Activity reporting is a proven technique for sales managers to check up on the performance of their teams against quotas and, in organizations that motivate their reps through competition, how each rep is doing relative to one another.
With an activity report, you can see…
Any time one of your team members completes and logs an activity
A count of all logged sales activities by user and type
The number of logged activities compared to quotas for each activity type
Your team’s activity effort compared with a previous timeframe
The amount of time spent on each activity
Notes associated with any activity
Nutshell customer Mike Dohrman, a vice president and sales manager at Gretna, Louisiana-based Acme Truck Line, Inc., has found that activity reporting can help to drive collaboration, as well as competition.
“We use [our CRM] mainly as a sales journal, to provide transparency in the sales function,” Dohrman says. “We have overlapping customers in different regions. We have an outside sales group that does a lot of luncheons and meetings, and we capture the sales calls in detail. Since I have the activity report, I don’t have to spend time in meetings interrogating each of our 23 reps on how they did last week. I can see how they did, and I know exactly what I need to talk to them about.”
The activity report is Dohrman’s go-to feature in Nutshell. The report tells him exactly how each of his reps are progressing toward meeting quotas and other goals, and how the team and individual reps are performing for any time interval. Dohrman can even drill down to see a rep’s performance with an individual customer.
“If something interesting is going on with a specific customer, or if the rep is spending an unusual amount of time with that customer, I don’t have to dig to get that information out of the rep,” he explains. “It’s right there in the report for both of us to see.”
Although sales reps are often wary of CRMs, seeing them primarily as a means for their managers to spy on them, CRM activity reports actually help sellers become more effective because it gives their managers the hard data necessary to provide actionable guidance and coaching—while keeping team meetings shorter and more productive, so reps can spend more of their day selling.
Quality Over Quantity
Because Acme Truck Line’s sales team consists of outside sales reps who are expected to be on the road frequently, Dohrman is not especially concerned with how much time they spend at their desks. What does matter is the number and quality of the calls they make over the course of the week.
“I’m not so much concerned about the time of day they make these calls,” he says, “but if I think there are any issues with their time management skills, it’s useful to know what days of the week they are, or aren’t, making calls. If someone is kicking butt on Wednesdays but slacking off on Fridays, that might be a concern or it might not. That person might be calling on an area where everybody takes a half day on Friday, or something of that nature.”
Dohrman relies heavily on the detail section of Nutshell’s activity report. “I need to see substance in the notes on the calls,” he insists. “If the rep just dropped by to say hello, that’s not a sales call—that’s a doughnut run.”
Dohrman critiques not only his reps’ selling techniques but their note-taking as well. “If I suggest five things I want them to ask during every sales call—what size trucks, what lanes they’re using, that kind of thing—then I want to see the finer points in the notes, so by the fifth sales call, I know everything there is to know about the company,” he explains. “I may never been to that company, but because it’s in the notes, I know all that. As a team, we all know all that.”
Effective call reporting comes more easily to some reps than others. “I explain it like this,” Dohrman says. “The driver has to fill out a bill of lading. We know when the goods are delivered and who accepted them. He brings us the bill of lading, and we invoice the customer. It’s no different for the sales rep. You didn’t make the sales call unless it’s in writing.”
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Acme reps call on thousands of customers across the U.S., many of whom are large, multi-site companies. A rep calling on one site may be in a position to gather useful intelligence on that same company’s decision-maker at another site, in someone else’s territory. (See: account-based sales) Effective call reporting, accessed through the CRM activity report, then, becomes much more than a sales management resource. It serves a knowledge management function, allowing each rep to open doors for his or her peers.
“If you find out about an opportunity with a big company in their Brownsville, Texas office, you don’t have to go to your sales manager to find out who calls on that company at their headquarters in Colorado,” Dohrman says. “You can just go to Nutshell, and that’s in the activity report with detailed notes.”
Sales teams typically maintain a balance between this kind of collaboration and performance-driving competition between reps. The system allows the sales manager to set goals and quotas for each rep, and for the team. Those goals can be used to fine tune each individual’s performance, and to administer incentive programs. These incentives can be based not just on the ultimate sales numbers, but on actions that management chooses to reinforce.
“If I see someone who is sending out way more emails and making way more phone calls than they are actually calling on people, I can see that and advise them on it,” Dohrman says.
The report is accessible to all of a team’s reps, who can see each other’s activity rates and notes. Of course, Acme sales managers are much more interested in the quality of the calls than they are in stoking competition between reps to see who can send out the most emails.