It's Your Call

Want better-than-average sales stats? Top-notch call reports can help youmake the grade.

Call reports share the same basic format regardless of industry. For example,they should include the prospect's name, address, business, buyer's name,assistant buyer's name, personal assistants and so on. If relevant, the reportshould also note the buyer's habits. Perhaps one cares more about delivery thanafter-sales service, while another won't see salespeople before 11 a.m. Allthis is critical information to help your sales force get through to clients,especially if more than one rep handles each account.

Effective call reports contain key demographic information, including the timeof year the customer usually makes purchases, prior purchases made, othersuppliers used, the method of payment, and interest shown in other products.The call reports should also list new projects the client is working on, andmatch them with the products or services your company offers. Keep in mind theclient's promotional and marketing schedules. Other call report tips toconsider:

Include the amount of time spent with a client. Although it may not seemsignificant at first, sales reps might be surprised at how much time they'respending with nominal accounts where they've established strong personalrelationships.

Use your call reports to rate clients. The most common way to rank yourclients is by categorizing them with letters. For example, "A" clients beingthe best; "B," second best; "C," third; and "D," strong prospects. Do this withyour individual salespeople, with the goal being to move the "B" accounts andthose below into higher categories. By looking at the demographic informationand time spent with clients, you and the salesperson can often devise moreeffective sales strategies.

Keep them simple. Despite all the information required, reports don'thave to be complicated. Much of the information can be listed numerically oralphabetically. The name of the company and key people aren't, of course, goingto change before every call. Reports should be customized for your business,yet consistent throughout the sales force--that's the only way they can beanalyzed.

Make sure the report states a quantifiable objective--a specific andmeasurable goal or set of goals. The objective may be to get a six-monthconsulting contract, sell 24 cases of coffee, or get an order to design newsoftware for a medical group. Having a concrete objective is crucial and notjust because it gives the salesperson something to shoot for: It gives asalesperson a reason to make the call in the first place.

Finally, use them. Make the time to read the reports. You may findbuying patterns the salesperson missed or see ways a rep can spend his or hertime more efficiently. In a nonconfrontational manner, talk to each salespersonabout the reports, and let them know you want to help them. Tell salespeoplewhat you found and make suggestions. In other words, manage your sales forceeffectively, and you'll see results.