Spreadsheets in B2B Sales -- It's Time to Automate

Spreadsheets are used extensively in B2B sales.  Rekener Sales Rep Scorecards will automate spreadsheets.  Save time, be happier and make more money.

Spreadsheets are alive and well in B2B sales.  There are lots of reasons to love them.  But there are plenty of reasons to hate them too.  In this post, I'll explore why spreadsheets are still so important and why you'll be so much happier and successful when you automate them.

Why spreadsheets are everywhere in B2B Sales?

At Rekener, we work with companies of all sizes.  In almost every company, sales leaders, from VPs to BDR team leads, are managing their teams using spreadsheets.  B2B sales managers spend their days on the sales floor and in meetings with sales reps.  They need the spreadsheets to manage everything from sales activity levels to forecasts.

There are four reasons why sales managers rely on spreadsheets:

  1. Cross-object reporting;
  2. Calculating performance ratios;
  3. Integrating multiple data sources; and  
  4. Including unstructured data.

Cross-object reporting

In our experience, B2B sales managers track 7+ metrics for their reps.  In Salesforce or other CRMs, these metrics are stored as fields on different data objects. 

The typical Salesforce dashboard has multiple different graphs that show how sales reps are performing for different metrics.  As the number of metrics increases, the dashboard format becomes unwieldy really fast. 

B2B sales managers hack this problem by exporting the CRM data into a spreadsheet where they can roll up the data to the sales rep level.  This is really valuable in weekly one-on-ones.  

Calculating performance ratios  

Lots of metrics track the quantity of activities and results.  For example, number of calls and number of demos are both quantity metrics. 

Performance ratios are really valuable for sales managers because they help assess the quality of activities.  For example, the ratio of calls to demos can indicate whether or not a sales rep is making the most of her calls.

Spreadsheets are great for performance ratios because it is easy to create formulas based on different metrics.  It doesn't take any technical skill and the ratio can quickly be applied to an entire set of reps on a single spreadsheet.

Integrating multiple data sources 

The number of sales tools is proliferating.  Sales managers track email campaigns in sales engagement tools like Outreach, SalesLoft and Yesware. 

Conversation intelligence products like Gong.io and Chorus.ai record and analyze customer calls.  Sales enablement products like content delivery tools and sales training systems also have lots of sales rep data.  

All of these tools have their own analytics, but sales leaders need it all consolidated.  Spreadsheets can be used to pull data from multiple different sources.  With the data in a spreadsheet, sales managers can do cross-object analysis and calculate performance ratios.  The caution is that these spreadsheets can turn into monsters (in size and complexity) very quickly.

Including unstructured data  

Unstructured data such as call recordings, call transcripts, messaging transcripts and sales training data is available today like never before.  This is because of the decrease in storage costs and the emergence of "AI" technology such as natural language processing that can find key words and topics in large amounts of text. 

This data is really valuable if it can be integrated with quantity metrics and performance ratios and rolled up to the sales rep level.  The unstructured data makes it possible for sales managers to diagnose problems when performance is down.  For example, if the call per demo ratio is bad for a certain rep, a sales manager can quickly assess whether she is hitting the right key words in her calls.

Spreadsheets can handle unstructured data, but this can add to the "monster spreadsheet" problem too.

Why automate?

Automating spreadsheets will make you happier and more successful.  

  1. You'll save time;
  2. You'll be able to see more and gain better insight; and
  3. You'll generate better results.

Save time 

The biggest problem with spreadsheets is that they consume a ton of time.  Setting up spreadsheets takes a lot of time, and updating them takes more.  This problem gets worse as spreadsheets become more complex.

See more, gain better insight

Spreadsheets can get very big and complex.  This limits the number of data sources that you can integrate, and how much history you can pull in.  Plus, if you want to analyze data for different time periods, you need to create multiple spreadsheets. 

With an automated solution, you can scale the number of data sources and quickly visualize the data by different time periods.  You can even see how data changes over time.  With more data and more flexibility to manipulate the data, it's possible to gain better insight into what's working and what isn't.

Generate better results

When you have more time and a clear idea of what's working and what isn't, you can apply your efforts where it will have the biggest impact on results. 

For B2B sales managers, this can play out in many ways.  If you can see where a sales rep is struggling with a certain performance ratio, you can zero in on call recordings to diagnose the problem. From there you can coach. 

Another example is pipeline analysis.  If you break your pipeline up into stages, stage duration and conversion rate metrics can shine light on bottlenecks.  If you know where the problem is, you can fix it.

Automating Spreadsheets for B2B Sales

Automating spreadsheets is a big and expensive project if you try to build your own solution.  There are multiple steps:

  • Set up a cloud-based data lake;
  • Integrate data sources; 
  • Roll up the data to the sales rep and sales team level;
  • Create quantity metrics and performance ratios;
  • Build tables and visualizations; and
  • Make the entire thing usable by sales managers in their sales process.

General Purpose Business Intelligence Tools. One approach is to do all this using general purpose business intelligence tools.  A BI solution can handle a lot of data from many sources, the data is automatically updated, and the analytics can be very sophisticated.  The big problem is that it is extremely expensive in terms of total cost of ownership.  

The cost of the BI software is a small fraction of the total cost.  You also need to factor in the cost of the cloud data platform and the integration of data sources.  You'll need IT people to help with all this.

The biggest cost of a BI solution is the team of business analysts with SQL skills. In essence, the business analysts build your applications and then use the BI tool to give you the charts and graphs that your team needs.  

The total cost of this solution will be measured in hundreds of thousands of dollars.  And it takes a long time to set up.  Often, the total set up will take 9 months to a year.

Rekener's Sales Rep Scorecards.  Sales Rep Scorecards have all the power of a general purpose BI tool but without the massive expense in time and money. 

Rekener automatically sets up the data lake.  Then, Rekener integrates data sources including Salesforce CRM or HubSpot CRM and other sources.  Finally, all the data is rolled up and joined together at the sales rep level.  This takes hours, not months.

Sales Rep Scorecards is an application that sits on top of Rekener's customer data platform.  The application is purpose-built for B2B sales.  Rekener does cross-object reporting at the sales rep and sales team levels.  Metrics can be visualized over time to see trends. 

The most important thing is that Sales Rep Scorecards are easy for sales leaders to use as part of their daily sales process.  They are perfect for one-on-ones as well as weekly metrics reviews.  And the data rolls up perfectly to speed up all the analysis for quarterly business reviews and sales kick offs.  

Here is an illustration of a typical sales manager's dashboard from Sales Rep Scorecards.

Sales Rep Scorecards have all the analytical power of spreadsheets but none of the headaches.  Sales Rep Scorecards is highly scalable and fully customizable to the way B2B sales team operate.

Learn More

Rekener's Sales Rep Scorecard app is the fastest and most powerful way to give your sales team powerful sales analytics.  Rekener offers a 14 day free trial.  During the trial, Rekener's customer solution team works with you to get Sales Rep Scorecard tuned to the way you run your sales team.  We crunch the data so you can focus on crushing your numbers. 

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Alex Laats

Alex is CEO and Founder of Rekener. Previously, he served as President and COO at ZeroTurnaround and as President of the Delta Division of BBN Technologies. At ZeroTurnaround, he grew high velocity inside sales by 6x in 3 years. At BBN, Alex co-founded RAMP and AVOKE, both recurring SaaS businesses based on BBN's world class speech recognition and natural language processing tech. Alex started his entrepreneurial career as founder and COO of NBX Corporation, which led the transformation of business telephone systems to Voice over IP. Alex’s companies have generated $500M in liquidity events and more than $1B in sales.

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