Sales Reporting 101: A Definition and How It’s Done
A person with an unfurling roll of paper, representing sales reporting.
Sales Reporting: What it is and how to do it
A person with an unfurling roll of paper, representing sales reporting.

Sales Reporting: What it is and how to do it

Sales reporting is an essential part of running any successful business. Without accurate sales reporting, it would be near impossible to know whether a company is generating enough income to succeed, how a sales team is performing, where improvements can be made, and where to take the business next. 

In this post, we’ll explain exactly what sales reporting is, why it’s important for your business, and how to actually create an effective sales report.

What is a sales report?

To put it simply, a sales report is a cumulative record or document of a company’s sales data from a specific time period. This could be something like a recurring monthly sales report, a quarterly sales report, or an ad-hoc time period that’s most helpful to understanding the health of your business. A sales report can also be tailored to include information that is relevant to a particular department or stakeholder. 

For example, a marketing director may request a sales report to see whether a lead magnet their team created is generating any actual results for the sales team. If the lead magnet the marketing department created isn’t getting the desired results or generating any useful leads or sales, the marketing team could decide to reduce the time spent on initiatives of that nature in the future. 

When it comes to what a sales report actually includes, the answer can vary. A typical sales report usually includes details and info like the number of sales made, the total revenue generated during a specific time period, the average sale price, opportunities and pipeline information, and the sales team’s performance. In addition to this key data, they can also include other important KPIs, such as customer retention rates, conversion rates, and customer satisfaction scores. 

All of these metrics can help businesses understand not only how the business is performing from a strictly financial point of view, but how their sales efforts are impacting customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Why are sales reports important?

Usually completed by a sales manager or team lead, sales reporting provides valuable insights into the performance of a company’s sales team. This can help businesses identify areas for improvement and growth. 

Let’s take a closer look at the key benefits of sales reporting.

Better results and improved decision-making

Sales teams and managers can use sales reports to find trends and patterns that improve their productivity and results. They can identify the activities that are bringing about the best results and increase the time and energy spent in those areas—while decreasing or eliminating the activities, strategies, and behaviors that are not producing positive results. 

For example, if a sales representative is finding that sending a follow-up email after a discovery call is increasing the number of closed sales by 14%, the team can test this theory and start implementing this as a best practice. On the other hand, a sales report might reveal that the company’s cold-calling strategy is backfiring—information that could help make the case for pulling back on this kind of approach in the future. 

By tracking and analyzing information and data on sales metrics, sales managers can make informed decisions that drive growth, boost efficiency, and maximize revenue.

Less micromanagement 

When others across the organization aren’t able to get a clear picture of the sales team’s performance, it’s much more likely that they’ll double down and attempt to gain more control and insight through micromanagement tactics. When sales reports are created and shared proactively, those across the business can get a clear and transparent look into the company’s sales performance and feel in control, without excessive communication with the sales team lead. 

By providing everyone across the business — including the sales team’s manager — with a clear picture of how the team is performing, sales reporting helps eliminate the need for managers to constantly check in with the sales team and monitor their progress—something that everyone is sure to appreciate.

Improved tracking against goals

A sales team needs clear goals in order to get the best results possible. Individuals who set goals are ten times more likely to achieve them and succeed, something that experts say applies to businesses as well. 

Sales reporting helps organizations establish goals and achieve them. By comparing and analyzing sales data across reports, businesses can identify areas where they’re not hitting those objectives. With this information, sales managers and other decision-makers can make adjustments to their sales strategy.

How to write a sales report

Now that you understand what sales reporting is and why it’s important to your business, it’s time to actually write a sales report. While there are many different formats and methods for creating a sales report—along with different types of sales reports—we’ll be exploring an essential report structure that can get you started.

Here’s a high-level step-by-step guide to writing a sales report. 

Step 1: Understand your audience and purpose

Just like a writer will fine-tune their content for their audience, a sales report should be created with a clear purpose in mind. 

Some questions to ask when building a sales report include: 

  • Who is this report for? What do they need to know? 
  • What is the report trying to show? 
  • What time period should be covered? (ie. daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually, etc.) 
  • What information needs to be included? What can be left out? 

Asking these questions can help you focus the content of your report to ensure it’s as relevant to your audience as possible. 

Step 2: Gather your data 

Once you’ve established the key purpose of the report and your target audience, it’s time to gather the data your report needs. This can include but is not limited to: sales figures and results, the value of specific deals in the pipeline, the number of calls completed by your team, leads generated, customer satisfaction scores, customer demographic patterns, the impact of specific marketing campaigns, and/or individual salesperson performance.

Depending on your industry, your sales data can be gathered from your CRM software (e.g Salesforce), point-of-sale (POS), systems, the marketplace platform your team uses (e.g. Shopify), or other sales records and documents. 

Step 3: Build an outline

Now that you understand who you’re creating your sales report for and why, you can create a general outline for your report. 

This could be as simple as: 

Section 1: Intro and purpose of the report

Section 2: Data findings

Section 3: Insights and analysis 

Section 4: Next steps

Section 5: Conclusion

As soon as you’ve established a basic sales report structure, you can start filling in your sections with the relevant information and visuals.  

Step 4: Create visuals

Visuals offer an effective and engaging way of presenting information within a sales report. According to research conducted by 3M, “visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text, which means you can paint a picture for your audience much faster with an actual picture.”

While a simple spreadsheet is enough for some sales reports, most will benefit from visuals, like charts, graphs, infographics, and tables. For example, you could include a chart to show the overall high-level sales team performance over a certain period of time, or a line graph to show next year’s sales forecast. 

Step 5: Capture and share insights 

After you’ve added your data and visuals to your sales report, you’ll need to include a section with key insights that arose through the data analysis process. Without this crucial component of the sales report, the information presented doesn’t have any further impact or meaning. 

For example, if after examining the data you recognize that there was a sharp decline in sales during a two-day period in October, you can explain that your CRM software had an outage that impacted your team’s ability to close deals at that time. Alternatively, you can identify overall patterns such as an increase in sales at a specific time of day or with a specific sales rep, a boost in sales when new features of your product are launched, or a decrease in sales during the time period immediately following a product or membership price increase. 

The data analysis and insights section of the sales report is an invaluable resource that helps the business not only understand its overall performance but make better decisions in the future.   

Step Six: Conclude with next steps

Once you’ve written your report, incorporated eye-catching visuals, and provided your insights, it’s time to add a conclusion that specifies actionable next steps. This helps ensure your team stays on track and continues progressing toward departmental and overall business goals. 

Here, you can identify areas of improvement where your team can further optimize the sales process, assign responsibilities to specific team members, and set new deadlines and goals in order to keep the team focused, motivated, and accountable. 

(Sales) Reporting Live!

No matter the size of your business, taking the time for regular sales reporting can help you to better understand and sell to your customers, optimize your sales process, motivate your sales team, and drive continued growth and success.