Sales activity data is unquestionably valuable for reps, front-line managers, execs, and the entire revenue operations team. But tracking every contact, every meeting, and every email exchanged with a prospect takes painstaking amounts of time that sales teams just don't have. The reality is that reps don't track sales activity in the CRM. At least not enough of it. They're spending their time selling—and who can blame them?
So what's the solution? You're doing yourself a disservice to live without the data. Without data, you don't know how your deals are progressing or where you have risk in the pipeline. It's also impossible to identify which prospects are actively engaged with your reps. For marketers, it's impossible to track the speed and depth at which leads you've generated are being worked by the sales teams.
However, you also know that asking reps to put in the data and trying to enforce it is pointless. Not only does it not work, but it's a distraction from their primary sales function. Sales activity trackers are only as good as their operators.
Over the years, technology has evolved to make capturing sales activity easier. We'll walk through three different ways to track sales activity data, including the pros and cons of each.
1. Manually tracking sales data in the CRM
A CRM (customer relationship management) system continues to be the system of record or repository for your customer data, including contact information and interactions with customers and leads.
Pros: The primary benefit of a CRM is that it provides a centralized place to store all customer related data. Most CRMs today are cloud-based, which means that they're accessible whether you're in the office or in the field. This centralization means that you have the potential for a single source of the truth. The key word here is "potential." There's a reason why, on average, 2 out of 5 CRM adoptions fail.
Cons: As alluded to above, CRMs have been around for a while, but they've never really seemed to work. The reason for that is two-fold:
- CRMs are a repository, but the data still needs to get into the system and much of this data entry is still manual, requiring reps to spend their time away from actually working deals.
- CRMs are the accounting systems designed to help you keep track of selling—but they don't really help you sell. This does not incentivize sales reps to spend their time keeping data accurate and up to date. And even when the data is in the CRM, it can be hard to get it out or view it in a meaningful way. Essentially, reps don't get any value back from all of the time spent entering data.
The biggest design flaw of CRM is the sheer amount of time it takes for reps to input data. However, you can do the following to help incentivize them, though most of these require lots of time and policing:
- Provide system training, so reps don't have to struggle with the tool.
- Look for a software that allows mobile access so reps can make updates away from their desks.
- Tie individual incentives and compensation plans to CRM usage and data maintenance.
2. Sales activity tracking with individual sales tools
There is a wide range of individual sales tools on the market today that already capture a lot of activity data—from sales engagement tools to conversational intelligence tools to sales enablement tools, and more.
Each tool in the sales tech stack helps teams solve an important problem throughout the sales funnel, and each provides an important signal about the health of an opportunity and how a deal is tracking in real time.
Pros: These sales tools are becoming pretty good at sales activity automation within each individual app. For example, Gong captures all of your sales conversations through phone calls, web conferences, and emails. Outreach helps track and analyze email, voice, and social outreach. Sales Navigator helps you identify and track data about prospects, leads, and customers on LinkedIn. Each provides dashboards that can help your sales team measure the amount of engagement between a rep and a prospect.
Cons: If you're using more than one sales tool (which is highly likely), it's impossible to see all of the sales activity from all of the systems at once from a birds-eye view. This means that you'll have to either switch back and forth between systems or export the data and spend time to painstakingly consolidate it. They're all separated and disconnected.
Each tool has its own purpose and use case, and while they're helpful if you want to track sales activity in a silo and look at a slice of engagement from an opportunity, you won't get the whole picture.
3. Automatically track sales activity and save reps time
Clari's connected revenue operations platform automatically harvests contacts and connects sales activity data from dozens of business systems to accounts and opportunities, creating a single source for the entire revenue operations team so your reps don't have to.
Pros: Clari was designed to be a solution to the problems discussed above. It automatically captures sales activity data from a multitude of sources including CRM, email, phone, calendaring systems, and updates your CRM, giving your reps time back to sell more. Plus, it includes dozens of integrations with third-party tools like the ones referenced in "Option 2" and many more.
With these integrations, contacts, business activity, and prospect engagement data are automatically captured and connected, providing a complete picture of the business that improves transparency and informs operational cadences like QBRs, 1:1s, and forecast calls.
It also means that your sales team can still use their favorite tools while automatically tracking and capturing important data in Clari for one holistic view of the entire revenue operations picture for shared sales pipeline visibility, better transparency, and alignment.
Cons: Clari isn't for every company. Some organizations may not be ready to make the shift to data transparency across the entire revenue team and it may require internal organizational and cultural change.
Track sales activity the right way for your team
Obviously, we're biased about this one, but we and our customers both agree that Clari helps them close deals. In a recent customer survey, more than 90% of reps say that Clari gives them time back to sell, 89% of managers noted better pipeline visibility, and 93% of sales leaders saw improved forecast accuracy.