Leading with Data is really a misnomer. I should've titled this article "Lead with Insight" - because, that's clearly what prospective customers are looking for in our sales conversations.

We know that successful sales take careful attention to process. Sometimes that process depends upon a firm handshake with a business owner, or a series of thoughtful conversations with a company's strategy team, or it comes down to a stellar presentation in front of key corporate leadership. Whatever the method, the goal is always the same: conversions that foster repeat and satisfied customers.

To that end, are you using data to augment your sales process?

Sales-reporting tools can open a window onto ways to sell better. As your reps input every piece of customer-relations management data, contact information, new leads, timelines, results, and the like, sales-reporting software helps to illuminate patterns and new ideas for go-forward approaches. 

If you’re using the technology already, you likely know the value of opening your team’s history up to data analysis. If you’re not, it’s a good time to pause and consider the possibilities of sales-reporting tools. Let's turn to the ways sales-reporting tools work, and to experts who make arguments for why data can make a huge difference for your team.

Leverage Reporting: Standards, Strategies, and Driving Conversions

Tracking the lifecycle of a sales process is nothing new. For decades, sales team leaders have done it in a number of ways. The benefits can be clearly stated.

“The results are always increased sales,” said Sandy Steinman, president at Background Checks Express. “The benefits are accountability, just knowing that [your sales rep] is going to review results with the sales manager makes for better and more productive sales calls … If a sales call did not end successfully we always have them indicate on the report exactly what caused the failure.” 

Data-driven sales reporting, almost always augmented by a standardization of how a company tracks its sales information, allows sales managers to take that accountability to new levels. The following examples are at the core of what sales-reporting tools can offer.

  • Real-time sales data means more dynamic sales leadership. A strong sales strategy takes time and consideration, but learning and reacting at the pace of your team’s successes (and setbacks) takes access to information. When that information is flowing in real time across a dedicated digital sales-reporting dashboard, leaders learn how decisions, victories, and other events impact the business. Whereas sales directors used to have to wait for sales results to come in at post-process briefings — or perhaps just the end of the day — sales-reporting savvy managers are poised help rescue deals that are on the verge of falling apart. It’s all about seeing it as it happens. That’s dynamic leadership.
  • Standardizing data saves time and empowers reps. One of the results of running your sales team’s work through real-time sales reporting is that it encourages your departments to standardize deal data and contact information across the board. That’s good for the whole sales process. “Now that I've been enforcing the standard people are becoming more effective and conducting better follow-up, and closing more deals,” said Jeremiah Boehner, senior director of sales at MyLikes. “Set a standard and be strict about enforcing it. “
  • Deeper reports make for finely tuned sales tactics. We spend a lot of our time talking about the whole funnel. That’s often what we see best under older models of reporting. Plug your team into a digital sales-reporting tool, however and suddenly you can ask even more granular questions: Does this outgoing e-mail call to action work better than another? Which one-pager is leveraging the most successful conversations for your reps? Does your team do better when it's offering a trial download, or is your product better suited to an on-site pitch? All of these A/B-type details become eminently — and more easily — addressable within the digital sales-reporting space.
  • The big picture inspires smarter team-building. Your sales-reporting is also a starting point when it comes to best configurtions of your team. Seeing which reps consistently close certain kind of sales allows you to fine-tune and assign your channel-specific experts to the accounts with which your data suggests they’re best aligned. In the end, you get a team that works in new ways, more successfully, and more of the time. 

How Do You Pick a Sales-Reporting Tool for Your Team?

The good news is that sales-reporting tools come in all shapes and sizes. If you’re a small- or medium-size business, there are packages for those. And if you run a massive team with a complicated list of products and services, there’s software for that as well. One helpful way to approach the question of what tool to consider is via this BuyerZone Q&A based tool-to-business matching feature at Business News Daily.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

“Find a coach,” said Boehner, regarding implementing sales-reporting tools for your growing team. “If you're new to this, then find someone who's done it before and ask them for tips. Learn from their mistakes and get ahead of problems  before they start. This will be invaluable as you scale a sales organization.”

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[PHOTO: Flickr: Creative Commons: Ken Teegardin: https://www.flickr.com/photos/teegardin/6093690339]

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