Nowadays every sales manager uses some kind of sales tracking dashboard to manage the sales team on a day-to-day basis and to report to the top management. Unfortunately it is a pain to get the relevant data all in one place. And once it’s done, reports are usually put together with Excel.
Luckily most sales tools like HubSpot, Pipedrive and Streak offer dashboard solutions. However, very often third party data (e.g. from the HR department) is needed to create the desired sales KPIs. Hence, if you want all your metrics in one place, you will have to bite the bullet: Using Excel & Co. you will copy-paste every single data point from one platform to another.
That process is not only annoying. It is also error-prone and takes hours of your precious time. Time you could better spend on key-tasks, such as team management, deal closing and lead generation.
A Cloud Based Sales Dashboard Will Save Hours of Time
So just imagine the following: You enter the office on a Monday morning. You open your browser. And there they are: all the numbers you need for the meeting with the CEO.
Coming back from the meeting, you open the sales agent view in your dashboard to prepare this afternoon’s monthly performance review. At one glance you see the targets and the agent’s current achievements - i.e. all statistics to figure out how to improve the agents’ performance. Your sales agent also has her own dashboard, knows her personal performance indicators and will enter the meeting well-prepared.
On your way to the meeting room, you glance at the big screen hanging above the sales floor. Big numbers and clear graphs show the daily performance of each of your team members, ranked by the best performing agent.
How Does The Perfect Sales Dashboard Look Like?
We have seen dashboards ranging form a single graph per page to dashboards revealing all relevant information a sales manager needs to take action on, at a glance. In the end, there is no one-fits-all solution and it pretty much depends on and the individual needs of a company. However, there are certain dimensions dashboards can take into account.
A dashboard can address only one person, e.g. the sales manager. It can also have multiple levels of information and views. One to serve the CEO, one for the Head of Sales and one for each Sales Agent. Great dashboards allow users to click-through the data. Dive deeper, to the very single deal itself. Revealing in seconds who actually didn’t respond to a client yet.
The dashboards we build are the dashboards our clients need. Meaning, doing it the right way a dashboard will exactly serve the desired purpose.
7 Steps to Build a Cutting Edge Sales Dashboard
Let’s take look at the steps to build a great sales dashboard that makes sure you and your team are aligned on what really counts: Your sales goals!
- Gather stakeholders’ requirements for a dashboard
- Understand how the requirements can be met with KPIs
- Identify data sources to measure the KPIs
- Prototype and test the dashboard
- Evaluate and identify a dashboard solution
- Build, test and deploy your dashboard
- Launch your dashboard and introduce it to the team
On the way to the ideal dashboard we usually use our Dashboard-Framework. It contains various checklists, dashboard templates and examples of great sales dashboard. It helps you throughout the entire process from collecting relevant information to making sure nothing is overseen.
Step 1: Gather stakeholders’ requirements for a dashboard
To get started you need to answer 3 simple questions:
- Who is going to use your sales dashboard?
- How will the dashboard be used?
- What is the desired level of information?
Who is going to use your sales dashboard? Only the Sales Manager? Every Sales Agent? Maybe even the CEO? Or is any other party involved? Understanding this upfront helps to craft the right metrics for the right audience in the next steps.
How will the dashboard be used? Will it be the basis for certain meetings, such as monthly performance meetings with sales agents? Will it be used to display the metrics for everyone to see on a big screen in the office of the sales people? The answers to these questions will enable you to choose the right design of graphs, numbers, layout and so on.
What is the desired level of information? Is a top-level count of deals sufficient for every stakeholder? Or is it necessary to drill-down to the level of a single deal. In order to access all information like the contact person, last time contacted, “lost-reason” etc.? This also goes together with the ‘who’ to understand what metrics to choose.
In the Dashboard-Framework you will find a checklist walking you through the relevant questions. It can be used to document the results of your findings.
Step 2: Understand how the requirements can be met with KPIs
The second and most important step is to identify the right KPIs. Some Sales Managers know them already, some don’t and some only think they know them (but actually don’t). In our experience a good sales dashboard should contain at least the following:
- Number of new leads created per month (by source)
- Conversion rate of leads to opportunities
- Number of qualified opportunities created per month (and their estimated value)
- Conversion rate of opportunities to closed deals
- Booked revenues by
- New Business (new customers)
- Add-On Business (upselling, follow up etc. to active clients)
- Renewal Business (reactivating inactive clients)
In order to manage the entire sales funnel, knowing the output of each step might be of some interest:
- How many prospects have been contacted?
- How many leads have received the pitch?
- How many offers have been sent?
- How many offers are in negotiation?
- How many deals have been closed?
As Peter Drucker put it:
“What you can’t measure, you can’t manage”.
To understand the overall performance of the team it might be helpful to put a certain output in perspective, e.g. by dividing the “Prospects contacted” in a specific week by the available FTEs (s. below) in that specific week.
FTE means Full Time Equivalent. In comparison to “head counts” FTE is a measure for the actual capacity, taking part-timers, holidays etc. into account. Usually 1 FTE equals a full working day of 8 hours.
Step 3: Identify data sources to measure the KPIs
Once you know which KPIs you want to display, you will have to identify the data sources. Sticking to the above example, let’s say you want to display the prospects contacted by your sales team in a certain week per FTE.
The amount of prospects contacted in a certain week most certainly will be found in your CRM (Customer Relationship Management System). However, the employees available during that period will usually be found in your HR system. In other words, more than one data source holds the desired data.
Go through all of your KPIs and list the data sources and ideally the person responsible for them. If you need a template to do so, you can use our framework:
After figuring out which KPIs are relevant and where the data can be found, it’s getting technical. You will need to get access to the data sources and consolidate them. In general, there are several ways you can deal with that:
- Let your dashboard pull-in the data via its own integrations
- Import the data directly into a data-lake solution
- Collect the data via API-Calls from the platforms in use (or via e.g. Fivetran)
- Add data manually if no other option exists
Option 1: Dashboard Integrations
Your chosen dashboard-solution might come with several integrations. Google Data Studio for instance lets you pull-in data easily from several other Google products like G-Sheets.
In addition, several connectors exist to other third party platforms like Mailchimp. We will discuss the pros and cons of this and other dashboard solutions in a short while.
Option 2: Data-Lake Solution
Preferably, all relevant data (ideally from all systems in your company) will be or is already stored in one common data lake. Have a look at Microsoft ‘s Azure Data Lake or Googles BigQuery for how this could look like. This has the advantage that your dashboard can directly request all necessary data from the data lake. Any extension or new KPIs can be established fairly easily.
Solutions like Azure and BigQuery already offers thousands of integrations for external data sources. It is far easier to use these than working with APIs directly. Additionally, other departments in your company can profit from a consolidated data source as well.
Option 3: API Calls
You can also use API-Calls to pull the data directly into your data lake. This, however, has the disadvantage that you will have to build API-Calls for each of the systems you want to get data from. Building API calls “by hand” is probably a painful solution as a minimum of coding experience is required. If you still want to learn how to make API-calls yourself and use them for your sales dashboard, check out this tutorial. There are also data pipeline solutions out there making integrating API sources into your data-lake easier. For example, you could go with fivetran.
Option 4: Adding data manually
In some cases, you might only need very few data points and an integration is just not worth the trouble. If that’s the case, we would recommend using a temporary storage solution that can be updated by hand. E.g. a connection of a Google-Sheet to your database.
At this stage you might get to a point where a certain data set is just not accessible or simply does not exist. If that is the case: Go back to your Dashboard-Framework and rework your KPIs. Developing an alternative solution based on available data very often solves the problem. Think of what else you could measure to deduct the same conclusions.
Step 4: Prototype and test the dashboard
Now you have a set of metrics that can be tracked with the data at hand. The next step is to design and prototype your dashboard. We usually draft dashboards with pen and paper or as presentation slides first. You will get a good idea on what your dashboard will look like before wasting time playing around in a dashboard solution.
First decide on the priority of displayed information. The following questions might help you:
- Do you want to see data per month, week or even day, when you first open your screen?
- Would you like to see relations, e.g. prospects per FTE, or absolute numbers?
- Will a data drill down be required, to examine the underlying data?
Of course, there is no right or wrong answer to these questions. It depends on your specific situation. But there are best practices, e.g.: Make sure not to overwhelm your viewers. Instead, reduce the amount of displayed information to a minimum. Use colours etc. sparingly to emphasize the important parts.
You should also make sure that the data displayed is put into context. The number of closed deals of this month might only be interpretable when compared to the months before or the same month last year.
In many cases it proofed to be useful to arrange your dashboards in three columns:
- Current month activities
Call conversions, opened mails, mass mails sent, etc.
- Current month results/deals
Opportunities by stage, opportunities ready to be qualified, etc.
- Long-term results
E.g. year-to-year data: expected revenue from deals, pipeline sources by stage, etc.
Align with your stakeholders
Before you start building, testing and deploying your new sales dashboard, align your prototype with your stakeholders.
The tech and sales team, as well as your Top-Management might have a word to say about your prototype. If you don’t ask them upfront, you might have to do a lot of design and implementation work all over again.
Think of your dashboard as a product that you need to sell to your users. Try to figure out how they can benefit from it the most.
In our free “Dashboard-Framework” you find some sales dashboard examples for inspiration.
Step 5: Evaluate and identify a dashboard solution
Now, choose the tool to display your KPIs. If your company already has a solution in place, you could stick with that. You could, however, also decide on one of a variety of other options.
For our customers, we achieved great results working with tools such as Metabase or Google’s DataStudio. But as with other aspects, also the choice of the tool depends on your situation. Besides your dashboard draft, there are different criteria that you will need to evaluate to choose the right tool:
- Price level: Free vs. paid
- Infrastructure: Self-hosted vs. SaaS
- Access: Simple vs. detailed authorization per user/group
- Integrations: Less vs. more available data backends/systems, etc.
- Possible metrics: Simple charts vs. complex views & interfaces, drill-downs, etc.
Metabase is one of our tools of choice. It is completely free and open-source, relatively easy to use and install, has a very active online community and integrates well with Docker, AWS, and Heroku.
Because it has everything from simple to complex visualizations, it can be a great starting point that scales well with the company needs. It can also easily be used by both techy and non-techy people.
A simpler, hosted option could also be Google DataStudio. It integrates well with other Google Products and is free of charge. You can combine multiple data sources and it allows sharing and collaboration. It might, however, be a bit limiting in its focus on simple charts only.
If your company is not working with Google products, however, you might have to opt for another solution. Other great platforms - such as Tableau, Looker, etc. - might offer a way out, but can also be pricey.
In our free Dashboard-Framework you will find a detailed comparison of different tools including a short description, pricing information and pros and cons.
Step 6: Build, test and deploy your dashboard
Once you set up the desired tool, you can get started building your dashboard.
Different tools allow for different ways to create graphs. You can typically choose between a non-technical approach and a query language like SQL. In either case, you will have to select the right data sources, filter them and potentially aggregate them in different ways.
You can use e.g.:
- Count of records (e.g. total amount of deals)
- Aggregation based on time intervals (e.g. deals closed per week)
- Filter based on categories (e.g. show only deals generated from emails-campaigns), etc.
In most tools, you have more control using SQL than using the graphical interface. To continue in that direction, ask an expert for help. Usually you can find SQL-savvy colleagues in the tech- or business intelligence team.
Of course, we can provide help on that side as well. You can book a free introductory call with us.
Iterate if necessary: Before you publish the dashboard within the company you should test regarding usability and with a handful of chosen users and possibly iterate.
Once your dashboard is tested, you can focus on making it available to your colleagues. This step is heavily tool-specific. Some require you to simply sign up, build the dashboard and set it live, while others will require more technical deployment.
With DataStudio from Google, you can simply edit the dashboard and share the link to it with anyone from your organization who should be able to view it.
If you want to opt for a more powerful tool like Metabase, you will have to run through some set-up steps as outlined on their website. Talk to an expert again, if you need help with this more technical part.
Step 7: Launch your dashboard and introduce it to the team
Tell all stakeholders about the dashboard and where to find it. It’s like with every other tool - if nobody uses it, it’s useless.
We usually hold a short implementation workshop with our customers: We invite all involved people. Present the dashboard. Walk through the different functionalities and views. We also ask everybody to test it and get back to us with questions and feedback. Finally, to get everyone on board, we would send out the link to the dashboard and login credentials after the workshop.
Do I need an automated sales dashboard?
A sales dashboard is a must for every company that relies on their sales department. Whether it needs to be cloud based and fully automated solution is another question.
Surly not every situation requires completely integrated data from various kinds of sources. Sometimes you can just as easily track the performance of the sales team in a sheet or presentation that can be updated weekly.
Especially if your company is young, has a small staff and few customers, the sales process and circumstances might still change over time. Therefore, it’s more important to build a simple solution that can be extended and improved while the business grows.
But this will only support operations up to a point. When the company reaches a certain size and many people rely on efficient reports, a well-automated and well-organized sales dashboard transporting the right information to the right team member becomes absolutely crucial.
Altura.ai is a Berlin-based AI company. Our mission is to improve the performance of our clients using data- and machine learning technologies. If you would like to learn more about how your data and machine learning can help you, have a look at our showcases.
A sales dashboard is a first step in profiting from data. To create the best possible dashboards, we support our clients throughout all steps of the process described above. At Altura.ai we combine deep technological expertise with a strong track record of management and business consulting and combine both worlds for the profit of our clients.
If you would like to know how we can help you with this and other data and machine learning projects, we offer a free-of-charge initial assessment of your situation. Simply book a call with here!