I have the pleasure and opportunity to “sales” with a lot of people, some in sales themselves, some management, and some who don’t sell but have firm unfounded opinions they like to share or yell. One area they all seem to have opinions on is whether sales is a numbers game or not. The familiar and popular line is that it is not a numbers game, this is quickly followed by something along the lines that “it is about quality, not quantity”; while I get the sentiment, I am not sure that the two are that linked.
What’s interesting is that many in leadership positions, be they executives or pundits, who in an effort to be ultra-modern adopt the “sales is not a numbers game” posture, are at the same time big proponents of “Metrics” and some form of KPI’s, both of which are good when applied the right way. But the question remains, are metrics not numbers?
While there are many similar definitions of business metrics, I like this one:
A business metric is a raw measurement of a business process. It’s important to remember that metrics are a means to an end, not an end unto themselves. Measuring a metric is not always enough – you need to use that metric to guide business decisions and to ensure your business is on the right track. (Klipfolio.com)
I like it because it does root things in numbers, how else can you measure. It ties to process, and having a sales process is a clear way to bring the numbers to life in the form of action and execution, and the use of metrics in guiding performance and decisions. By extension, this drives accountability, and bundled together these elements dictate and shape you sales culture. In the end, it allows for the use of numbers as a core component of strategy and execution, but not at the exclusion of other important elements that make for a winning and evolving sales culture.
The dark side of taking the sales is a numbers game stance to far can often be found in KPI’s and how they impact sales. Many organizations will have KPI’s for key activities their reps have to execute. For example eight meeting a week, with at least three being with new prospects. Without a qualitative layer to the KPI, it will serve little in helping the company achieve it intent. What you often get is exactly what you asked for, eight meetings, three with new people, and not one worth the time it took one to secure the meetings.
KPI’s should be rounded out in ways that ties the indicator to results, not the activity alone. This will allow for coaching opportunities that are directly tied to daily activities and results. If a rep has difficulty hitting wither side of that, it is a great opportunity to coach and focus on the qualitative aspect of the KPI. And here is where both camps can converge, quality of execution, tied to the numbers and results involved.
In the end, even the qualitative aspect of things will be measured in some empirical way, and most importantly, the result, be that sales, clients acquired or most importantly profits, are all measured in numbers or tied to metrics in a direct way.