Three Basic Practices For Managing A Sales Team: The Metrics Of Growth


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“If there is effort there is always accomplishment” – Jigoro Kano.

Metrics are an essential aspect in B2B sales and every sales manager should know how to “play the keys”. Metrics give an overview of what is happening and, at best, they allow a glimpse into the future. To have this picture is important for every sales manager who wants to make sure that their teams are hitting their numbers and performing at the pace and speed they should. Fair enough.

Through new and ongoing developments in real time analytics and big data, the possibilities in sales metrics seem endless. Managers can trace, measure and analyze almost any activity in the sales process. Analytics programs integrate with CRM, VoiP and almost any other application. They provide transparency for the sales manager and can ensure that their team is heading in the right direction.

Well, that’s only one side of the medal and we should not forget that transparency often translates into unprovoked snooping. It is mostly the young managers with little experience of leading a team that use too many metrics and get lost in the numbers. What is worse, however, is the fact, that sheer number crunching makes managers dismiss the fact that above all their team needs their leading and coaching.

So let´s have a look at what practices make sense and which ones will probably rather do harm.

Here are my 3 basic rules:

Measure outcomes, not activities

Sales managers should have no interest in requiring or measuring the number of activities a salesperson makes. Activities are irrelevant.

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.”Tony Robbins

Measuring activity only helps you to determine if a (new) sales person is efficient (like too little activity) or effective (in that case there might be the need for more training). For measuring how he/she performs with regard to hitting their numbers, measuring and tracking activities does not make sense at all. To prove this, all you need to do is ask yourself: “If I could have what I really wanted without the activity, would that be acceptable?” Well, I bet it always is. So, if appointments are being made to close a deal then not scheduled appointments is the real outcome that should be measured. Instead the number of deals or the deal size should be measured. Also, for inside sales, if calls are being made to schedule appointments, then scheduled appointments is the metrics you need.

Back to our example: If a salesperson could schedule qualified face-to-face appointments without making phone calls, would that be acceptable? Yes, of course!

Find metrics that fit into your natural processes

Look at your CRM-System – it gives you an awful lot of sales performance metrics that you can use but often are not practical. Highly effective sales managers do not rely on theoretical programs to drive sales team performance. So, before getting lost in whether or not you should measure marketing collateral usage, rate of follow-up contact or lead response time, rather think about what metrics really reflect your natural sales process. Focus on metrics that give a crystal-clear picture of how a prospect develops from cold to close.

In order to achieve this you should make sure that your marketing and inside sales team generate well qualified leads for your sales reps. Once they have taken the leads over you should make sure that the opportunity percentages are well in place. Make sure that every rep knows exactly what the percentage numbers mean. And make sure that they have a crystal-clear picture of where they stand. Good metrics will help them make the appropriate next steps towards closure.

Find the right balance between measuring and coaching your team

Too many sales teams are over-managed and under-led. Do not make the mistake of relying too much on metrics and deadlines to drive the performance of your team. Good managers must always be in the know of what is happening with their teams´ deals. The best managers are excellent coaches. They will challenge their team to take the appropriate next action and have a good instinct of how to treat both the superstars and the ones that have difficulties hitting their numbers.

Studies show that well-coached sales teams significantly outperform their competition. In fast moving environments coaching is seen as the #1 priority, instead of treating it as a form of remedial discipline. Unfortunately, however, coaching is the responsibility most neglected by sales managers, simply because of the fact that they have to borrow time from their already busy day. Placing a high priority on coaching will build your team´s confidence and drive results better and faster than any other single practice.

By the way: Coaching isn’t all about the “soft skills.” To be a great sales coach, you need to be fluent in sales metrics and KPIs. Which brings me back to my initial topic …

“If there is effort there is always accomplishment” – Jigoro Kano.