Exception Reports are a Sales Manager’s Best Friend

Every sales manager loves to see a completely blank exception report at the end of the day.

That’s because a blank report tells you that your team is doing everything right – calling every lead, entering quality data, and maintaining high activity levels. If anything hasn’t been done correctly, an exception report will notify you of the mistake and who exactly made it.

Exception reports are an incredibly powerful tool for sales managers, and can be customized to fit a number of different business goals. A report can tell you a lot about how your sales team is working day-to-day, and help you enforce best practices. Here is how you should use daily exception reports effectively to get the most out of your sales team and improve your business results.

Get Better Data

One of the most useful exception reports looks at how sales reps enter data into a CRM on a daily basis. If you’re having trouble with CRM adoption or overall data quality, an exception report can quickly solve those problems. You can configure the report to tell you a number of important facts, including:

  • Any reps that have left important fields in the CRM blank
  • Reps who aren’t using opportunity stages properly
  • Anytime a rep makes a critical data error

For example, an exception report can inform you if a sales rep has a lead that is labeled as active in the CRM, but that lead hasn’t been called in the past 30 days. With an automatic notification via email, you can simply forward the exception report to the offending rep with a note telling him or her to fix the error. You’ll be amazed at how quickly data entry across your team will improve when it’s enforced on a daily basis.

Improve Sales and Marketing Alignment

Every sales manager should also create an exception report to enforce the existing Service-Level Agreement with marketing. Part of every SLA includes an agreement of how quickly sales reps should ideally call new Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs). Research has shown that immediate follow-up results in higher conversion rates – so the faster reps can call new leads, the better. However, you also have to be realistic about your team’s abilities. If your marketing team is generating a huge number of MQLs and your reps can’t keep up, the exception report won’t inform you of the cause. You’ll simply see that every day you have 500 untouched MQLs. This isn’t necessarily a sign that your team is underperforming, but it may mean that it’s time to hire a few new sales reps to help keep up with the influx of leads.

As you can see in this exception report, the numbers of untouched MQLs on a high-functioning sales team are generally smaller. You’ll have sales reps that haven’t called a few MQLs, and it’s very easy to enforce the SLA using this report. With the right motivation, your reps will meet the SLA, make marketing happy, and see better results.

Reward the Right Sales Behaviors

All of these exception reports have the combined effect of pushing your team to work harder and do better by publicly calling out negative sales behaviors. Rather than being in the dark, you’ll be aware of everything that’s going on across your team. If you know that a specific sales behavior leads to better results for your business, you can create an exception report rewarding that behavior. However, you must be very cautious when setting up exception reports around specific goals. Make sure you consider:

  • What behavior the exception report is really rewarding
  • How that behavior benefits the overall business
  • Whether it is effectively measuring an important metric

This is a powerful tool that can have unintended consequences if used to enforce the wrong activities on your sales team. But used correctly, exception reports can do a world of good.

Now that you know how to implement exception reports, you can start to improve enforcement across your sales team. Just remember to say thank you to your sales team for every single blank exception report you see – every empty exception report is the result of a hard day’s work.