An east coast entrepreneur I know said when he was a top salesperson for an adhesives company, he always turned in his call reports on time--sometimes even early--depending on when his assistant finished writing them, that is.
Unfortunately, his attitude isn't that unusual. Since the inception of call reports, salespeople have viewed them as tedious, homework-like tasks that have little to do with closing sales. In fact, many feel the reports get in the way of their jobs: Instead of being online, on the phone or in the customer's office, salespeople are sitting at their laptops entering data about who they saw, when, and what was accomplished--information they feel can easily be figured out by whether or not they got the order.
Most salespeople are also suspicious of call reports. Although they're told the purpose of these reports is to help them sell, salespeople are pretty sure they're actually used to monitor their work (which, of course, they are).
Still, entrepreneurs and their salespeople can learn a lot from these reports. The key is to make certain this old stand-by extracts crucial information and is presented as a tool to assist salespeople, not as something to help you keep tabs on them.
First, remember that call reports have two goals: to prepare a salesperson for a sales call, and to help a salesperson and manager (or owner, depending on the size of your business) analyze the call so future meetings with the client can be more successful.
Bill Kelley is an Arcadia, California, business writer and former editor of Sales and Marketing Management magazine.