Deon Greyling, Managing Director at BTS
Euvin Naidoo, Head of Financial Institutions – Africa, Thomson ReutersSo, you know those sales dashboards that your sales leaders send, the ones you delete without reviewing?
Well, what if we could show you a way to make them the most read information in your organisation; something that people eagerly await and open within seconds after receiving?
You might be thinking “No way…Sales data is just sales data, right?”
If used well, sales data can be magical information that influences people to sell more, encourages sales conversations that engage the organization, and provides management tools for sales leaders to more effectively coach their sellers. Sellers doing well will feel like heroes, and those not meeting targets will feel like villains, letting their team down.
The key result is that they sell more, whether they are a ‘hero’ or ‘villain.’
Once, a country operations team was invited to get help improving their sales data. The country team said that the Head Office ‘has great sales information, while the country sales information is terrible.’ However, upon seeing the data the country team had, they were informed that it was the same data – the country team had just been using and applying it poorly.
The problem began with the fact that an unknown junior manager had been sending the sales dashboards and performance data to managers (who obviously did not know who this junior manager was, and therefore did not understand the importance of the information that was being sent.) Furthermore, the information was:
- Concealed in an attachment, in an e-mail with an obscure subject that no one opened,
- Displayed in a confusing and time-consuming format for those who did bother to look at it,
- As a result, it was simply “forwarded” from one person to another until it was finally received by the people who actually needed to respond to the information.
Therefore, nobody showed any interest in it!
In order for sales dashboards to have a real impact on sales results, significant thought and consideration needs to be put into answering the question “How do we want people to respond or react to the information when they view it?” This is referred to as the psychology of data and management information.
In essence, sales leaders need to adopt a systematic approach to how dashboards are presented in order to illicit the correct response or reaction. In most cases, this should be motivating the sellers who are behind on their numbers to sell more, and elevating the efforts of those sellers who are doing well.
From my 20 plus years of experience leading thousands of sellers across multiple cultures and countries, a key learning is that the right formatting and psychology of sending out daily sales results can be transformational on a team’s and business’ performance.
Taking the systematic approach below can make a material difference. These principles can be boiled down to the ‘Dynamic Dozen’ – a check list or set of 12 reference points. You can use the Dynamic Dozen as an additional reference to improve your current sales reporting and dashboards, or if starting a new process, embed these core sets of principles to set up the best possible process for success. The effort to get the data and reporting it into the system is tremendous. This ‘last mile’ of how to translate the sales data to the team on the ground is critical for your investment to yield the best impact. This means focused action by the team and better results. The question is: How do you score on each of these elements?
The Dynamic Dozen considerations for implementing sales dashboards:
- Using specific names next to sales results helps increase accountability. It is too generic if you display performance within a country, region or branch/store. Instead, enhance accountability by identifying specific country leaders, team leaders or sellers and noting their performance. Sellers can hide behind a country or department name but seeing their name next to a result makes it real for everyone, including the senior leader, since the results are highly visible.
- Don’t hide information in attachments. Attachments should never be used to display your sales dashboards. In today’s high speed digital world, people need to be able to read everything easily on their smartphones. Opening attachments can take too much time and they can also be easily ignored.
- Who sends the information matters. It matters who sends the sales dashboards. For example, the sales results would have much smaller impact if they were sent from an unknown junior manager than if the sales director sends them out – this gives the message weight.
- Who receives the information matters. It also makes a difference who the email is addressed to. If it is directly addressed only to the CEO, it transforms the importance and impact of the message. It then gives the CEO a chance to respond and say well done to top leaders and challenge or coach poor performers on a regular basis. To embed discipline in this process, the sales director should co-write the CEO response, check with the CEO weekly, and have the message sent by the CEO to the team.
- Who else receives the information matters. It matters who is copied on the email. Results should never need to be forwarded on to the relevant parties. Everyone who needs to see the message should be included. However, the recipients should be in a grouping such that the list is not too long when reading from your smartphone, since the results are the most important part of the message.
- Elevate the results of the top performers. The top performer should be congratulated in the subject title of the email. This way, the message says “well done” before it is even opened, encouraging people to open the email and see more.
- Ranking helps create urgency. Always rank everyone from top to bottom with top performers on the top.
- Colour coding makes data easy to interpret. Using colour coding helps recipients quickly interpret the results in the same way. A “robot” system is easy to interpret where green represents above target, amber 95% and red below 95% of target.
- Prioritize key messages in the first paragraph. The first few sentences should always congratulate top performers, followed by a summary of the critical sales results for the day in one or two lines (this may vary depending on your sales cadence.)
- Keep the information easy to digest. The overall results should not be longer than 2 pages. This ensures that the information is quickly digestible and covers the key numbers and results in no more than 5 minutes.
- Keep the measures consistent.The numbers displayed must be aligned to the contracted sales targets as agreed upon by the team. This ensures that there are no disputes over the numbers displayed and no discussion is tolerated on different numbers.
- Focus on both short-term and long-term performance. The results should display daily, quarterly and year-to-date performance. This format shows who is getting better and who is getting worse in the shorter and longer term, once again eliciting a positive response to sell more.
To summarise, the key output of the sales dashboard is to determine whether the named sales leader is a hero or a villain in performance. This should be clear within ten seconds of reading the information.
The colour coding and ranking of the salespeople should show everyone how they are performing. Being named a ‘hero’ should make the team member want to stay a hero by selling more, motivating and leading the group to win any incentives. The ‘villains’ should know that there is no hiding place, and become motivated to sell more, achieving targets in order to stop being one of worst performers in the group, something highly visible to everyone.
However, the top and worst performers are not the only challenging aspects to manage. It is the middle and average performers which are the hardest group for sales management and leadership to address – there’s much to be said on this topic, so we will be discussing that separately.
In summary, I have successfully applied this systematic approach, thinking, and philosophy for over twenty years as a sales executive. For my company, implementing this approach across 14 countries has led to seven years of significant income growth. Now everyone wants to be a hero.
Now, as promised, the sales dashboards are the most eagerly anticipated and read communications!