indexSomeone recently posted a question to the ?Sales Best Practices? group on LinkedIn asking, ?What is the best way to motivate my salespeople to complete call reports??. It generated a couple of dozen comments ranging from ?that?s part of their job? to ?that?s not what they get paid to do?. It was one of the most commented posts in a Sales Management-related LinkedIn group in recent memory.

Our perspective is that this is the wrong question to ask. The question shouldn?t be, ?how can I get more call reports??. It should be, ?how can I make it easier for my salespeople to capture and share what they learn during a sales call to strategize how to advance and close the deal??.

Fundamentally, the motivation shouldn’t be to increase the number of isolated call reports. The focus should be about developing a system to enable salespeople to more effectively manage, leverage, and communicate the knowledge they gather about a deal as they navigate through the sales process so they can (and here?s the key) increase the odds of winning the deal. We refer to this as ?deal knowledge management?.

Whether you call it a ?call report? or a ?deal knowledge management system?, a fair and inevitable question from the salesperson is WIIFM (what?s in it for me)? – as opposed to WTF? :) The answer needs to be that capturing and documenting what they learn will help them close more business and get better at their craft.

For this to happen/work, sales management needs to take a different perspective and tack. Rather than viewing a call report as primarily a means of tracking activity or ?policing? the rep (which is why reps hate doing call reports), you should look at this as a sales enablement opportunity to build a system that will allow you to coach your reps about how to close specific deals and, if applicable, enhance their questioning skills.

Here are three best practices for an effective deal knowledge management system.

1. Define deal knowledge capture goals. Define what knowledge you want your salespeople to obtain by outlining the questions you want them to ask at each stage of the sales process and what information you want them to document. It?s OK for some answers to be scribbled in their notepads, but others need to be input into your CRM. Make this distinction. One of the critical pieces of information that needs to be ascertained and reported after every call in order to understand the progress and health and likelihood of winning the deal is the outcome of the call relative to your sales process buyer-centric milestones.

2. Optimize CRM for deal knowledge management. Unless you create some uniformity around how deal knowledge will be collected and displayed, call notes entered in your CRM will range from acronyms to the Magna Carta, and not always written in the Queen?s English. Consistency grows in importance and benefit as a function of the number of reps that you have, average number of deals that they work, and the average number of ?subscribers? to each deal. To optimize your CRM system for deal knowledge management, create labels for key questions and populate related answer fields with multiple-choice answers that make it quick and simple for your reps to enter call details. You will do yourself a favor if you make it easier for yourself and anybody else that has vested interest in the progress and outcome of your deals to be able to quickly review deal progress details across the dozens of deals that make up your pipeline.

3. Make the customer the primary beneficiary. One way of getting reps into the habit of summarizing what they learned during their sales calls is to make it a requirement to send follow-up emails to their prospect at designated points in the sales process. These ?follow-up emails? recap the rep?s understanding of the prospect?s goals and requirements and outline the agreed-upon next steps. They can be attached to the opportunity record for easy reference. In this sense, the customer is the primary audience for the ?call report?. Make it easy for the rep to write these emails and easy for those following the deal to read them by equipping the reps with templates.

Deal knowledge management is the process of enabling reps to ask key questions and collect key information in a methodical manner as they work a deal through the sales process to help all concerned leverage this knowledge to close the deal. Developing an effective deal knowledge management process and system will help you more easily gain insight into what?s going on with your deals, which enables you to do a better job of assessing deal health and likelihood of close, and to identify deal risks earlier in the process. There is power in (deal) knowledge!