In my previous article I explained why, when it comes to CRM reports, less is more. Much more. In most companies, salespeople and sales leaders are inundated with data from their CRM systems, and the resulting information overload drives them crazy. In the few organizations I know that have taken the opposite approach of reducing the number of sales reports into the single digits, CRM adoption is thriving. In these companies, users flock to the system because there is no extraneous data to sift through. Instead, only the information each person needs to succeed in his or her role is presented, cleanly and clearly.

If you’ve made the game-changing decision to reduce the number of reports delivered to your CRM users, the question you now face is: “How?” How do you set about identifying and eliminating all of the unnecessary data that you provide to the sales team? What information is safe to take away from the field and what isn’t? Obviously, you don’t want to cut any data sellers need to make critical decisions, but you also don’t want to leave them with a school of red herrings to distract them from what’s important.

Deciding what to cut begins with identifying the roles you need to support with data. Who will be relying on reports generated from the CRM system to make key operational decisions? Usually, these roles include the various levels of the sales organization, from sales rep through senior VP. Next, you need to understand the key decisions that people in each of those roles must make on a regular basis. What data do they need to inform those decisions? These data points—nothing more, nothing less—should be contained in your reports.

While the right data for each role varies by company, here are some general examples of how you might look at identifying the mission-critical data for each:

Sales Rep. Some of the key decisions salespeople need to make include:

  • Where are my greatest opportunities?
  • Is my pipeline healthy? (If not, where are the problem spots?)
  • What deals and customers should I be pursuing?

The data to support these decisions should include some measures of the opportunity in each territory, the health of the sales pipeline, and top priority customers.

Sales Manager. As a front-line leader, a sales manager’s key decisions revolve around the performance of his or her team. A manager’s questions might include:

  • Who is performing well and who is performing poorly?
  • How should I allocate my coaching time?
  • Are the right people in the right roles to succeed?

With this in mind, the data a manager needs would include measures of sales rep performance, sales pipeline analysis, and sales activity within each territory.

Sales VP. As a person responsible for meeting strategic goals over a large geographic area, VPs need data to help them answer big-picture questions such as:

  • Do I have sufficient headcount?
  • Does my sales team have the right training and tools to succeed?
  • Is our sales team on track to reach its goals?

Some of the data that would support these questions includes measures of staffing levels and territory coverage, hours of training per FTE, utilization of sales tools, and forecast analysis.

Getting to precisely which data each role needs takes careful thought and some amount of trial and error. How collaboratively you work to get there depends on your company culture. In one organization that successfully collapsed its CRM reports to fewer than 10, the sales operations team culled the data, provided the reports to users, and adjusted the reports as feedback came in. In another company, the process was much more collaborative, with stakeholders meeting as a group to hash through the particular data they needed.

However you go about paring back your reports, the important thing is to keep roles and their key decisions at the forefront of your evaluation of what to keep and what to toss. The reports each person receives should include only the data that supports their critical decisions. Anything else is extraneous and will only hamper the ability to reach smart, well-informed conclusions. And that’s when CRM becomes less of an asset and more of a liability.

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