Why Built-In Salesforce Reporting Is Hard

Salesforce.com Built-In Reporting - Open Deals

Salesforce’s “Open Deals” Report.
The actual screenshot is several feet tall.

As a VP Sales or CEO, at a minimum you need the following reports to run your sales team:

  • Pipeline status, over time and by employee
  • Funnel conversion, overall and by employee
  • Bookings vs goals or vs forecast

Ideally you want reports usable by not just the management team but also by employees themselves.
Unfortunately, this is what you get from built-in Salesforce.com reporting:

  • Long, list-oriented reports
  • Complex fields and joins that require a dedicated admin to understand
  • No usage by managers and employees

Salesforce.com reporting is powerful but requires a dedicated “data team” to manage, usually in conjunction with an expensive 3rd-party business intelligence system.
So, what do you do if you don’t want to spend on a dedicated internal data team?
[blockquote]DataXu is experiencing rapid growth, so we needed to better understand the volumes of prospect and customer data we collect in Salesforce.com.[/blockquote]

Excel Is Great…But Not For Standardized Reporting

Most companies turn to Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.
Excel is excellent at ad-hoc reporting. You can very quickly import a CSV of data, add columns of custom calculations, and create a bar chart to show a point.
However Excel fails dramatically with:

  • Ongoing update effort. Your data admin must spend 30 mins each Monday updating the spreadsheet. That adds up. And that’s only if you want the reports weekly…what if you want them daily?
  • Lack of accessibility. Reports are unreadable because they have 37 columns. They are on a server someplace people can’t remember, and only accessible via VPN. Admins have to manually send out updates. Sound familiar? Where is the web access and automatic data in your inbox?
  • Data quality. Garbage in, garbage out — calcualtions will not be accurate if the underlying data is not accurate.
Excel Reporting Example

Real example of Excel reporting: 61 columns and 520 rows. Oh, and this is the “Summary” sheet in the file!

(Excel has other issues like file size limits and report fragility — read our full article on 5 Ways To Tell You Have Outgrown Excel.)
So what does a company do if built-in Salesforce reports are too cumbersome and complex, but Excel reporting is unsuited as a permanent solution?

Salesforce Reporting Done Right

Opportunity Evolution

Example report: “What happened to the Jan’12 opportunities?”

The solution is a non-Excel reporting system for your Salesforce data.
Some features you will want:

  • Email delivery. Preferably nightly, and in one consolidated report — because inboxes are full enough as it is.
  • Integration with non-sales data sources like finance, marketing, telephony, support, and web tracking.
  • Data quality detection and fixing. Otherwise your reports will suffer from garbage in, garbage out syndrome.

Depending on your choice of system, it will be either a platform (you have/hire consultants to build reports on top for you) or a turnkey application (requires configuration but not development in order to get working for your team). Turnkey applications are generally better for small to medium sized companies where you do not want to hire a dedicated team to do custom development and then manage the platform.

Opportunity Funnel Report

Example report: Opportunity Funnel

Some reports you will want to look for (or build, if doing custom development):

  • Opportunity Funnel: where does conversion drop off in your sales funnel? If an employee has good or bad conversion, which stage in their funnel is the cause?
  • Opportunity Landscape: what opportunities are open and being worked? Which opportunities are closing soon, and do they have enough activity on them?
  • Pipeline: how strong is your pipeline for the end of this month? Next month? How is each employee’s pipeline?
  • Nightly composite email: one single email with a summary of that day’s activities, deals, and leaders.
  • Sales Leaderboard: who’s sold the most? Who has met quota this month?
  • Employee Scorecard: all of the information for a weekly or monthly sit-down review (activity, pipeline, wins and losses) with comparison versus that employee’s team or group.