Metrics that Matter: Focusing on Failure to Find Success in Outbound Sales

Business Development Metrics that Matter
Editor’s note: This is a post in a guest column from Xtium’s Ben Stoffel-Rosales on what it means to be (and how to succeed as) a business development rep. Read Ben’s first post in the series here: “Confessions of a Business Development Rep: Making Warm Calls to Avoid the Cold Shoulder”.

Variables You Can and Can’t Control

My sophomore year of college, my friend set me up with her roommate, claiming I was just her type. We seemed to click, or rather, the conversation was not super awkward — a huge win for me. But when I asked my friend about it, she said: “Well, she said she really likes you, but you’re too short.” Granted, I’m 5” 7’ (5-8 in heels or Sketcher’s Shape-ups), but I can’t control that!
Everyone hates feeling inadequate, and so it’s frustrating when you don’t know the process by which you will be evaluated. That’s a fact of relationships just as much as anything else: academia, athletics, and professional life.
In outbound sales, some of the biggest frustrations come down to similar variables that are simply out of your control. Your champion left on maternity leave; they don’t do budget until next quarter; he spaced on your meeting — again; he “honestly isn’t in the mood for your crap right now” (a response I’ve actually gotten).
The unfortunate reality is that those variables will shape your success. They can change the outcome of a deal, how your boss perceives your aptitude, and even impact your paycheck. A business development rep has to deal with these variables all the time, but his success is ultimately going to rely on focusing on the few variables he can actually control.

Set Yourself Up for Failure: Why You Should Focus on “Negative” Metrics

Let’s say that one out of every 10 people your outbound team touches ends up buying.  If your KPI’s are based on how many qualified leads you generate, doesn’t that mean you’re ignoring 90% of your work? Keep in mind, a 10% win rate is pretty unheard of, your B2B win rate is probably something more like .3%.. Remember: failure is a huge part of your metrics, and shouldn’t be ignored.
I think understanding these negative (again — inevitable) metrics can improve success rates in three ways:

  1. It reframes failure as something positive for BDR’s. The ability to bounce back after failure is a critical skill, especially for the entry-level salesperson.
  2. Focusing on the negative KPI’s will make managers more empathetic. They now have insight into how challenging your job is in cold, hard numbers, and appreciate you for your hard work.
  3. Most importantly, you become more eager to get a firm answer, even if it’s a “no.” This means instead of wasting time hoping to sell into someone who probably isn’t a good fit, you push for a direct answer and can move on more quickly to better leads. In the end, focusing on failure may actually speed up your sales cycle and increase the number of qualified leads.

Keeping your eyes on the prize is great, but I think you learn more from your failures than from your wins. To have a complete picture of the results of your work, make sure you look at the good (wins), the bad (loses), and the ugly (conversion rates). The insight will illuminate which metrics should be stressed over others.

Tip: Start at the End

The goal of outbound lead generation is to connect with a specific buyer persona in a specific vertical who has a specific pain, and then pass him or her along to the sales team to close. This is called a ‘qualified’ lead. Sure, a won deal is great, but in B2B sales cycles (typically 6-12 mo), a deal closing today likely had nothing to do with your activities that week. You need to focus on the variables today that will ensure success tomorrow.
So work backwards. If your goal is 10 sales qualified leads per month, how many opportunities do you need to make that happen? Once you have that number, how many appointments do you need to get that many opportunities? Take another step back — to get that appointment goal, how many conversations do you need per week?
The objective here is to identify the minute, simple variables that you can control to ensure long-term success. Get as minute as possible, then tinker!
(Btw, we have a free ebook on this: Get More Customers! How to Build an Outbound B2B Lead Generation Team that Drives Sales)
Note: I understand I’m being pretty general at this point. Because each B2B sales cycle and qualification system is unique, I’ll start with how I got to mine and then specify exactly what key performance indicators (KPI’s) I monitor in a sec!

The KPI’s I Track — And Why

  1. Dials/day: I shoot for 55 or less. I’m paid entirely on opportunities and appointments, but these stem back to the dials I make. My goal now is to lower the dial number to yield the same opportunities. That’s how BDR’s improve.
  2. Leads closed: 10 before lunch. This is what I call my “Fail Goal.” The number of leads I move out of ‘contacting’ status, which essentially equates to my lost leads. My goal is to lower this number, while keeping my wins the same.
  3. Leads added: 25/week. While I, and others, agree that outbound teams shouldn’t prospect, I think it’s an important skill to have. My goal here is to measure the results of my leads against the results of our prospecting team in the hopes of giving them helpful feedback.
  4. Email opens: 10% or greater. I certainly track the total emails I send, but what I really care about are the open- and click-rates. I personally use HubSpot Sales for tracking, but Aaron Ross, author of Predictable Revenue, recommends Toutapp.
  5. Email responses: 5/day. I love getting an email response. I like challenging myself to get to respond to something. My goal on email responses is to provide feedback to our marketing team so they know which types of messages work best.

The takeaway point is that there is no perfect qualification system, sales cycle, or sales person. I don’t care how good your “rockstar growth hacker” is — he or she can always get better. Through A/B testing your workflow and proactively tweaking the small variables in your control, you can only get better.
You got comments? You got questions? You got beef? Lay it on me. Email me at or feel free to comment below.

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