choosing sales metrics

Like a baseball manager standing on the top step of the dugout, sales managers have a lot to pay attention to when considering whether to make a change in strategy. A baseball coach might be looking at the score, the runners on base, how many innings are left in the game and the broader context of the season when deciding which strings to pull. So how do you determine when it’s time for you to do the same with your sales metrics?

First, a bit of forgiveness for you. Just because you’re considering changing key performance indicators (KPIs) or one that you’ve been looking at is proving unhelpful, doesn’t mean you’ve made a mistake in management. This is not a perfect science, and it’s more important that you started somewhere so that this necessary (and healthy) refinement could happen. Keeping your system fresh is the whole idea.

In some ways, each organization is different. Maybe you have a new product rollout that requires a different strategy, or a change in your team makes new opportunities possible. But in many ways, everyone’s end goal is similar — to sell more stuff and sell it faster. If you’ve been put in charge of a sales team, chances are you’ll notice the red flag when one of your KPIs stops aligning with that desired outcome.

Asking Questions on Your Sales Metrics

My colleague Bob Marsh did a good job explaining how to choose the right sales KPIs for your organization, and many of those same rules apply for the constant reinvention of them. He said to ask questions like:

    • “Who is the ideal buyer, and how does that company like to buy?”
    • “What does that buying process look like?”
    • “What are the day-to-day actions we can do to align with the way the buyer likes to buy?”

These questions can help resharpen your focus, directing it back to the activities that really matter in your sales flow. Like conversations. I always recommend conversations as KPIs, because in my experience the best salespeople are the ones who talk to the most people. The way you choose to measure conversations is up to you, but they tend to indicate action toward a deal.

There is a delicate balance here, because of course your focus can’t always be shifting. A baseball manager who switched pitchers after every at-bat would face a mutiny from both his overworked staff and the snoozing fans in the seats. In the same way, you can’t ask your sales team to make a different metric their priority every week while maintaining any level of consistency for them or your numbers.

Communicating Changed Metrics to Your Sales Team

Even if you find it’s time to implement something new, making it the first thing you talk about in your team meeting can make it appear overly important, so framing here is key. Focus on your core sales metrics and filter in any new points of emphasis later to keep your team’s perception of importance from getting out of whack.

When I meet with our salespeople at LevelEleven, there are really only about four things I look at on paper. That sheet doesn’t change much by design, and when it does, it’s always with an explanation and reassurance that this isn’t just a flavor of the month change. It’s done to make everyone’s life easier.

In my sales career, I noticed a gap in the market that I recognized LevelEleven filled before I even started working here — the ability to drill down on sales metrics and have laser focus at all times. Admittedly I use our own software to help a lot with this, especially from a communication standpoint. Constant visibility around metrics helps any team align with its end goal, and it’s why making sure you’re looking at the best sales indicators is so important.

What other rules do you have for guiding change in sales metrics?

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