A few years back, a recruitment firm published the results of a survey identifying the ten most over used buzzwords or expressions. These included things like “synergy”, and “at the end of the day”; this last one is particular favourite among sales leaders, we’ve all used it, it sounds good, and seems to capture an attitude, but is it the right attitude, outlook and posture for sales leaders, or sales people to adopt?
From what I understand it is supposed to convey that when the deadline comes, the results will speak for themselves. The assumption I guess is that if everything is done as it is supposed to, then the outcome will be what we expect at the end of the process, or the “end of the day”. Well you know what they say about the risks you take on when you assume.
The reality is that all too many sales leaders are already fixated on the results, at times at the exclusion of focusing on anything else. There is no denying that results are what count in sales, revenue is the lifeblood of any for-profit organization; having said that, there is also no denying that when it comes to changing results and attaining consistent results, “results”, are a “lagging indicator”, they represent things as they have turned out. These can be great lessons for the future, but there is little that can be done to alter the “results” once they are in. The country’s jobless rate is also a lagging indicator, know that almost 10% of Americans are unemployed, does little to change the reality of George down the street who has been out of work for three months, and is about to lose his house. What would have helped George is to have had something happen to change the result, either with his job or house or both. “The end of the day”, it is too late to impact the outcome.
To do that, leaders need to focus on “leading indicators”, to be able to impact and alter results, rather than just review and analyze them. These indicators will vary from company to company, and based on the process in place and the individual rep’s ability to execute it, may even vary between sellers on the same team, there are some core ones to choose from. These could be number of prospects engaged in a month; account coverage and penetration for those tasked with growing existing accounts; proposals submitted or conversion of the same proposals. You can get more specific looking at specific tasks to be taken by the seller or actions required by a prospect.
The key is to identify key indicators, not every action through the cycle, and establish a game plan with the rep to help them understand why certain actions/steps are being designated as “leading indicators”, and how these “indicators” will be used to help achieve collective success. While it is true that many reps do not like to be measured, in some ways you can’t blame them because often these “measurements” or “stats” are used in a non=productive way. There is more to coaching and changing results than just pointing out that the “number” or “activities” are not up to snuff.
As a leading indicator, they should point to where you are versus where you want to be, and what specific corrective actions you can execute to move towards the desired outcome in a consistently successful way, for a consistent set of results. A focus on leading indicators will not only deliver consistent, predictable, and desired results, but will establish a process and culture of continuous improvement through a focus on inputs rather than outcomes. At the end of the day, the best way to ensure the outcome, is to alter things at the “start of the day”.
What’s in Your Pipeline?