Metrics don’t replace the Art of selling,, they augment it.
I’ve interviewed many sales leaders, accountability around sales metrics was mentioned as a top priority. So, there is no doubt that leaders recognize how important metrics and analytics are in the maximizing of their sales team’s performance.
Sales analytics basically provide information for sales management to assess the sales and marketing efforts. The analytics can help with accurate sales forecasting, more sophisticated funnel management and trends, enhanced buyer knowledge, and performance by rep. They can also facilitate more meaningful coaching conversations by giving managers the data they need to help the reps be more efficient and effective. The balancing act here is to be able to surface the optimal type of information without over burdening the sales teams.
Part of the story is to ensure that sales teams have the support they need, and that they know the “why” behind the data. Any data that can be derived and entered without the need for a field salesperson should be done by sales support when possible. Keep salespeople in the field as much as you can. For data they need to manipulate, make sure it’s easy for them to manage and that they’re able to do it remotely using mobility tools.
“What gets measured, gets done.”
–Mason Haire, organization theorist
There is no question that sales management needs metrics in order make sure the funnel is as full as it can be and that the sales group is meeting the revenue expectations of the company; however, the amount and type of information required needs to be specific to the unique demands of different businesses.
It’s safe to say that metrics are equally important to the reps themselves, as they own the outcome. The best salespeople know where they stand at all times and what they have to do to be successful. For those who don’t know, it’s up to management to assist and coach in this very important area. It may seem quite intuitive how important this is, but not all sales management or salespeople fully appreciate it.
As Jeb Blount points out in his book, Fanatical Prospecting: “It is no different in sales. Elite salespeople, like elite athletes, track everything. You will never reach peak performance until you know your numbers and use those numbers to make directional corrections.”1
The important thing to keep in mind here is to pick the right metrics that will get you to where you need to go, and ensure you are only using metrics that are necessary. Overdoing metrics will overburden the sales force with activity—that will do nothing more than take them away from filling their funnel and closing more business.
In determining what to measure its important to measure activity as well as the outcome of the activity. Some sales people will argue, how can you measure what you seemingly can’t control, such as a customer’s decision-making process? or when a deal closes?
The major priority behind sales is to influence the decision making process and to close new opportunities. Yes there can be pieces of the decision process that are difficult to measure and change, and we can’t always predict exactly when a deal is going to close. But it is our role as much as possible in sales to influence, change, and help with buyers decisions, and to close business. So we need to measure both, the activity we need to engage in, and the outcomes we are being asked to perform.
I agree wholeheartedly with Mike Weinberg, who stated, “You cannot build a sustainable productive, healthy sales culture without a laser focus on goals and results. And that’s especially true if you want to maintain a high level of sales talent within the organization. A-players want to be pushed, expect to [be] held accountable for exceeding goals, and won’t tolerate being micro managed.”2
While the metrics are important, it’s equally important how you measure and manage them. As mentioned, top salespeople don’t like to be micromanaged—and they shouldn’t be. But knowing what activity typically drives what result is mission critical. Where the management of these metrics becomes especially important is to manage to the individual needs of each sales person. Each person is different, and therefore, how you coach and manage each person needs to be different. The same goes for metrics: they need to be used, but they need to be used in different ways for different situations.
The importance in using data is not about micromanagement; it’s about helping the reps understand what they need to do in order to meet their objectives. If used in the right way, with the right kind of coaching, the use of relevant data will be welcomed by the sales force, as they’ll know it will help them be more successful.
Some sales organizations opt to be granular about the reps’ activity. How many sales calls are the reps making per week on average? The old adage, “You can’t sell anything unless you’re actually talking to a customer” is very true. Whether it’s an inside sales role or outside only, the dynamic is the same; and, typically, it’s a numbers game. The more customers a sales rep sees and presents solutions to, the more sales that rep is likely going to make. The issue is how many sales calls are required to be successful, and this is where art versus science comes into the picture. Until you measure the activity and get some history, you’re guessing. You need data. And of course, where the art comes into play, some sales people will require less activity to reach the same result as they are more effective than their peers.
In enterprise-level large companies with complex sales, it’s less about the number of meetings and other specific measures and more about strategic planning and action plans around specific opportunities.
Remember, one size does not fit all. Align what you are measuring to the role and against the outcome you are after.
I would love to hear from your viewpoint on this topic, please comment below.
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Street Savvy Sales Leadership
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1) Fanatical Prospecting, The Ultimate Guide to Opening Sales Conversations and Filling the Pipeline by Leveraging Social Selling, Telephone, Email, And Cold Calling—Jeb Blount, John Wiley and Sons Inc, New Jersey, 2015, page 37
2) Sales Management Simplified-The Straight Truth About Getting Exceptional Results From your Sales Team, Mike Weinberg, Amacom, 2016, page 13