Sales organizations have more data at their fingertips than ever before. Rep activity data, sales pipeline data, financial data, customer data, and historical data are all readily accessible. Now, the problem facing Sales VPs, sales managers and CEOs is, “How the heck can we organize all this data so we can make some sense of it?”
Enter the sales dashboard.
Sales dashboards – displaying the essential real-time key performance indicators (KPIs) for your business in one place – are a must-have tool for sales organizations. The very busy data-driven Sales VP doesn’t have time to dig into the data and generate reports for analysis on a daily basis. They need that information in one place, available at a glance.
Unfortunately, most sales dashboards are slapdash efforts that aren’t streamlined, organized or very helpful at all. A spray-and-pray mentality of throwing spaghetti on your dashboard and seeing what sticks will not work. So, just how do you create a killer sales dashboard that can give you the actionable insights you need?
By following these 5 principles.
1) Begin with the audience in mind
Even if the dashboard you design is only for you, it’s important to think about what the audience – the people viewing and analyzing the dashboard – is trying to get out of it. Many organizations make the mistake of putting the data as a priority, instead of the audience’s needs. Some good questions to ask about your audience are:
What does my audience need?
How often will they look at the dashboard?
What are they specifically trying to get out of it?
What do they already know?
What kind of story am I trying to tell with our data?
What would you do if you knew this information?
Those last two questions might be the most critical ones to ask and answer. Dashboards, and the information provided by them, should drive productive action – it’s not just data for data’s sake. Once you have figured out the point of your dashboard, you can then go about creating one that serves that point.
2) Choose the right sales metrics to display
We mentioned how important it is to avoid displaying data just for data’s sake, and that means choosing the right sales metrics to display. You want data and sales reports that allow you to keep your finger on the pulse of your business at all times, and then pivoting and optimizing how you run your business as necessary. To choose the right sales metrics, make sure they fit these 4 criteria:
Actionable – the source of the problem and the necessary actions to take to rectify that problem are clear, as the sales metric changes both positively and negatively
Common interpretation – understanding the metric does not require a PhD in data science. The goal of the dashboard is to inform, not confuse
Transparent and simple – how the sales metric was generated is understandable
Accessible and credible data – the sales metrics are acquired from a source you trust, such as your Salesforce CRM or your Quickbooks instance. Of course, this means ensuring that the inputted data in that source is clean and reliable.
Through that lens, some of the key sales metrics that a Sales VP might want displayed on their sales dashboard include bookings to-date (how are we doing against our goals in this time period), sales forecast (how much business are we projected to close in this time period), the open sales pipeline (which opportunities are our reps currently working on), marketing-qualified leads generated (is marketing holding up their end of the bargain) and rep activities or bookings (the individual efforts of each of your reps).
3) Organize the information in a way that flows sensibly
A big part of answering the “So, what?” question is about storytelling – your data should tell a coherent story that informs your readers. This means organizing your dashboard in a layout that helps frame the content within the dashboard. All that content and data should be organized in a way that reflects the nature of the information. Like-minded sales metrics and reports that relate to each other should be logically placed near each other, in a linear flow.
Let’s imagine the story that the Sales VP above might tell. The first and most important part of the story might be how much the team has booked so far, establishing the contextual setting for the business. A natural next step might be to see what led to these bookings so far, in terms of the individual activities logged and deals closed by each rep. Marketing’s efforts in contributing to the bookings-to-date might also be included here.
Then, it’s time to look forward. You know how much you’ve booked to date – what does that mean for your sales forecast for the rest of this time period? In order to hit that sales forecast, your reps need sufficient pipeline opportunities to work on – do they have enough, as per your current sales pipeline? When the sales metrics are organized in this fashion, there is a natural and logical progression for any reader, asking and answering one question before moving on to the next, and so forth.
4) Clean it up – an ugly dashboard is an unused dashboard
Related to the organizational flow above, make sure that the aesthetics of your sales dashboard are clean, eye-catching and easy to read. Your sales dashboard doesn’t have to be a Picasso masterpiece, but it also shouldn’t be an ugly hunk of junk. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so design your sales dashboard in a way that makes you and your users comfortable.
A couple of tips we can suggest for sales dashboards across the board are:
Don’t clutter the screen. Brevity and simplicity is more effective than complexity.
Most minds are conditioned to read from the top left to the right, and down the screen. Take advantage of the top left-hand corner of your dashboard; this is your most valuable real estate.
5) Iterate as necessary
Nobody gets it right the first time around, and sales dashboards are not excluded. You should not rest on your laurels just because you have a workable sales dashboard created. Continue iterating and experimenting and moving things around, depending on what you and your audience needs. If you’re working with a dashboard – either in your CRM or your sales analytics product – that doesn’t allow for constant iteration or customization as to the needs of different individuals around your organization, you’re not getting the most out of it.
Sales dashboards are a great option for at-a-glance information, allowing Sales VPs and CEOs a great holistic and high-level overview of their company, team and performance. They can get the quick story they need, and then drill down deeper for further analysis. This only works if you have a great and functional dashboard, though. Follow these 5 principles and you will be on your way to creating a killer sales dashboard.