for a couple of weeks, but don’t let them stay where they are more than a month! They can always come back into the pipeline,but this gives salespeople extra focus on forward movement and helps them let go of deals that are dead or dying before too much time has gone by.
We’ve talked about tracking the number of calls made to a given lead. However, since phone calls and conversations are most often the main driver of opportunity for a salesperson, it’s very important to set expectations and measure results around calling. Logging calls is one of the activities salespeople frequently push back on the most when adopting a new CRM, so knowing that management is measuring it can overcome that resistance quickly.
- Track calls logged by lead status.
- There should be a lot of calls to new leads and fewer calls to qualified leads and deals in the pipeline.
- Give salespeople benchmarks on a daily or weekly basis.
When a new CRM is rolled out to the sales team, there will inevitably be complaints about how difficult and time consuming it is to use. Believe it or not, you’ll find an inverse correlation between those that complain about the time required to use the sales CRM and the number of times they logon to the system. In other words, you’ll find that those that complain the most are not even trying to use the system. It’s an excuse.
That’s why having a measure of logons or time logged on is crucial in the beginning. It’s often effective to reward salespeople that are on the top of the logon chart in the initial weeks and months of implementation. It’s also important to quickly address those that are not. Give them training and support if needed, and make it clear that failure to adopt the system is not an option.