Sales reports. Do you feel a headache coming on? Do you feel fatigued? Sudden loss of appetite? Shortness of breath, and so forth? That seems to happen to everyone from salespeople, managers, CFOs and owners. Like so many other reports, it is difficult to read and you may or may not like what the report is showing. Like a child eating vegetables, you know you need the reports, but you sure don’t want them.
In my experience, most sales reports need improvement. They have inaccurate data, they lack historical context, they are excessively complicated and they really aren’t telling you what you need to know. For most people, you check to see if the team hit their goals and, if so, you smile and move on, If not, you groan and move on. After all, it’s in the past now and there is nothing you can do about it. However, if you learn how to read a sales report objectively and reflectively, it can offer you so much more than a basic sales figure. Here are the 5 questions you should ask yourself every time you read a sales report to help make the headaches go away.
- Can I understand it? – This is not a question of how easy or hard a report is to read. That’s out of your control and reports are hard to change. Every report is trying to tell you a story and, if you are paying attention, you should be able to see trends. That’s the real story. Hitting goals is important, but it is also short lived. Finding trends helps you to enhance strategic advantages or correct defects that block success.
- Can I explain it? – Do the trends make sense? Can you explain why the numbers increase, decrease or stay the same? If you can’t understand the trends, then you cannot make meaningful change and, in sales, change is constant.
- Can I accept it? – Change is hard, and if the trends are indicating a need for a change or a change that is already happening, you must make a choice. If the trend shows that you are constantly achieving your goals, that is easy to accept. Not everyone is that lucky all the time.
- Can I change it? – Sales reports do not generate any action item other than to sell more. But there is so much more that we can do. You can identify the trend and if you choose not to accept it moving forward, what can you do to change it? This is where most of you will get stuck.
- Do I need help? – Change is easier with help. The worst thing you can do is identify the need for change and do nothing. That’s why you have a team; to help one another when a problem or opportunity arises. Talk openly with the team not just about the numbers that the sales report shows, but what trends you see and what can be done to stay ahead of your goals.