Good in, good out


A few decades ago the nascent computer age produced a few new acronyms for our lexicon. “GIGO” was among the more popular: garbage in, garbage out!

I don’t hear the term too often any more, though it certainly hasn’t lost its relevance…especially when it comes to sales call reports.

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There are two types of sales meeting reports: traditional and – what I like to call – business resource reports.

The traditional sales call report

Traditional call reports reflect the traditional sales mindset and traditional sales knowledge. They tend to be transactional and “responsive”…but not in a good sense of the term.

“Call reports play an important role in sales.”

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Here’s an example: “Met with Bill Smith at XYZ Manufacturing Company. Bill’s the economic buyer for widget purchases. He told me they’d be buying a total of 1,000 widgets and the decision would be made by the end of next month. XYZ likes our quality and trusts our company. Bill asked us to make several changes in our proposal. I’ve attached the details of Bill’s request. Sally, could you and your team work on this? Bill asked me to get back to him by the end of this week. Thanks!”

Step back for a minute and picture the actual interaction that produced the above report.

The business resource sales call report

Business resource call reports reflect the business resource mindset and business resource knowledge.

Here’s how a business resource salesperson might report on that same meeting (which, of course, was conducted quite differently from the way the traditional salesperson conducted it):

“Met with Bill Smith at XYZ Manufacturing. As we suspected, Bill is a classic ‘high title/low influence’ gatekeeper. Before I could even start my analysis of XYZ’s organizational dynamics Bill felt the need to inform me that he was the ‘decision-maker’ for widgets. He said they’d be buying 1,000. But when I asked him to talk a bit about what was happening in XYZ’s business that was driving their need for widgets, Bill spent five minutes saying nothing. My sense is that this opportunity is real. But until we can find out what the key drivers are I don’t think we should put any more time or money into XYZ. I’ve got a call into Jim Smith to request a phone meeting with him. Jim isn’t a heavyweight at XYZ, but he seems to know what’s going on there. I will attempt to get a handle on the political dynamics and key drivers from Jim.”

There are several things that distinguish the two reports. But the most prominent difference is this: the traditional version offers a regurgitation of a transaction, the business resource version offers analysis.

The basic structure of a good call report

Here are the three things that should be part of every call report.

  1. Summary: A quick, bulleted recap of the key things that you learned in the call.
  2. Analysis: This is what counts. And it’s one of two key things you’re being paid to do as a salesperson.
  3. Next steps: Specific action steps that will help your company advance the sales campaign. Advancing the sales campaign is the second key activity you’re being paid to do.

It’s interesting that in the above two call reports, the traditional version has the greater appearance of advancing the sales campaign. All that activity – re-working the proposal for Bill – creates the feeling (translated: the illusion) that things are moving forward at XYZ. But if you’re paying the bills, which one gives you the better feeling?

Call reports play an important role in sales. I’d like to propose we resurrect the GIGO acronym: good in, good out!

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