“There are two reasons you can fire a CEO. Firstly, you can fire a CEO because they’ve done something really naughty and they’ve been caught. The only other reason you fire a CEO is they didn’t meet the forecast.” – Neil Rackham, SPIN Selling
And so CRM software was born in the early 90s—the first meaningful piece of technology used by salespeople. As Neil explains in The Story of Sales, Chapter 6: Technology’s Impact on Sales, it was not to help salespeople or the sales process. Many salespeople don’t like using the CRM to this day. It was to deliver forecast accuracy that would give the CEO job security.
Today, use of the CRM goes well beyond forecast accuracy. We can measure activities, conversion rates, pipeline size, pipeline velocity and much more. In summary, there are more and more metrics at our fingertips to determine the productivity of our sales teams. Yet, sales leaders still bias toward the age-old formula:
MORE SALES CALLS = MORE REVENUE
Sales Leader’s Mantra: Do More Sales Calls
“Big shots are only little shots who keep shooting.” – Christopher Morley
Sales leaders are right to pull this quantity lever. Without enough “at-bats” no sales team will deliver its quota. But without another lever to pull, this refrain becomes old and tired. It has been hammered into sellers to keep doing more sales calls to build enough pipeline and deliver their quota. A sales leader who manages from today’s CRM will be tempted to pull this lever again and again. Don’t ever expect to hear a sales leader say: “Guys, congratulations, we’ve got enough pipeline!”
Sales has been slow to catch up to other business functions who realize more is not always the best answer. But it’s not for lack of effort. What gets measured gets managed and let’s face it, the quality of the sales calls a team is having has traditionally been very hard to measure.
Not so for other functions. Take engineering for instance. The quantity of software produced, often referred to as velocity, is a key measure of productivity. But an engineering leader would never manage a software team without some understanding of the quality of software being produced using a management dashboard. After all, an excess of buggy software is a good way to run a business into the ground.
A New Lever You Can Pull
Salespeople are tired of hearing the same old “do more sales calls” refrain. Message received!
What they want help figuring out is how to be more effective in the sales calls they have. And there’s nothing in the CRM that teases this out. Sure, we can see that one rep may be more effective than others based on their conversion rates…but why?
Wouldn’t it be nice to have another tool in your management toolbox? Instead of “do more sales calls”, imagine being in front of your sales team with a message that says: “do better sales calls”.
But for this to actually be more than a nice break from the norm, the quality of sales calls needs to be consistently measured. And the way to measure quality is not whether an opportunity gets created or advances. This is the result of a quality interaction, but causation is not sufficient.
Quality is measured by how effectively a seller demonstrates the necessary behaviors to advance a sale within a given stage in the sales process. For example:
- Discovery is a behavior required at the beginning, accomplished by asking multi-layered questions.
- Tailored Value or Vision is a behavior required in the middle, accomplished by taking what information the seller has gathered and using it to present how the prospect’s pain will be addressed.
What Gets Measured, Gets Managed
Whose job is it to observe and coach to these behaviors? The frontline sales manager of course. Where should your frontline managers be spending their time? Sales leaders say upwards of 50% should be spent coaching sales teams in the field. Sales managers report in some cases spending as little as 15% of their time in the field.
For starters, managers don’t have a good way to capture their observations, so they bias toward trying to advance the sale rather than coaching the seller. Second, there is no consistent framework to coach and give feedback, so that is left up to each managers interpretation. Finally, there is no easy way to track progress over time so the value of a managers’ observations don’t build upon one another.
If we could solve these three problems, we’d have a willing participant on the other end to help build this quality data set. And it’s this KPI that is missing on your sales ops dashboard today. It should appear right next to the number of sales calls your team has done and the resulting pipeline being built.
Tired of feeling like the only way to make your number is to keep asking the sales team to work harder. Eventually, this message falls on deaf ears. Maybe it is time to start empowering them to work smarter.