How to Align Your Sales Team Around Metrics
A lot of sales leaders like to talk the sales metrics talk. But do they walk the metrics walk?
What I mean is, it’s easy to say you’re metrics-driven and track numbers for your sales organization. However, that doesn’t innately mean your reps are aligned around those metrics.
I’m not talking about business results like wins or revenue. Research tells us that those metrics are unmanageable. It makes sense, because business results are lagging indicators. Now that’s not to say that business results aren’t important. On the contrary, revenue is the most important metric for any organization – it’s the primary measure of a company’s overall health.
But the metrics you want your sales team to line up with are the ones they can control: leading indicators. These key performance indicators (KPIs) are measured in real time, and if changed, can affect future business results. This goes with the premise behind activity-based selling: the idea that sales is a cascading chain of controllable behaviors that lead to a defined outcome – closing sales.
The question is are you, as a sales leader, managing your team around those behaviors with activity metrics?
A sales team that’s fully aligned around metrics makes better decisions on where to spend their time, because they know how much of each activity they need to accomplish for your organization to achieve desired business results. Because of that, you achieve higher revenue production per sales employee and even get a robust set of data to develop a directional sales forecast that ties directly back to the controllable actions of your sales team.
Sounds too good to be true, right? With activity-based selling, it’s not. But it starts with getting your team aligned around the metrics you choose to focus on as KPIs. Here are four steps to do that.
4 Steps To Create Alignment Around Metrics
1. Open a dialogue.
Don’t simply force metrics on your sales team – that comes off as tyrannical, and you’ll likely run into resistance from reps. Instead, make it an open, interactive system, where reps know their perspectives are heard and valued. It’s possible that this is your first time discussing KPIs as a team, so start by asking your reps what they think “KPI” means. Some reps may have a clear understanding of KPIs, and others might be totally in the dark, so it’s important to get everyone on the same page. Make sure they understand that a sales KPI is:
- An instrument to help you meet your end goal
- Trackable and monitored on a regular basis
- Tangible piece of data to indicate you are headed toward your desired outcome
Be transparent about how and why you’re introducing (or continuing to use) KPIs. Explain the critical role that KPIs serve in helping you achieve your larger sales goals and the importance of focusing on a few metrics as your core KPIs.
2. Ask for feedback.
Another key to aligning reps around metrics is to make sure they feel involved in the decision-making process. If this is your first time introducing KPIs to your sales team, review the metrics you’ve chosen. This shows reps that you value their opinion, and generates buy-in for the KPI process. Ask reps if they think these KPIs align with the most critical selling behaviors for your team – the activities that you know lead to closing deals. Explain that you’re only going to focus on 3-4 KPIs to keep reps concentrated on those activities. The higher number of critical KPIs you have, the less focus reps will have.
If your team is already using metrics, ask reps how they feel about them. What do they think is working for them? What’s not working for them? How can they improve? Explain why you believe each of the KPIs you’re using are important, but keep the discussion open to hear their opinions on them as well.
Of course, the ultimate decision on what metrics you will move forward with is yours. But it’s vital to keep an open conversation going with your team.
3. Develop scorecards.
Once you know the metrics you want your team to focus on, create personalized scorecards for them to keep track of their activities. The scorecard should show how much of each activity the rep has completed against their objective. Ideally, this is logged and updated in real time to show progress to goal and where reps should spend their time to stay on pace. Sales activity management software automates all of this for you.
The scorecard can be used to run consistent one-on-one sessions and your weekly sales meeting with objective data as your guide. It’s also an effective tool for sales coaching: If someone falls behind on a specific KPI, you know what activity to coach them on to help them get back on pace. Sales leaders can also use composite scorecards with combined data for reps so that they can track team goals.
4. Monitor and course-correct.
Reinforce the importance of your metrics by publishing them publicly around the office (also ideally in real time). Not only do reps track their individual performance with scorecards, but TVs and leaderboards with team stats inspire collaboration and friendly competition. The public display also demonstrates your team’s focus on metrics to the rest of the organization.
You can use these displays to review daily and weekly progress in standups and team meetings. It’s not enough to simply monitor your metrics, though. You have to course-correct when things start to go awry. Your performance data will show you when you’re falling behind pace, but also what to do to get it back on track again. When a certain metric is behind, you can quickly rally the team around it using contests and incentives.
If you can successfully accomplish all of these steps, you’ll be on the path to creating a metrics-driven (perhaps even KPI-obsessed?) sales organization. Your reps will understand the activities they need to perform to achieve success, and you’ll be able to effectively coach and manage them around those steps.
Being a data-driven sales manager means, at a high level, understanding how metrics impact one another, how to approach setting goals against key performance indicators (KPIs), and how to coach to the achievement of those goals. But, how can a manager incorporate data into her ongoing managerial cadences? 1:1 meetings.