October 23, 2020

Measuring The Right Thing (In Sales)

by Joseph Fung in Happy Selling

You might have heard the adage, “what gets measured gets done.” But what happens if you’re measuring too many things or if you’re not measuring enough? Here, we’re focused on measuring the right things!

In a data-driven world, you want your numbers to help make you better, not work against you.

So how do you make sure your numbers are pushing you to improve rather than blocking you from moving forward? It all starts with which numbers you’re tracking.

We’re going to break down how you, as an individual contributor, can make sense out of mountains of data and numbers and ensure you know how to find the correct metrics that will influence your performance in a positive manner.

The Instinct With Measuring The Right Things

When people think about measuring the right thing, their first instinct is often to talk to a peer or colleague – someone more successful – and ask them what they measure. As a sales rep, you might approach a senior sales rep and say, “What things do you measure? What metrics do you watch?” If you’re a sales manager, you might ask a sales manager at another company, “What are you measuring? What should I put on my dashboard? What should I track?

I want to start off by saying that is the wrong way to do it. Why?t We live in a world that’s awash with data and metrics, and there are too many ways to optimize your process. Another rep, another company or another leader is almost guaranteed to be at a different stage, selling to a different market with a different set of challenges than you. So before anything else, disabuse yourself of the practice of asking somebody else what they measure, and copying them because that’s not going to help you.

Instead of asking what you need to measure, ask “Where am I weak? What do I need to improve? What can I do better every day?” 

Let’s use an example. As a sales rep, I might answer that I need to have more conversations, and talk to more people. I see reps in my space talking to 20 or 30 more people a day than I do, and I need to get to a point where I’m doing the same thing.

You’ll notice I didn’t start from a metric; I started from a problem. I identified something I want to improve. (If I were a manager, I might start from, “What’s something my team needs to improve?“) If you ask yourself that, I guarantee you, something’s going to come right to mind. 

Start there.

A Company With Too Much Data

The next big question is: how do I actually handle all that data?

Imagine you’re working at a company that has all of the latest and greatest tech bells and whistles. You’ve got Outreach for your outreach, Salesforce for your CRM, SalesLoft for your sales automation, and everything is generating data. Your company even set up Tableau to give you a fantastic dashboard, and it’s awash with numbers.

If you’re in that situation, chances are you feel a little bit like they’re throwing a lot of information at you and none of it is helpful. That’s okay. A lot of those dashboards and tools aren’t designed to give you the numbers you’re meant to look at every day.

They’re designed to be alarms. They’re designed to highlight when something goes awry. That’s their purpose. Of course, when you think about measuring the right things, don’t dismiss those reports and dashboards. Just remember they serve a different purpose. They’re not actually there to help you improve a specific thing.

Instead, think about this key question: what are the one or two numbers that will help you? Then bookmark them. Your path to improvement isn’t about using dashboards or default reporting; it’s about identifying that specific measure, honing in on it in your reports and coming back out.

Let’s return to that idea of speaking to more people. If we invoke that adage, “what gets measured gets done,” we can measure things like how many conversations we’re having each day and how many touches we have per person. If we can get to a “yes” or “no” with fewer touches, then we can speak to more people in a day and waste less time on conversations.

Tools like Salesloft can measure touches, conversions and much more but we can zero in on the “Successes” report, which highlights how many activities are necessary for success. Let’s measure that. The number might be good, the number might be bad, but if you go in and check that number every single day, you will train your habits.

The takeaway: first, embrace the idea that those dashboards serve a different purpose. Dig in and find the specific number or the specific report that answers your most important question, and then visit it every day. Hold yourself accountable to it and you will see that improvement. When you’re awash with data, you need to be responsible for honing in and grabbing the right thing.

A Company Without Enough Data

On the other hand, people sometimes tell us that their company doesn’t have enough tech, doesn’t have enough systems or doesn’t give them the data they need. And to that, I say: it’s not always the company’s job.

If you’re a sales professional, your job is to improve. And the reality is, you don’t need complex systems to do that. Pen and paper work just fine. So if your team hasn’t invested in something like Salesloft, Outreach, Gong.io or other stats mechanisms, come back to your original question – “What do I need to improve?” –  and then ask yourself, “What do I need to track to get there?”

If you want to have more conversations, you can start by measuring how many conversations you have in a day. But that stat, on the surface, will only tell you so much. You need to dig into the root causes behind it.

Are you spending too much time on the phone? Measure the length of those calls. Are you doing too many touches, spending too much time or having too many conversations with the same person? You’re not actually moving your pipeline through.

A really simple thing like a tally sheet that counts how many times you contact each individual could be your lifeline. There’s nothing wrong with printing out a list of your contacts. If you have a CRM, you can export that list, printit out, and tally every time you call and email. It may feel old school, but it’s incredibly powerful because while you’re on the phone, you can jot down notes and check the tally sheet off — and yes, that gives you all the data you need!

From a sheet like this, you can determine how many contacts it takes before you book that meeting, get a success or remove them from the list. It’s the same kind of information you’d get from a more robust platform like SalesLoft.

The big benefit of an automated system is that it simplifies roll-up statistics. Great for a company, but  you as an individual sales rep don’t need that to improve. A tally sheet, a simple tracking sheet and a time tracking tool like a stopwatch can help you accomplish that.

So don’t feel blocked by a lack of technology. Just ask yourself how you can track what you need to track. And the best part is, as you build that muscle and improve that metric, you don’t have to track it anymore. You can move on to the next thing to improve.

Questions To Ask About Managing Data

For current Uvaro students and grads who are interviewing for sales jobs, I’m going to give you three key questions that you can ask that are not only sure to impress, but will also help you assess the maturity of the organization:

1. Can you tell me about a part of your sales process that your team is trying to improve right now?

The answer will tell you where they focused. Maybe it’s about the quality of their demos, maybe it’s about the timing of their cadences or maybe it’s about how fast their discovery is. This will help you understand what they’re trying to shore up and what they hope you will deliver to improve their team.

2.  What is your team measuring to assess their growth?

Follow up by asking if they’re measuring things like call time and what actual metrics they collect. This question will help you understand how they think about the business. Chances are, it’ll also give you insights about the tools they’re using in their tech stack, too. If they say they’re measuring things like the number of times a competitor is mentioned on a call, it means they’re probably using some type of conversational intelligence tool. If they measure things like the number of touches it takes to get to a “success”, it might imply they’re using something like SalesLoft or Outreach. 

3.  How do you collect those metrics from your team?

This will help you understand what specific tools they’re using. Are they using a dashboarding tool, built-in reporting or some kind of manual automation? Or are they less mature? Are they sitting in on their weekly kickoffs and asking each team member to report their numbers, digging in to each to understand them more deeply?

Asking these three questions will not only give you the deep insights you need, but it’s also going to show that you care deeply about the art and the process of solving how to improve – and that you’re thinking about it systematically. And those are all great things!

We hope this helps you to start measuring the right things!