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Call Reports: Homework or Smart Work?

June 4, 2024
The author offers some tips on how to maximize the value of this often under-utilized resource.

A recent article published by WebFX, “20 Impressive CRM Statistics You Need to Know in 2024,” included some eye-opening statistics. One that caught my attention is the fact that 82% of organizations use CRM systems for sales reporting and process automation.

For a sales organization, effectively using a CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) can provide a competitive edge in identifying new product and project opportunities that could lead to higher sales revenues. CRM software is a digital platform where salespeople can record important information from customer meetings into a cloud-based program instantly visible to other CRM users within their company.

This presents a radical change in the sales reporting of bygone years when salespeople would be tasked with manually writing “call reports” submitted to sales management to determine the proper coaching or support opportunities to use with specific accounts or salespeople.

 

Talk to a group of veteran salespeople and they may very well say call reports are useless. That’s because their reports often go unread, or there is too much of a lag in time between when they write the report and when a manager reads it. Ultimately, they will tell you call reports are too much like homework and are not to be taken seriously.

However, with the many benefits that CRMs bring to companies, especially real-time information amongst a large group of potential decision makers, perhaps it’s time to reconsider and revisit the power of a sales call report. With companies investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into the technology, it’s important they train and hire professionals not driven by the platform but instead to drive results by properly embracing their CRM.

To do this will require engagement by both salespeople and sales managers. According to the Sales Education Foundation, the ten most important qualities that make for a great salesperson are charisma, persistence, drive, passion, good listening skills, empathy, problem-solving skills, confidence, knowledge and positive attitude. It would be difficult to argue with the importance of these skills. However, given the widespread use of CRMs, it’s surprising that writing skills are not among the top ten skills that were listed.

Once a CRM system is purchased and installed, salespeople are trained on the essential actions required to effectively find or enter data. Unfortunately, what often gets left out is a guideline of expectations for what information should be contained in call notes, and how to write them effectively. This will help stop sales managers from complaining that some call notes entered into the system are useless, and may prevent sales managers from eventually stopping to read the notes out of frustration or boredom.

When you ask Google, “What is a sales call report?,” it will direct you to  descriptions like, “an effective accountability tool,” “the crucial process of recording key insights and data from customer interactions,” or “product feedback, market trends and competitor intelligence.”

What makes a call note relevant is different for every organization depending on their core business. Important “intel” gathered from a customer could be different for a manufacturer versus a distributor. The key is to identify and establish the foundation for what to report, and then provide coaching on how to write reports.

Once this is established, the intended value of real-time collaboration, and support made possible by the CRM will improve communication, and result in sales growth, as well as professional growth for individual salespeople.

By reading their team’s call notes and sharing the information with inside sales and other support teams, the manager will be laying the groundwork for positive collaboration between departments, while utilizing current customer intel to develop strategic growth initiatives.

The burden of reading reports, coaching and building strategic vision does not rest solely with sales managers. To be fully effective, every level of management including the C-Suite, must be committed to using its CRM system as a data collection point and ongoing communication tool. Yet surprisingly, many CRM user companies report their C-Suite executives do not have log-in credentials for their company’s system.

With a six-figure plus annual price tag for a tool whose value is only as good as the information entered by the user, it’s critical that call report content be clear, concise and meaningful. Measuring ROI can be difficult if not impossible without solid reports. Meanwhile, companies continue to invest CRMs at a blistering pace. As we approach the midway point of the 2020s, perhaps now is a good time for C-Suite executives to commit to using their CRM, while managers set aside time to read the sales call reports generated by their team, and coach them to write notes that provide value to the organization. Finally, salespeople must embrace writing notes that enlighten and inform their business partners, instead of checking a mandated box.

In the long run, the value of a CRM is measured by the quality of the data it contains. The quality of the sales call content can be the difference between marginal or record setting growth. The dividends the system will pay are proportionate to the training and guidelines extended to every CRM user.

As the founder and president of formed Sincerely Speaking llc, Mark Serafino coaches and mentors individuals and groups in personal communications, leadership and management skills. He spent more than three decades working in wholesale distribution. You can reach him at [email protected].

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author

Mark Serafino

Mark Serafino spent more than three decades working in wholesale distribution, most recently as a senior sales executive with OmniCable.. After retiring, he formed Strictly Speaking LLC. coaching and mentoring individuals and groups in personal communications and leadership and management skills. [email protected]

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