Establishing Specific Activities in Relation to Individual Goals
As sales leaders, your job is to help members of your team get to their goals by figuring out who should work on what.
I want to tell you a story about how prioritization and sales coaching are key. You may not know this, but there are many possible ways to achieve a goal.
Diverse Reps, Diverse Approaches to Sales Coaching, Identical Goals
Gary Rhoads is a well-known leadership expert. He teaches at Brigham Young University and his course there is one of the most popular curriculums.
As they prepared for the hike, Gary realized there were at least two approaches to successfully completing this challenge. He could either give a reward when they reached their goal or he could break up the group into different levels of fitness.
- I wanted to be honest about my feelings, so I went straight to the top.
- Switchback, a new approach for those who are not ready to go straight up.
When Gary was hiking the Y, he ran into some young people who were struggling. He convinced them to give his route a try and it turned out they loved the switchback approach.
Gary had the team pause at one of their switchbacks and instead of looking forward to the next challenge, he looked back on how far they came. He congratulated them for all that they have accomplished.
After they took a short break, the group began to move forward again. This time one of them pointed out how far they’ve come.
One girl yelled out, “The parking lot looks like a postage stamp!”
The whole team made it to the objective and they did so much faster than anyone had expected.
What Do You Measure? Outcomes vs. Process
In the previous article, I talked about two “mistaken identities” that come from a lack of understanding as to what it means to be in sales. One was “The Closer” and the other one is called “Pipeline Pusher.” Both these mistaken identities stem from an individual’s perception on roles within a company.
With the pressure to hit goals, it’s easy for a VP of Sales to get fired after just one bad year. You’re allowed one without getting fired, but not two.
This pressure has led to an extreme emphasis on closing business. As a result, it’s easy to see why coaching is often confused with just trying to close deals.
Great sales leaders know this simple fact: If your process is strong, success is inevitable. If your process is weak, success is unsustainable.
A successful sales leader will spend their time coaching around process, not just commission structure. This creates both predictability and sustainability to the company’s success in sales.
Measuring the outcome of a sale is easy. Sales are usually lagging indicators and it’s simple to measure them.
Metrics for Coaching Sales Performance
Too much data can be dirty and useless.
You can find metrics to tell any story you want. While it’s true that great salespeople and great organizations run TO the metrics, many companies have complicated things too much.
The good news is that you can cut down on the number of metrics by focusing on three key ones, which include:
1)Value in dollars of fresh possibilities in the pipeline
The number of opportunities in the pipeline is a measure of the value that will be received from those opportunities.
Target formula: Sales goal (quota in $)win rate
The metric is personalized and takes into account both goals and win rate. If you don’t start the opportunity, it can’t be closed.
If Jill has an annual goal of $1,000,000 and a win rate of 50%, she needs to have at least $2 million in pipeline value so that her average monthly quota is equal to the target.
2) The quantity of fresh opportunities in the pipeline
The more deals a person is pursuing, the better chance they have of closing one.
I use this formula to calculate how many salespeople I need in my company. It’s the total amount of money generated divided by average deal size.
This is a way to measure success. It’s important because it helps you avoid “Elephant Hunting” and also builds consistency as well as predictability.
Continuing the example from #1, Jill would need 10 deals in target pipeline to achieve her goal.
3) Sales velocity
The time it takes to start and complete a sale.
Target formula: Measure the length of time from when a deal is won to when it’s closed for total velocity metric. Also measure how long deals are in each stage.
A lot of times, salespeople will skip steps in the process to make it go faster. But when they do that, deals usually fall apart and lose money for their company. When you measure speed by stage (or step) or cycle time prediction is better.
Reading the example from #1, if Jill’s sales velocity is 90 days and her pipeline is 63, this means she needs to work on getting a fresh batch of leads.
To win, you need to start with a good team and give them the opportunity they deserve.
These two skills are finding opportunities and being efficient in pursuing them, which will increase their win rate.
If you get these three sales performance metrics in the right place, it will cut down on your variance significantly. You’ll still see unplanned things happen but this will flatten out the range of possibilities with your individual B2B sales engine.
Quadrants for Coaching Sales Performance
By having a 1:1 conversation with each rep, you can discover what is working and not working in their sales process. You will also be able to see the strengths they have as well as weaknesses.
A rep’s progress to goal is shown on the updown axis. If they are above or below, it will show how close or far away from their target.
The leftright axis is a rep’s skill in that part of the process. The metric, opportunity starts in $ can be plotted on the left or right side depending how ahead or behind they are.
This creates four quadrants:
1) Weak outcomes, ineffective processes: Deserved
When a rep is in this quadrant, they’re at the right level. If their process isn’t strong enough, they can’t expect to be successful with sales success. Depending on how weak or strong the process currently is, leaders need to work very closely with reps for increased finding success or efficiency success.
2) Outcomes weak, Process strong: Patient
Reps in this quadrant have a sales rhythm that is predictable and efficient. Once these reps’ opportunities are given the opportunity to complete their cycle, they will start seeing successful outcomes.
3)Weak outcomes, ineffective processes: Lucky
Reps in this quadrant are hitting their goal, but they don’t have a sales prospecting process in place to sustain success. This often happens when reps win unusually large deals or high-volume deals.
If a sales rep has one good month and wins all of their quota, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are making consistent enough efforts to maintain this level. They need to improve the way that they go about things or risk dropping back down into the Deserved category when luck changes.
4)Weak outcomes, ineffective processes: Earned
The reps I have in place are not only meeting their goals, they know how to keep that success going. The results were easily predictable and sustainable.
I created this chart because I wanted to help reps visualize how skilled they are in the sales process.
Leaders and salespeople are usually either ahead of the goal or behind on goals. When they’re ahead, they feel that anything goes because their success has already been proven. If they fall behind, then everything is wrong with them.
This article talks about how to take your coaching culture from good to great. It discusses the Coaching Maturity Model and what you need for a successful coaching program.
My advice to salespeople is that they should focus on being in the right quadrant, which means their outcomes are predictable. Up vs. Down isn’t predictive because it only looks at past data and doesn’t tell you about future results.
1:1 Coaching Conversation
When I calculated predictive process points for the individual, it helped them to prepare and know what is coming up.
It’s even more powerful if the salesperson knows that their coaching conversation will be about what they did right and how they can do better in future conversations.
By assigning specific activities and skills to each of the start enough, with enough and fast enough processes, coaching is simplified, and reps will never be caught off guard.
Too often, sales leaders have a difficult conversation with a rep they’ve had a good relationship with and ask them to “trust me,” or answer the question: when has he let me down? With this approach, leaders can talk to every one of their reps without getting emotional. They also know what points are most important when trying to motivate someone.
Let’s imagine that Diana has the following metrics:
- YTD Sales Goal of $1,000,000
- Win Rate of 50%
- Average Deal Size of $200,000
- Sales Cycle time of 90 Days
- YTD Sales of $2,450,000
- The company is expanding! The new opportunity starts at $4 million.
- Deals in Pipeline: 6
- The average age of the company’s current pipeline is 22 days.
How can you have a productive conversation with Diana?
1) Plot the Training Quadrant’s Desired Outcome and Actual Sales
- YTD Sales Goal: $1,000,000
- YTD Actual Sales: $2,450,000
2) Calculate the Dollar Value of the Targeted New Opportunity Starts
- Target starts are the goal divided by win rate.
- Target starts at $1,000,000 and is divided by .5 to get the target end of year sales goal.
- Target Starts ($) = $2,000,000
- Actual Starts ($) = $4,000,000 3) Calculate Target Opportunity Starts in # of Deals
3) Calculate the Target Opportunity Based on the Number of Deals
- The number of new opportunities started is the same as what I charge per deal, but it’s not clear how much money they make.
- In the last year, our company started a new opportunity that generated $2 million in revenue and an additional $200 thousand.
- 10 new opportunities are available at Target.
- There are six new opportunities in this article.
4) Plot the Cycle Time of the Target Pipeline and the Average Age of the Current Pipeline
- Average Cycle Time: 90 Days
- The average age of the current pipeline is 22 days.
Diana is a high-performing member of the team. She plots to the Coaching Quadrant.
A lot of sales leaders may feel like they should just leave the star performer alone. But there are ways you can be relevant to Diana and help her find new opportunities.
Sales Coaching for Star Performers
The Sales Coaching Quadrant is a way for managers to determine how they can help their employees find “what’s next.” Here’s what the quadrant looks like:
The first step in coaching and mentoring your people is to understand where they are in their career development, which we call the discovery phase. During this time you want them to explore options and opportunities that could be available but might not have been considered before or talked about with anyone else yet. You will also want them to look at industry trends so that you know if there are any changes coming down the pipeline from competitors or other factors outside of just market share data. The goal during this initial stage should be discovering potential new careers paths as well as helping identify strengths and weaknesses within themselves (both personally and professionally). This will allow Diana’s boss better assess her interests, skillsets, aptitudes, etc., along with considering possible roles she may excel at once she has more experience
- Diana is doing great and has doubled the company’s annual quota.
- She has a lot of opportunities to work with. She needs more people on her team so she can succeed.
- Her Pipeline is less than a month old.
- She only has six opportunities in the mix and her deal flow metric requires ten. This tells me that she might need a little coaching from you as a salesperson.
1) Sales Performance Coaching for High-Performance Individuals
Diana, with $2M in opportunities on roughly 500 deals, is clearly chasing bigger deals than she usually takes. This may be part of an initiative to teach her how to pursue larger-sized projects.
This is an important point because in a large deal, the way you value something might be different than how it would work for smaller ones. This creates coaching moments that Diana should take advantage of.
There may be more people that need to be involved or there might have been some confusing paperwork.
2) Keep a close eye on the victory rate.
It’s possible that Diana has a different way of working with clients which is successful. But if her win rates go down significantly, these opportunities could be dangerous for you.
To protect her 50% win rate, she needs to take a closer interest in each stage of the process and get commitments from customers. She also needs to verify with them that they are satisfied.
If she learns how to win these types of deals and maintain her success rate, then this star performer will have established a new normal for herself.
3) Encourage selling that’s Activity Based
Diana is at risk of running out of fuel. She has 6 deals so she needs to pursue 10 more, which would be a great coaching opportunity for her.
This allows me to have a time-blocking conversation with her so that she can prospect effectively.
One way to help her is by setting specific goals during these large deals.
Setting Customized Goals Using the Quadrant
In the last article of this series, I talked about how to use data from your sales process in order to help you identify areas that a rep could improve on.
Let’s say David is on your team. He has been in the poor category of performance for a while now, and he wants to start getting better at his job.
We already have some insight to his process by looking at the coaching quadrant. It’s now easier for him to find a switchback path that will help get David where he wants: high core.
Establishing Specific Activities in Light of Individual Objectives
There are a lot of metrics that teams track to see how productive they have been. Volume is often tracked in the CRM tool, but it’s usually used as a way for managers to rank their people and give them titles.
If we know David defines success as being in the High Core, it’s important to compare his activity levels to someone who is already there. Stack Ranking becomes irrelevant and gamification will only serve as a motivation that isn’t genuine.
You need to first identify the typical day of a high-performing salesperson in order to help David.
This chart shows David’s performance over the past 90 days, compared to how he should be performing according to company standards. It clearly illustrates that it’s time for him to change his ways.
- David sends a lot of emails.
- David is meeting with the right people.
- David doesn’t seem to be doing enough of the tasks he needs to do in order for him to succeed.
David needs some help on how to target his sales meetings differently so he can be successful. As you know, when they are in the poor category it means these meetings haven’t been moving the needle.
- Creation of value
- Prospect research
- Question preparation
- Follow up
Measuring Effectiveness with the Compound Growth Formula
It’s important to measure the effectiveness of each activity you’ve chosen.
There’s a formula that has been proven to create new sales in any company. Different people have given it different names, but the same principles apply.
The equation is simple:
I call this the “Compound Growth Formula.” This is what can create a multiplier effect.
If you can operationalize it, this will help simplify revenue generation and coaching.
If you are looking to find the right balance between top and bottom, every activity can be categorized as either a “top” or “bottom.” Article: I was able to hire some of my best salespeople by focusing on what they were interested in outside of work.
1) Start new sales opportunities
Is the activity helping identify a new opportunity from an existing customer or prospect? Are we expanding our client base or deepening relationships with current customers?
2) Per customer revenue
Does the activity help a salesperson close more deals? Do they sell more products on average per customer or provide better customer service? Is it making our customers happier and solving their problems better than before?
3) Consistently Win
Each salesperson should know their personal win rate. This is measured from start to close as well as the advance they make by stage. Erratic rates generally indicate that there are major problems with how you’re doing things.
4) Comple Cycles as soon as you can
Faster doesn’t always mean better. Sometimes, it means the deal will be killed by time.
Speed is crucial in the sales process. If it’s not consistent, there could be something wrong with your processes.
When selling to customers, it’s important that reps know how long the sales process should take.
Armed with the four competencies driving compound growth, you can now work together to find out what skills are needed to be a “high core” performer based on your company’s activity mix.
You should be tracking:
- Number of new opportunities
- Revenue per customer
- Win Rate
You can use David’s definition of High Core to help you determine which skills are most important for coaching.
- David creates a lot of opportunities for himself.
- The High Core team generates 84% more revenue per opportunity than David’s.
- David has a success rate of 50% in closing deals, but only 22% in the dollars he’s chasing. He also loses more small-ticket items than High Core does.
- David’s average time it takes to complete a deal is 103 days. The High Core completes deals in 94 days.
Target Competencies are the skills that a salesperson must have in order to complete Target Activities. This sets them up for success by allowing them to choose which skill they would like to focus on first.
You need to create a high-performance engine with each one of your salespeople.
With the Compound Growth Formula, a sales team can look at high-performance sources in four different quadrants.
If a salesperson wanted to grow by 10%, they could do that with our help.
If you make small changes and improvements to your work, it can add up into something bigger. A 10% improvement over the course of a year is impressive.
It is a lot easier to calculate the answer when you use exponents: (1.1 x 1.1) .9 = 1.4788.
Improving the four drivers of your sales engine by 10% will grow you about 50%. This is a good way to prioritize where to go on David’s path and get High Core. By applying these percentages, or multiplying them out using dollars, we can quickly see how much money we would make after improving each area.
To help the salesperson succeed, you can quickly determine which changes will have most impact and then guide them through a process that yields predictable outcomes.
When a leader is coaching, the most important question they can answer is:
“What will happen if I change?”
“What will happen if I do not change?”
Salespeople need clear, concise direction and feedback. “Because I said so” doesn’t work with them.
What works is setting priorities based on the strengths and weaknesses of each salesperson. This sets up creating important moments for a coach to create.
We’ll cover this topic in the fourth part of my sales coaching series.
Additional guides in the series How to Approach Sales Coaching Like a Pro
This is the 3rd installment of a 5-part series on sales coaching models. The other guides are:
- #1: The Coaching Mentality
- It’s important to have a strategy when it comes to coaching your sales team. It should be data-driven, and the coach must know what they want from their employees.
- Sales reps need goals to provide a sense of accomplishment and motivation. If they have been given the right tools, then it is possible for them to achieve their desired goal.
- A follow-up is a way of staying in touch with the client and letting them know you still care about their business.
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