Categories Articles, Sales and Marketing

Cross-object reporting in Salesforce.com is not easy. Yet, it is also an important capability, a necessary feature for CEOs, Sales VPs, Marketing VPs and other company decision makers to understanding their business and, more specifically, where that business is coming from. Essentially, cross-object reporting is all about connecting the dots, from one seemingly disparate object to another.

Sounds simple enough, right?

Unfortunately, cross-object reporting is not easily done in Salesforce.com. Decision makers at sales organizations need the type of visibility that cross-object reporting provides. What can they do to overcome this one big limitation of Salesforce.com reports?

How this is valuable

First, let’s take a look at some examples of why cross-object reporting is valuable in helping business leaders make better data-driven decisions.

1) Tracking the effectiveness of activities

Activities by your sales reps – calls, voicemails, emails, etc – are logged in Salesforce; each time a rep makes a sales call, that information should be closely tracked. Your reps are making these calls to try and convert leads into opportunities and, eventually, those opportunities into winning deals. As a Sales VP or sales manager, you want to know, “How many activities, on average, does it take to convert a lead into an opportunity? How many of our opportunities do we win? How can I draw a direct line between my rep’s activities and our winning deals?”

You need that information to make better decisions. For instance, if the data suggests that the more activities your reps make, the more deals they win, you could decide to implement higher activity goals. Or you might choose to hire more reps, to help perform more activities. Without connecting those dots, sales managers are operating blindly.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to connect those dots in Salesforce. Calls are logged as activities in Salesforce.com; opportunities are are an object, while deals are a type of opportunity stage. Essentially, those are 3 different objects that live across different parts of your Salesforce.com instance. That means cobbling together 2 or 3 different reports in order to gain that information you need.

2) Measuring the effectiveness of marketing efforts

Marketing creates leads, and attributes a lead source to this new batch of leads in Salesforce; for example, from buying a list. Then, sales goes ahead and wins a couple of deals this month. Now, as part of the deal retrospective, it’s time for your marketing ops admin or your sales manager to go back and answer, “From which lead sources did these deals come from?”

This type of marketing attribution is critical; decision makers need to know what’s working in marketing, what isn’t, and generally figure out where their business is coming from. Which campaign generated the most leads? Which campaign’s leads converted the best to opps? Is there a productive well that marketing can keep dipping back in over and over again?

Go a level deeper, and these complex questions become even more complicated (and even harder to do on a cross-object reporting level). Of the leads that you bought, how many were marketing-qualified leads (MQLs)? Which MQLs have been called? How many MQLs converted to winning deals? How many deals did you, the marketing operations manager, help your company win?

Again, these are disparate dots that are not easily connected. Leads and opportunities are different objects that live in different areas of your Salesforce instance.

3) Organizing the financials on deals

When a booking is completed, there’s still work for the company to be done, namely in collecting the revenue from that deal. You can pull up a table on each opportunity to track the scheduled revenue, i.e. when specifically the payments for that deal will come in.

Unfortunately, in identifying the lifetime value of a customer, or the future revenue from a customer, you will have to do some cross-object reporting. An account might have three different opportunities living in it. CEOs and CFOs need full visibility into how much is being paid for each opportunity, and when those payments are scheduled to come in. Relating winning deals back to their account requires linking these various objects together.

Why this is so difficult to do

You have three options for cross-object reporting with your Salesforce.com data:

1) Write an Apex trigger for a cross-object workflow

Cross-object workflows are when a field or event happens on one object, something else is concurrently changed on a related object. For instance, tracking closed-won opportunitied back to its originating lead source is such a popular ask that most companies have created an Apex trigger to point the lead source from the lead directly to the opportunity at the time of conversion.

The problem with writing these potentially complex Apex code triggers is that it changes what your Salesforce instance looks like, it only solves one challenge at a time, you have very limited room on an object and it’s very complicated to do yourself (or expensive, if you keep hiring people to do it for you).

2) Create multiple reports and export that information to Excel for analysis

You can also create multiple reports, and then add a cross filter to those reports.

You then have to export that data to Microsoft Excel and, using VLookups and a dedicated analyst, make some sense of that information in order to draw the trend patterns you need to run your business. In theory, this is a doable task. In practice, this is extremely time-consuming, leaves lots of room for error and requires the hiring or dedication of an analyst comfortable in Excel and diligent in data hygiene.

3) Use sales analytics software that pulls from your Salesforce data

Sales analytics software – like ours! – that pulls safely from your Salesforce.com data can solve many of these cross-object reporting problems. For instance, our activity reports can draw direct links between the number of calls made to the number of opportunities sourced. Our marketing reports reveal which of your influencing campaigns have been most effective, in terms of leads created, opportunities converted and bookings sourced.

Best of all? All of this information is available with just a few clicks, with dozens of different filters and pivots available too. No more creating custom reports, or exporting to Excel, or just throwing your hands up in frustration and not being able to get the data and information you need.

Cross-object reporting in Salesforce is a crucial element to effectively running your business by the numbers. Overcome the inherent difficulty of doing so – and eliminate any data errors that might arise from inconsistent process or complicated Salesforce manipulations – by using sales analytics software.

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