Although salespeople view call reports as tedious, homework-like tasks, both business owners and 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.
Make sure the call reports contain key demographic information, including the time of year the customer usually makes purchases, prior purchases made, other suppliers used, the method of payment, and interest shown in other products. They should also list new projects the client is working on, and match them with the products or services your company offers. Keep in mind the client's promotional and marketing schedules. Other call reports tips to consider:

  • Include the amount of time spent with a client. Although it may not seem significant at first, sales reps might be surprised at how much time they're spending with nominal accounts where they've established strong personal relationships.
  • Use your call reports to rate clients. The most common way to rank your clients is by categorizing them with letter. For example, "A" clients being the best, "B" second best, and so on. Do this with your individual salespeople, with the goal being to move the "B" accounts and those below into a higher category. By looking at the demographic information and time spent with clients, you and the salesperson can often devise more effective sales strategies.
  • Keep them simple. Despite all the information required, reports don't have to be complicated. Much of the information can be listed numerically or alphabetically. The name of the company and key people aren't, of course, going to change before every call. Reports should be customized for your business, yet consistent throughout the sales force-that's the only way they can be analyzed.
  • Make sure the report states a quantifiable objective-a specific and measurable goal or set of goals. The objective may be to get a six-month consulting contract, sell 24 cases of coffee, or get an order to design new software for a medical group. Having a concrete objective is crucial and not just because it gives the salesperson something to shoot for-it gives a salesperson a reason to make the call in the first place.
  • Finally, use them. Make the time to read the reports. You may find buying patterns the salesperson missed or see ways a rep can spend his or her time more efficiently. In a nonconfrontational manner, talk to each salesperson about the reports, and let them know you want to help them. Tell salespeople what you found and make suggestions. In other words, manage your sales force effectively, and you'll see results.