How CRM reporting can change your business

47% of CRM users report significant increases in customer retention; a key CRM feature that drives this statistic is reporting. Reporting allows businesses to zero in on customer behavior, improve the experience and increase retention.

It’s not just retention; CRM reporting helps businesses identify and sell with precision, but you have to get it right.

The Harvard Business Review recently examined the importance of deploying CRM reporting in the right way, outlining the myriad problems that poor CRM reporting pose. It covered points like sales reps withholding bad news, a lack of clarity around definitions and poor tracking of outcomes versus predictions.

Poor CRM reporting can give an illusion of control but actually deliver poor information. One tech asset manager CFO said:

“We just take the CRM forecast and give it a 20% haircut”.

It’s true to say this is not the most sophisticated approach to planning. In this article, we’re going to look at the huge value of CRM reporting and offer some tips to ensure it’s used effectively in your business.

The importance of CRM reporting

CRM reporting helps businesses in a few key ways:

  • It helps them distill what is happening in the business, a key advantage of deploying a CRM.
  • The data it provides helps make strategic business decisions.
  • Managers can track performance and make tactical changes where necessary.

CRM reporting comes in many forms (more on this in the next section) and is used by a range of stakeholders, sales reps, middle managers, C-Suite executives, and investors, who can all gain considerable insight from a CRM. For businesses implementing CRM, the reporting function is one of the key features to consider.

Check out our top ten CRM features that bring the highest ROI and benefits, and find out about reporting

A sales rep can evaluate their pipeline and make decisions on where to place their efforts.

A middle manager can track the performance of their team and use the data collected to report to senior management and make tactical changes.

An executive can see whether the strategy they’ve conceived is succeeding in the day-to-day reality of business operations.

An investor can see whether their investment is performing well or review the potential of a possible acquisition.

CRM reporting provides that data that drives informed decision making and can come in many forms; let’s take a look at some different types of CRM report.

What insights can CRM reports provide into overall business objectives?

There are many different types of CRM report, all offering insight into a different area of business activity.

Most CRMs will provide some basic reporting functionality:

  • Sales: looking at the sales pipeline and how the business is performing against target.
  • Marketing: tracking on campaigns from email to social media.
  • Customer data: assessing the customer profile for the business and insight on the most profitable customers.

Most CRMs will include out-of-the-box reporting and allow users to build customized reports. Dashboards are the standard quick view window into the report and designed to distill the key information in a simple format.

Sales reports

Tracking key sales metrics is crucial, especially in enterprise sales where the sales cycles can be lengthy. Reports should help the business understand how the sales team is performing and provide individual reps with direction on key activities.

In enterprise sales there is so much going on that it’s very easy to let tasks fall through the net; sales reports play a key role in keeping everyone on track.

A contacts report gives a sales rep a birds-eye view on the sales contacts in the database. This can be broken down by sector, job type, level of engagement, date of last contact and other attributes. This information can be interrogated to analyze a set of contacts, enabling sales reps to identify key contacts and find opportunities for introductions.

For example, if a sales rep is looking to break into a specific company they can find contacts that may have worked there, are at the same level or work in a related industry.

A sales funnel report gives an overview of all deals in the sales pipeline. This helps sales teams to identify where they should be focusing efforts and make sure nothing is missed.

Sales funnels should adhere to a certain ratio where a certain percentage of deals graduate to the next level in the funnel. By seeing a quick overview of the funnel sales teams can spot issues – perhaps there is not enough at the top of the funnel that will cause an issue in a few months or deals aren’t progressing through the funnel as expected which highlights an issue with the execution of the sales process or the quality of leads in the funnel.

A revenue report will help a business track revenue against targets while drilling down into where the revenue originates from.

For example, perhaps most revenue is generated from leads on LinkedIn or outbound telesales – understanding this can help drive marketing activity. It can also break down revenue by sales rep and assess their performance.

A wins and losses report will help a business understand if it’s winning or losing deals in real time. This is very useful for assessing individual rep and team performance against targets and industry benchmarks.

Profitability reports

These reports aren’t deal-focused; instead they look at revenue by customer. This is very useful for enterprise customers that use account-based marketing to drive revenues from existing customers.

Alongside revenue, the profitability report will include costs so the true value of a customer can be judged. For example, customers that generate large amounts of revenue but require a lot of management may actually have low profitability.

By assessing the profitability of current customers a business can start to make tactical decisions on where to focus account-based marketing efforts. Perhaps a specific business is worth putting more effort into or there is a particular type of client that is highly profitable. Whatever the finding, a business has the information to inform strategic decisions.

Sales forecasts

For all stakeholders, sales forecasts are perhaps the most important (and hardest) reports to produce. Using sales, CRM can improve the accuracy of reports by up to 40%.

Sales forecasts allow a business to plan effectively and deploy resources into the right area. If a business is bullish on sales and can see that there will be excess capital in three months then key capital investments can be made early – but if this forecast is wrong then they are spending money they don’t have. In short, it’s crucial that reports are as accurate as possible.

Check out our complete guide to selecting CRM for sales including key requirements and needs for sales teams

It’s especially difficult to build accurate reports in businesses that rely on a small number of high-ticket sales. It is hard to predict what will happen with large sales and there are often a small number of deals – one deal not closing can have a significant negative impact on sales.

A large number of sales reps struggle with predictions – there are often myriad factors, and guessing if and when deals will close is hard.

Nevertheless, an accurate sales report is important and sales teams should work hard to provide accurate information for the rest of the business.

One tactic for more predictive sales forecasting is to generate scenario analysis that looks at a range of outcomes. This is a useful exercise in itself because it makes the sales rep analyze the information in detail and come up with ideas on how to mitigate risk and achieve the best outcomes.

Goal progress reports

These reports can encompass a wide range of activities from sales and marketing to customer support. The reports look at a key metric and how the business is performing against that metric.

In marketing, for example, a goal progress report may look at how many website visitors to a certain page convert into email subscribers. In sales, a report may look at what percentage of proposals result in deals being signed or the average lifetime value of a customer. A customer service report may look at customer satisfaction or how long it takes for the business to answer support tickets.

Goal progress reports are important in a few ways:

  • They help the business think about what the most important metrics in the business are, the old saying that you “make what you measure” suggests you should think carefully about what you track. By using goal progress reports these conversations should be happening.
  • They help a business understand how they are performing against key metrics. Performance across a wide range of key goals can be evaluated alongside financial metrics so the business can start to understand cause and effect. A decrease in customer lifetime value may be correlated to a poor response rate to support tickets. It may not always be simple but key goals mean the analysis can begin.

The most valuable reports to run in your CRM

Every business has different reporting needs and will find value in different places; there are a few questions to consider when deciding what your most valuable reports are:

  1. Will this report change how we run the business? What changes will it generate and how important are they?
  2. How time-consuming is it to run this report accurately? Do the benefits outweigh the costs?
  3. Are there better reports we can use to drive change and improvement in our business?

Reporting should always be improved and the value of the reporting must be weighed up against cost. So many businesses report in the same way with little consideration for why.

Hopefully, this has given you an insight into the best CRM reports to deploy and perhaps more importantly how to approach the discipline of CRM reporting.

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Doug Haines

About the author…

Doug Haines has worked on a variety of CRM implementation projects and now writes on a wide range of topics. He is a regular contributor to Discover CRM

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Doug Haines

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