Why Sales Success Goes Beyond Hitting Your Number
By Julie Thomas, President and CEO, ValueSelling Associates
Many sales leaders only measure sales outcomes. However, there is a glaring gap between the most impactful sales behaviors and what sales leaders measure today. Measuring both selling behaviors and sales results is critical to determine if a healthy revenue pipeline is on the horizon.
To investigate the disconnect between the behaviors sellers need to succeed while working remotely and what sales teams actively measure, ValueSelling Associates and Training Industry surveyed 464 sales leaders and sales enablement decision-makers to further explore how to be successful with an increasingly virtual B2B sales model.
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What Sales Leaders Measure Today and Why that isn’t Enough
While 98% of respondents measure their team’s sales performance in one way or another, their understanding of sales effectiveness is most often tied to sales outcomes—only 25% are directly
measuring sales behaviors. Sales leaders’ understanding of sales effectiveness is mainly based on sales coaching reports (57%) and supervisor ratings (55%). And we often see sales success attributed to market circumstance or luck, versus sales skills alone.
The danger hidden here is that coaching reports are influenced by supervisor-rep interpersonal dynamics. They are not entirely objective, despite a sales leader’s best efforts. Supervisor ratings, meanwhile, are most often tied to a single metric: “Did you hit your number or not?”
Lagging and Leading Indicators
Without data, it’s difficult to know if your sales strategies are successful. But there are many ways to measure success. Key performance indicators, or KPIs, are an effective way to gain data and use it to measure what’s working.
The easiest data to obtain and measure are often lagging indicators which measure what has happened in the past. That means 75% of respondents are driving down the interstate with their focus fixed on the rear-view mirror. This is the automatic fallback to “Did you hit your number?” Many leaders favor lagging indicators, such as increased revenue and margins, transaction size and number of deals won. You are likely already gathering these metrics and it is easy to look back and to measure your success. These metrics are important, but there’s not much impact we can have after the fact, and the numbers are typically not available until the end of the month, or even the quarter.
Leading indicators, however, predict future performance. Yet, only 25% of respondents to our survey take this more cohesive view and monitor sales behaviors. For instance, if you track your team’s prospecting behavior and see that reps are blocking out time on their calendars, making more phone calls, and writing more follow-up plan letters, that’s a good indicator that a healthier revenue pipeline is on the horizon. Tracking leading indicators may require a bit more up-front time because these KPIs may not already be set up, but they enable sales teams to look forward and change course if needed. Leading indicators also provide the opportunity for real-time coaching.
Both leading and lagging indicators should be measured to get the whole picture, but it is important to pay close attention to the leading indicators so that you can steer the ship as needed if salespeople are not meeting the KPIs for sales behaviors that have been set.
The Gap Between Desired Behaviors and Sales Metrics
Many sales organizations have a disparity between how they want salespeople to act and the sales outcomes they are striving to achieve. The only way to know whether a sales training initiative was successful is to measure it – both by keeping an eye on selling behaviors (leading indicators) and sales results (lagging indicators). Without both measurements in place, it’s difficult to diagnose what is and isn’t working.
Are companies able to connect sales behaviors to sales results? A majority of organizations, 69%, say yes; 23% don’t have a strong opinion; and a mere 8% say no. Of the companies that are able to see this connection, only 22% strongly agree that they can do so. In other words, there’s still work to do for companies that aren’t able to tie behavior with results, as well as for those that aren’t doing so consistently.
This is evidence that focusing on building credibility and trust is a vital part of the recipe for increased sales results. Through investment in behavior-based skills, sales teams can build trusted, long-term partnerships with customers.
To maximize the investment in sales training, organizations must actively take steps to measure the behaviors that matter most to ensure their training is working. Without effective measurement practices in place, organizations lack insight into the performance of their salespeople and whether they are properly equipped with the skills they need to be successful.
Ultimately, sales training is part of a systematic change management process, not a one-off event. Companies need ongoing training and development that aligns with the changing goals of the business. With the shift to a remote work environment, human connection—establishing and building credibility, trust and rapport with buyers throughout the buying cycle—is critical to closing deals and building long term relationships in a virtual environment.
Developing these essential sales skills is one half of the puzzle. Organizations must also have effective measurement practices in place to ensure they’re supporting the right behaviors that lead to increased sales results.
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