The Expert’s Guide to Effective Sales Activity Tracking
No sales leader ever said, “I wish I knew less about what my reps are doing.”
And every sales leader says, “I wish I knew exactly what worked in our sales process.”
You need to see what reps are doing at each stage of a deal. You need to know what’s working out of all those activities. Then you can draw out insights to optimize your sales process as needed.
But to get there, you need clean, complete data. You must have a clear view into all rep behavior. Without that foundation, it’s impossible to generate data-backed findings on what activity matters, and any optimizations you bring to the sales process are merely guesses.
If your current sales activity tracking isn’t helping you drive revenue (and isn’t even getting the basics right), this guide is for you.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What is sales tracking?
- How do you track sales activity?
- Why is tracking sales activity important?
- What are the common challenges of sales activity tracking?
- How to set up sales activity tracking
What is sales tracking?
Sales tracking is the ongoing process of identifying logging, and measuring the activity that takes place in a sales cycle.
Sales activity tracking means monitoring all the micro-steps that are a part of closing a deal, from a rep’s email follow-up, to a stakeholder status call, to an outgoing LinkedIn message.
The more complex and lengthy the sales process, the more activity that takes place, and the more critical it becomes to understand which rep behaviors are having the greatest impact.
As tech innovations in the sales engagement space continue to roll out, sales activity tracking becomes even more essential.
“Sales activity tracking historically has been about administration: tracking emails, meetings, notes, and other customer interactions that helps managers and sales leaders alike understand the depth to which their reps are engaging with their customers and coach to best practices,” says Matt Haller, Sales Ops Expert at LinkedIn.
But now there’s another layer. Without a baseline of accurate sales data, revenue teams won’t be able to unlock the true potential of their team.
“With the advent of Generative AI, we are increasingly seeing companies leverage their internal data to give reps ‘next best actions’ and other selling guidance that frees reps to spend more time with customers. And just like building a house, the weaker your sales data foundation, the less effective your GAI efforts will be.”
How do you track sales activity?
There are only two options for tracking sales activity: the manual way, or the automated way.
If you’re like most companies, it will always be a mixture of both manual and automated data capture. However, depending on the effectiveness of the tool you select, your process can skew more towards one or the other.
Here are 5 types of sales tracking tools:
#1: Standalone sales engagement tool
Engagement solutions like Outreach or Salesloft write back sales data to Salesforce. The downside is if activity takes place outside the product, it won’t be logged with the rest of the data. This makes it hard to see and analyze holistically.
#2: Conversational intelligence tool
Products like Gong or Chorus analyze calls in their own platform, where sales leaders can listen to recordings and track call data like talk time. They can also write that data back to Salesforce.
As with sales engagement tools, the issue is that conversational intelligence tools can only track and write back or use the capability within a tool like Gong or Chorus to track when calls take place.
#3: CRM add-on tool
CRMs like Salesforce can track sales activity through manual data entry or an add-on data capture tool. Einstein Activity Capture, for instance, can connect to your inbox and calendar to add contacts, meetings, and emails.
While these tools help reduce manual inputs, users often have to settle for limited configuration options, data that isn’t reportable, and data stored in third-party databases.
#4: Forecasting add-on tool
Forecasting tools like Clari often have add-ons for sales data capture as well. Capturing sales activity to use in forecasting can be a useful way to minimize manual data entry.
Being built for forecasting first has its downsides, though. When it comes to activity capture, they’re often one-size-fits-all with little customization options, and integrations can lead to data inaccuracies or inconsistencies.
#5: Unified activity capture
Some tools are purpose-built for sales activity tracking. They gather complete and accurate data from across the GTM tech stack and write it back to Salesforce.
Tools like SetSail go beyond basic activity tracking with features like AI-powered enrichment, custom mapping logic, keyword and topic detection, and strict privacy and security controls.
Why is tracking sales activity important?
There are five clear reasons sales activity tracking is essential for data-driven revenue teams:
#1: See where reps should spend their time.
Your reps have a finite number of hours each week to strategically sell. While some may focus on productivity, smart revenue teams focus on impact.
What are the high-impact behaviors reps engage in that leads to the outsized results?
Instead of pushing reps to hit volume targets, i.e. send a certain number of emails, you can reward the behaviors that push deals forward.
For example, your data may show that when reps are able to meet with a VP within two weeks of the first introduction, the deal is 50% more likely to close. Once you have this insight, you can get reps focused on hitting this milestone.
Sales activity tracking is the first step because it provides the data foundation necessary to pull out these insights. Then you can rework the incentives and targets for your sales team accordingly.
#2: Optimize the sales process based on data, not hunches.
Whether you’re in operations, enablement, or leadership, you likely have plenty of experience that’s led you to a set of best practices for an enterprise sales process.
But once you have a good baseline sales process in place, how do you make it better?
Gathering anecdotal feedback from reps is fine, but it may not be enough proof to justify an org-wide process update, complete with training and goal-setting.
When you have the data to help justify a change in your team’s approach, you can move forward with more confidence. You have the evidence needed to build out effective training, and get everyone on board with the adjustments you want to make.
#3: Get a clearer picture of the pipeline.
Tired of your forecasts falling flat? If every quarter’s projection feels more and more like a shot in the dark, and there’s one too many asterisks on your targets, it’s not just you who’s going to lose confidence in the data.
With a better look at what’s actually happening in each deal, reps, managers, and leaders can make better determinations on deal stage and projected close dates. But with only high-level information logged in Salesforce, it’s closer to a guessing game.
#4: Give reps clear targets and boost productivity.
You aren’t the only one who wants to close more, faster…your reps do too! This is where automating sales activity tracking is a weight off the shoulders of the sales team.
When they can spend less time on manual data entry, and more time studying success signals in the sales process and honing in their effort where it matters, you’re going to see close rates go up (and team morale along with it).
And the visibility that comes with sales activity tracking doesn’t just help leaders – it helps reps too. They’re able to see where they stack up within the team.
Jeff Ignacio, Head of GTM Operations and Growth at Regrow Ag and founder of RevOps Impact, says enterprise-level sales reps are actually quite good at knowing what their activity is because they're the owner of their book of business, but what they don’t know is how they’re performing relative to their peers.
“Reporting on sales activity tracking allows reps to see how they're performing. They can quickly see if they’re doing the things that need to be done in order to progress opportunities forward. Am I generating enough meetings per number of accounts in my territory? Am I having the right levels of engagement at these accounts?”
#5: Tailor your coaching to the individual rep.
When you can see more clearly what each rep is working on, it sets the table for coaching and support that’s unique to each individual.
Is one rep facing challenges with multithreading? You’ll know in advance if their sales activity is tracked, so your one-on-one time can focus on helping them with strategies to connect to VP-level contacts within opportunities. And you’ll waste less time on status updates.
What are the common challenges of sales activity tracking?
What’s stopping revenue teams from implementing effective sales activity tracking?
#1: Internal pushback and pressure on reps.
The biggest challenge is when reps hear “track sales activity” they assume that means “spend hours manually updating Salesforce.”
And in many cases, they’re not wrong. But there are ways to simplify, streamline, and automate sales data in Salesforce that takes the burden off them.
No matter what, it’s critical to make sure reps know that the ultimate goal of sales activity tracking isn’t for monitoring purposes. It’s to figure out what’s working – and those insights will help them make a greater impact.
“The most impactful way I've seen of getting people to fill out the data you need is to prove out the value first. Once they see what is possible with the data they will want the insights for themselves and do the work to make sure everything is tracked properly. When they know the data is being used and adds significant value to their day-to-day life it won't seem like menial paperwork,” says Tom Yeager, Revenue GTM Analytics Lead.
#2: Manual data entry is an accuracy nightmare.
Not only does manual tracking take time out of your rep’s days, it doesn’t yield a high-quality result.
“Anything manually logged by end users is as reliable as a chocolate teapot,” says Jacki Leahy, Founder and Fractional RevOps Advisor, Activate the Magic.
Out of all the actionable ways you can improve your CRM hygiene, reducing manual form fields is one of the experts’ top recommendations.
#3: Data silos when tools don’t sync.
The average enterprise tech stack consists of 664 different tools.
Of course, the sales team doesn’t use 664 tools on a daily basis, but it’s no surprise that they all don’t sync with each other seamlessly. When data is fragmented, there is no single source of truth, and this creates more questions than answers. To get to an insight, there’s a ton of manual work required.
“If we manage to get the data we need (which is no guarantee given sales teams can be forgetful when it comes to inputting data) it often lives across so many different systems that generating actionable insights from it can be difficult,” says Yeager.
“Just showing basic activity metrics can only get you so far. You need a consistent way to tie activity to outcomes like pipe gen, deal velocity and win rate.”
#4: Most tools aren’t able to accurately capture dynamic information.
Even when tools do sync, not every bit of critical data is logged accurately.
For example, what if at the last minute a meeting is canceled and moved to a different day? What if a key stakeholder is added to the call right before it begins?
No sales process is linear and it doesn’t always go as planned, and the best sales activity tracking solution is able to account for the exceptions and edge cases.
#5: It’s not a “one and done” task.
You can’t capture sales activity data once, study what works, find your success signals, and move on.
Sales tracking is an ongoing process. If you want your team to be able to make small adjustments before a deal progresses beyond the point of influence, you need nearly real-time data to make those interventions.
Waiting for reps to manually log activity, or waiting for tools to input data, then fitting in the time it takes to make sure both are done correctly – that’s a significant delay and leaves little room for adjustment post-analysis.
How to set up sales activity tracking
To get automated sales activity tracking in place, here are three steps to follow:
Step 1: Decide which activities you want to track
What do you have to follow-up with reps on most often? What types of data is your CRM missing?
Here’s an easy way to figure out the biggest challenges with your Salesforce data gap: use our free CRM Health Grader to get a custom report on where you’re missing the most contact, account, and opportunity data.
To get everyone on board with sales tracking, make sure you’re focusing on the right activities.
“Balancing quality versus quantity comes back to how you decide to manage to the activities that you’re tracking,” says Nate Lee, Head of Sales Development at Bombora.
“If there is a prime focus on dial activity being logged, reps often feel the need to have that metric/KPI maximized to avoid negative feedback. This is obviously counterproductive towards having good conversations, so mix the dial count with other metrics like talk time and call results.”
Step 2: Decide how you want to see the data & ensure accuracy
Are you content looking in individual tools to figure out what’s going on in deals? Would you rather see all the data in one place, like Salesforce?
Most revenue teams prefer this, because it gives them a source of truth they can use to build on. When you’re choosing a sales activity tracking software to help you accomplish this, make sure you ask the following questions:
- Are activities mapped to the correct account or opportunity? If sales activity is sent to your CRM without a link to an account or opportunity, you’re just filling it with junk.
- Is it configurable or a black box? You may have a unique data structure. Can you customize the tool to write back data accordingly
- Are contacts created in addition to emails and meetings? And are those contacts linked to the right accounts and opportunities
- Will data ever be duplicated? Make sure the tool won’t make your data more messy and add duplicate records to your CRM.
If sales tracking results in a cluttered CRM, your team may lose confidence in the efforts.
“You absolutely have to set up activity tracking correctly and ensure that all activity is being logged back to your CRM accurately. Without that, you and your team won't be confident in the activity tracking and you'll be fighting an uphill battle until everyone is confident in the data,” says Brandon Smith, RevOps Manager at QuotaPath.
Step 3: Discover what works and take action
Accurate sales activity data unlocks a treasure trove of insights that most revenue teams don’t even realize they have.
Not only are your dashboards and forecasts more accurate, you can have better conversations with reps. And with a solution like SetSail, uniquely built to ensure clean, complete, accurate sales data, you don’t need to wait for a new dashboard to get insights. Use our GPT integration to simply ask for the answers you’re looking for.
Here are some examples of questions you can ask:
- What meetings are coming up for deals set to close this quarter?
- Which reps need more help with multithreading?
- How many deals are in late stages with no recent activity?
See how it works: