What is Sales Management by Exception (and Why it’s Critical)

Typically, sales management operates within strict rules, norms and best practices. The sales process is strictly adhered and the sales manager has developed a regular cadence with his or her sales reps. All is well, until unfortunate exceptions arise, at which point, sales managers have no choice but to…manage by exception!

Sales management by exception is becoming increasingly critical, especially for sales operations and organizations working within Salesforce.com. But what exactly does management by exception mean?

What is Sales Management by Exception?

Generally speaking, management by exception focuses on tackling situations that deviate from the norm, and hence, are exceptions to the common rule. For example, there might be a unique corner case that arises with a particular set of clients, or issues that crop up regarding the company’s infrastructure. Since these are not the manager’s primary concerns, yet still fall on his plate, he must now manage these exceptions.

For the purposes of our discussion, the more interesting and relevant use case for management by exception is applied in business intelligence, where there are statistically significant anomalies or red flags in a company’s data and sales metrics. Sales management by exception allows a sales manager to quickly pinpoint those statistical anomalies and deal with them on their own, instead of having to sift through reams and reams of data just to find them.

As you can imagine, this is critical to sales management in Salesforce.com CRM. Sales management by exception when working in Salesforce can help…

  • Improve data hygiene and ensure clean information is being entered. As your sales reps are constantly entering data into Salesforce, it is critical that the information being entered is 100% accurate – even the smallest data quality errors can lead to calamities down the line. Sales management by exception can help keep your data clean.

  • Institutes a system of checks and balances. For a sales organization, a potential deal that slips through the cracks is a cardinal sin. Sales management by exception provides an additional layer of checks and balances to find these outliers and ensure that they are handled before they disappear into obscurity.

  • Takes care of conversations or issues that keep cropping up. Let’s say one of your sales reps has a problem with entering overdue closed dates, or leaving value fields empty on his opportunities in Salesforce. Running a weekly exception report, you see that these issues are happening with increasing frequency, despite your past admonishments. Now, you can point to the exception reports and say to this rep, “I’m going to take these opportunities away from you and give them to someone else, since you’ve proven that you can’t enter the correct close dates in Salesforce.”

  • Increase efficiency of your sales process. Your sales reps need to call their marketing-qualified leads on the same day they were generated, to best take advantage of these ‘hot’ leads. Running an exception report can find all the MQLs that were created but were not called on the day they were created, allowing you to identify the ones that need work and prioritizing them.


These are just a few examples of why sales management by exception is critical, especially to sales organizations who work extensively in Salesforce.com or some other CRM. In an upcoming post, we’ll outline the step-by-step process for running an exception report in Salesforce, so stay tuned!