Every week, millions of sales reps across the globe have their one-on-ones with their managers. What’s common between most of them? Just before their meeting, they rush to CRM to update their opportunities.

“Make sure all of your opps are updated in Salesforce.” — Felt like a weekly lecture for me, as it does for most reps. Updating opportunities felt like the bane of my existence every time I had to do it. Why did I have that feeling though? Why was my manager always such a pain about it (no offense) and do they really need this done? Especially the “Next Step” field. It’s like without that, managers lose their minds! 

Yet, when I go to enter it, it tends to be this tiny little text box that has a character limit of 255. For you non-technical sales people out there, “character” also includes spaces (lovely, huh?). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hit that limit and have had to redo my entire statement to make it digestible for management. 

I also know there’s so much context and key information missing, there’s NO WAY someone could independently determine where my deal stands. Not to mention those companies who decide to force formatting requirements (i.e. You must enter a date in XX/XX/XX format and when you reference someone’s name, you must also include their title)… whelp…there goes 20% of my available space.

Or maybe you’re a rep that’s been blessed by a Sales Operations team that’s gotten rid of the standard next step field and has replaced it with a custom “long text” field that gives you somewhere between 32,768 characters and 131,072 characters. Now we’re talkin’! (sarcasm).

And let’s face it, a lot of rep updates consist of simply changing the date of the entry. The manager is likely none the wiser with so many deals to manage and no historical values of the next step field being displayed. I researched this topic and saw a lot of technical articles about how to extract the field history and blah, blah, blah. With all of this technology in our lives, I can’t believe this is even a challenge. There are literally companies receiving investor funding for making it easier to update fields in salesforce, which is mind boggling. 

For those that want a quick & easy way to update Salesforce, here’s a free google sheet template we created that’ll allow you to quickly update all of your opportunities on a single screen and have those updates push to Salesforce, including the next step field. No investor funding required. Ha! But, it should save you an hour or two per week, so we’re happy to do that for you.

In all seriousness though, let’s get back to those questions I posed earlier:

Why do I feel annoyed when I have to update all of my opportunities? 

It’s primarily because I’m doing so for the benefit of someone else and, for me, I struggle with that small space to articulate where the deal stands. If you have a fair number of deals, this can be a very time-consuming process. 

 

Why is my manager always a pain about these updates and do they really need this information?

You’re not the manager’s only rep and it’s impossible for a manager to remember every deal, so these updates should serve as a reminder to the manager about where each deal stands. And yes, they need this information so they can provide you with proper coaching. It’s the manager’s job to help you be as successful as possible. As part of that, he/she needs to see where you’re at, what you’re up against, and what you plan on doing next to progress the deal. With this information in hand, the manager can affirm your plan, stop you from making a bad move, or suggest alternatives to help you get to the next stage of the deal.

 

What should be contained in the update?

  • You should always ask yourself, “What is the next stage of the deal and what do I need to do next to get myself there?” The answer to this question is what should be in your update.
  • The content of updates could vary from deal to deal or company to company, depending on the complexity and length of your sales cycles. If you’re not working a complex deal, you can literally provide a play by play with each update (“Demo went over well with 2 of 3 stakeholders. Providing pricing next and need to schedule time with the stakeholder that’s struggling right now”).
  • But in the complex sale, there could be many more stakeholders and lots of different activities happening simultaneously, each of which could have their own update. You could have next steps per stakeholder even. Since the next step field is primarily for someone else’s benefit, and you’re going to have to verbally explain the complexities anyway, put items in the next step field that will remind you to verbally explain what you need to in your one-on-one. Example: “IT – Security Review. Evaluation Committee Meeting next week. Procurement – Engaged, but slow. Competitor ‘A’ causing challenges.” — These are all just ticklers for you, so you know what you want to cover with your manager in your one-on-one. 

 

How often should the next step field be updated?

Again, this depends. If you have short sales cycles that move fairly quickly, you could be updating that field often because you’re probably leveraging it for your own opportunity management; as opposed to entering text in that field for another person’s benefit. In my opinion, the next step field should only be updated when there’s a new next step, but that could cause angst with management as they might think you’re not working the deal if it’s been two weeks and the field hasn’t been updated. This is why looking at these fields alone isn’t good for management. There’s so much more to the story. But, let’s face it, unless management has the right technology in place to see the full picture, reps are going to be stuck updating this field on about a weekly basis to keep everyone at bay and satisfied.