Sales reporting: method, tips for optimizing it

Sales reporting: methods and tips

Margot Bonhomme
June 11, 2024 - 5 min reading

All sales activities need to be monitored and evaluated. To do this, companies set up reporting systems, to analyze what's happening in the field (or online!), and implement corrective or improvement actions. The aim is always to facilitate the achievement of commercial and financial objectives.

But effective reporting can be time-consuming and complex. Sidely is here to help!

Here's what you'll find in this article: 

  1. We begin by defining the challenges of sales reporting;
  2. We'll look at how to create the reporting that's right for you, with an adaptive approach to your industry;
  3. We will list 10 tips from seasoned dir co to ensure good performance measurement;

What is sales reporting?

Sales reporting involves collecting and analyzing data on sales of products or services, with the aim of improving sales strategy and achieving the company's financial targets.

It is generally drawn up at the request of management and is intended for them.

Commercial reporting can cover : 

  • New biz sales ;
  • Additional sales (cross selling or up selling);
  • Customer retention, or churn;
  • Overall business activity.

This involves the creation of sales dashboards to analyze sales performance and support strategic decision-making.

The objectives of sales reporting are generally : 

  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the sales team as a whole ; 
  • Evaluating individual sales effectiveness ;
  • Tracking sales and identifying trends; 
  • Drawing up forecasts ; 
  • Identify problem areas in the sales process;
  • Manage the sales department's HR and budget;
  • Improve your sales pitch and techniques; 
  • Consolidate broader business reporting.

⚠️ Be careful not to confuse

This performance report therefore focuses on the results of individuals and teams, which differentiates it from the sales report, which is better suited to analyzing operations that do not require "human" sales action, such as transactions carried out via an e-commerce site, or other automated sales processes. 

Sales reporting is also to be distinguished from the sales report, also known as the visit report, a document that records the important elements of a contact with a prospect or customer (context, subjects discussed, current offer, next steps planned, etc.).

How to create a sales report

Here are a few important steps to follow for good sales reporting.

1) Define key objectives

Identify the main objectives you wish to achieve with your reporting. Generally speaking, this means highlighting the elements that will show whether sales activity is in line with the company's financial objectives. 

2) Choose the right KPIs

Select the most relevant KPIs that effectively measure the performance of your sales activity. This could include data such as monthly sales, conversion rate, sales per customer, etc.

3) Collect data consistently

Be sure to collect data consistently and accurately. Use appropriate tracking tools and ensure that all data is up-to-date and reliable.

4) Analyze trends and performance

Once you've collected your data, analyze it to identify trends, strengths and weaknesses in your business activity. This will help you understand what's working well and what can be improved.

5) Create clear, concise reports

Present your data clearly and concisely, using graphs, tables and visualizations to make information easy to understand. Make sure your reports highlight key points and recommendations for action.

6) Review and adjust

Review your reports regularly to ensure they remain relevant and useful. If necessary, adjust your KPIs or data collection method to better align your reporting with your business objectives.

→ These steps form a virtuous circle, shown in the diagram below.

Software and automated performance reporting

From a technical point of view, there are three main trends in the production of sales reports.

CRM Solutions

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. These are SaaS software solutions for organizing customer data collection, sales management, customer service and customer relations. There are generic solutions such as Salesforce, Pipedrive and Hubspot, and industry-specific solutions such as Sidely, the specialized CRM for field sales teams.

Business intelligence

Business intelligence (BI) software are applications designed to transform raw data into actionable information through the generation of easy-to-understand visual reports. These tools generally extract data from various sources, centralize it in a database and then generate interactive dashboards. Examples include Tableau and Microsoft Power BI.

Calculation sheets

Finally, very small businesses sometimes produce their sales reports manually, using tools such as Excel or Google Sheet. This practice has become rare, as SAAS tools are now affordable and easy to use.

🔧 When it comes to consolidating reporting data from a variety of IT and software tools, the subject of CRM integrations quickly comes to the fore! And with good reason: it's the best way to save time by automating the aggregation and structuring of reporting data. While CRM publishers generally provide integrations with third-party tools used extensively by their customers, you may have to develop specific programs to connect to applications that are not supported. In this case, you need to be careful about data security and confidentiality. And don't forget that these programs will need to be maintained! When choosing your reporting tools, take this into account.

Adapt sales reporting to your industry

Now that we've seen the basics of sales reporting, it's important to point out that the definition of key figures is closely correlated with your industry. To obtain relevant, usable information, you need to start by adapting sales reporting to your industry.

To better understand the importance of adapting your analyses, here are 3 typical industries in which it is essential to consider specific performance indicators.

Industry Specific KPI's
Pharmaceutical industry (medical representatives) Number of visits to healthcare professionals / Volume of orders by pharmacies VS number of RVs to physicians in the same region / Market share by product or therapeutic category / Market share by product or therapeutic category. Market share by product or therapeutic category /Market share by product or therapeutic category.
Consumer goods (direct sales) Number of product demonstrations / Demonstration-to-sales conversion rate / Sales volume by distribution channel (stores, events, etc.).
B2B service sales Number of sales appointments organized / Rate of conversion of appointments into signed contracts / Value of contracts signed by period.

Retail brands: how to measure your performance

But the sector that is the most complex to evaluate is certainly supermarket sales!

Firstly, because retailers do not systematically share sales figures by store with their suppliers, and secondly, because there are many possible explanations for this performance at point-of-sale (supply, assortment, merchandising, competition, promotions, etc.).

As a result, most brands send their sector managers on a tour of the stores that distribute their products, to collect information directly from the shelves.

In addition, there are many performance indicators in the retail sector: 

  • Digital retention (DtN) by sales outlet ;
  • Digital distribution (DN) ;
  • Sales achieved (sellout / sellin) ;
  • Number of appointments made in the month ;
  • Sales visits carried out ;
  • Number of active sales outlets ;
  • Follow-up of objectives (sales, activity...) ;
  • Year-on-year sales growth ;
  • Average weekly sales (VMH) ;
  • Etc.

To achieve this, it is essential that sales staff are equipped with a mobile shelf-reading CRM. Because, as we've seen, the relevance of sales reporting depends first and foremost on the quality of the data it contains.

10 keys to effective sales reporting

Let's end with a list of tips to ensure that your reporting is effective and, above all, has an impact!

  1. Define clear objectives: they must be precise, measurable, reliable and reflect the performance expected by the organization;
  2. Limit key indicators: a good sales report concentrates on essential indicators. More in-depth analysis is justified by a hunch or an inapparent problem. But your sales reports must be simple to read and interpret;
  3. Automate data collection: using CRM or BI tools;
  4. Ensure data quality: data veracity must be assessable over time. Keep the source data, and if necessary set up regular quality control; 
  5. Incorporate visual representations: graphs and tables make it easier to assimilate key figures;
  6. Analyze trends and correlations: provide contextual information to help you understand trends and anticipate future movements. Is the steady decline in sales of a product over the last six months linked to the market, to a lack of sales training, to the launch of competing products, etc.?
  7. Involve all stakeholders: all sales-related teams are involved: sales, marketing, management, etc. Salespeople are obliged to fill in the CRM, and the importance of their contribution must be understood by all.
  8. Establish a regular reporting rhythm: reporting is a necessary ritual that must be planned and carried out on time;
  9. Compare reporting with forecasts: at the beginning of the month, ask salespeople to provide a detailed breakdown of the sales they expect to achieve. This "pipe" allows sales reps to be clear and transparent about their progress towards the target, and gives the manager a precise picture of the situation. At the end of the month, compare results with forecasts, so as to identify the levers for success or failure;‍
  10. Leverage your analyses: management needs to work on motivation and authority based on sales reports. Salespeople need to know that results are being taken into account, and that their management is acting accordingly and proportionately, whether by rewarding results or implementing action plans to return to performance.
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