A sales report that worked well

Good reporting means providing business information that can be acted upon at the time when it is needed. In other words, a report that is value-adding should collect a series of facts that help answer a question.

In my case, the question was this: what do we need to know to control the achievement of our monthly sales targets? There are multiple levels at which this question may be relevant, my experience is from a business area level (organization with multiple sales and production units) in a growth phase.

Here are the key points of the report:

- audience: sales and production management, from VP to area managers

- timing - weekly, sent out every Monday morning

- view - forward looking, three months ahead and yearly best estimate

- content - monthly planned sales (yearly exercise), monthly forecast (monthly exercise), placed orders by requested delivery date (on-going), delivered goods volume (on-going) and current available stock (on-going)

The weekly report would trigger actions such as:

- if plan lower than forecast - investigate key assumptions that have changed and how can they be counteracted by other measures

- if current order level lower than forecast - find out which customers and which events led to the customer not placing orders as expected and what do we need to do to fix it

- if deliveries so far are below ordered level - check if there is a bottleneck in production that prevents the delivery of orders, take short term measures to bring production back on track

- if available stock is high and deliveries low - find out if the customer is not calling off the goods or if there is a bottleneck in logistics that prevents delivery

Such information triggers a call for action while there is still something that can be done. Also, it is beneficial in terms of learning and motivation because it provides quick feedback on the result of actions taken the week before or the month before. And the third benefit I would note is that it helps manage expectations about monthly results and improves understanding of business drivers.

You can download the report example here.

Beware of myopic business control

Anyone can give "maybe" answers