Salesforce reports have been a regular source of consternation among sales reps for as long as the customer relationship management software has been in use. Thousands of sales teams who utilize the software to track their sales opportunities and activities have ranted about the numerous difficulties in producing reports from their sales data. Here are five of the biggest limitations of Salesforce reports.
Too much training required
Vice-presidents of Sales should not have to invest a great deal of time in learning how to use or understand reports in Salesforce. Practically every report builder on the market – including Salesforce’s – lacks the intuitiveness necessary for easy out-of-the-box adoption, making them difficult to fully grasp. Sales VPs are unlikely to spend hours training and studying up on the many nuances of report builders. Many will end up delegating these reporting responsibilities to their Sales Operations team, sit back and hope for the best, without really digging into the data themselves. The more separation that Sales VPs have from the data, the less effective that information will ultimately be.
Furthermore, if a great deal of training is required for a sales VP to fully embrace Salesforce reports, odds are many other members of the sales team will require similar tutorials. This will produce a level of resistance and backlash that diminishes the overall impact of the CRM software, mitigating the net impact of having all this data at your fingertips. Sales reporting should be intuitive and not require a backbreaking amount of training.
When it comes to data visualization, the general public typically knows just enough to be dangerous. But they haven’t attended an Edward Tufte seminar, they haven’t read Stephen Few’s dashboard books and they certainly haven’t studied up extensively on data visualization. Salesforce.com provides a variety of visualization techniques in its reporting features – just enough, in fact, to encourage some poor practices.
When should you use a vertical bar chart versus a horizontal bar chart? Are dashboard gauges provided by reports in Salesforce ever a good idea? Do pie graphs fit in anywhere? Salesforce.com provides some commonly used data visualization tools – unfortunately, they are also commonly misused by their customers.
Problems sharing reports
Even if the best Salesforce reports have been built through the software, there are still a host of issues regarding the sharing of these reports. For starters, the Salesforce reports can only be sent to other paid users within Salesforce.com. If your CEO or board member isn’t a registered member, you’ll have to jump through several hoops just to circulate your report to them.
There are many options for scheduling recurring Salesforce reports, but none for sending out a one-off report right now. You have the option for scheduling daily, weekly or monthly reports in Salesforce to be sent in an estimated time in the future, depending on your job queue. Sometimes, immediacy can be a highly desired asset.
Difficult cross-object reporting
With so much data collected on Salesforce.com, many sales managers would be excited at the opportunity to study various objects for deeper trend analysis. Unfortunately, these managers will be hindered by Salesforce.com’s limited cross-object reporting capabilities.
For example, if a manager wanted to compare data on lead sources and opportunities to find out specifically how leads converted to revenue, they would have to pull two separate Salesforce reports, export them to Excel and then time-consumingly merge them to gain any sort of meaningful insights. A sales reporting tool like InsightSquared that is intuitive and allows for easy filtering of multiple different objects would not only provide managers with greater information, but also save them a great deal of time on Salesforce reporting.
Difficulties accessing historical data
One of the best benefits of CRM software is the capability to study historical data and make accurate forecasts using this data. The snapshotting capabilities on Salesforce.com allows this, with one catch – they must be planned out and set well in advance. This means that sales managers must have the foresight to predict the information they need….before they actually need them! Furthermore, the schedule of these snapshots cannot be changed once they’ve been set. If a manager has established monthly snapshots, but suddenly wants to look at weekly information, they are fresh out of luck.
As a CRM, Salesforce.com has many great features that should simplify the lives of both sales reps and sales managers. Unfortunately, the difficulty in intuitively producing and using reports in Salesforce limits the power of all the data collected. As a Sales VP, don’t let yourself be bogged down by the limitations of Salesforce reports to the point where the impact of having insightful data analytics is diminished.