I wrote, The Number Are, Well, Just Numbers. It stirred up a lot of discussion and one observation from Gordon Hogg, was both amusing and illuminating:
“It’s the Cobra Effect! India’s colonial governor put a bounty on cobras to stop snake bites. Dead cobras came in but snake bites persisted. People started breeding cobras to kill for the bounty.”
I don’t know it it’s a true story, but it points out the unintended consequences of some of the metrics we put in place. We have to think about, “What behaviors are we driving–are those the behaviors we really want to drive?”Rumpf Bee 1515 Dance 艩ed谩 Fitness Jedin媒 Sport Cheer Aerobic Split N谩mo艡nick谩 Jedin媒 cvi膷en铆 Jazz Salsa Sneaker Grey N谩mo艡nick谩 modr谩 艩ed谩 6026615
Too often, we blindly put in place numbers, without understanding how our people will achieve the numbers. Any sales person will try to figure these out–often gaming the system.
For example, a client thought: “If we do more proposals, we’ll close more deals.” He put in place a metric for the number of proposals the sales people needed to do. In could make sense, the logic being, the more opportunities we compete in, the more deals we have the opportunity to win, even if we win the same share (It’s the more times at bat argument.)
The problem was, sales people couldn’t find enough qualified deals to make their proposal goal. But under pressure to make the goal, they started sending out unsolicited proposals to prospects. Pretty soon, all the sales people were making the weekly proposal goal, but the business results weren’t improving.
The answer was, the manager thought, “More proposals…..” You know what happened.
Or the weekly/daily telephone calls goal. Another client had a goal in place. Over time, the people started achieving the daily call goal, but the results (booking more meetings) weren’t being achieved. Again, management, wasn’t looking at the underlying issues—what behaviors were they driving, were those the behaviors they wanted to drive, would they produce the outcomes necessary, if not, why not, was there another metric that would be more effective to drive the outcomes needed…..
Or the pipeline coverage model—We know if the win rate is 33%, our pipelines have to have 3 times the number of opportunities necessary to make the number. When people are struggling to make their numbers, often, managers react—“You need more in the pipeline, you need 4X, 5X, 6X…. coverage!” But the results don’t improve. What happens is sales people driven to get the coverage, cast wider nets, they get more into their pipelines, but the quality is poorer, as a result the win rates decline, pipeline coverage demands increase, ….. and the organization is in a death spiral because managers are fixated on a metric but not understanding the behaviors the metric drives, or whether it’s even the right metric in the first place.
Number and metrics are important. But we can’t implement them blindly. We have to assess the behaviors they will drive, the outcomes they create, whether we are measuring the right things, or the “what’s, why’s, how’s” of what we are measuring.
Business people, particularly sales, are obsessed with numbers. We measure everything, we scorecard everything.
Revenue, orders, growth, margin, share, performance against plan, performance against prior periods, pipeline metrics, calls made, meetings held, demos conducted, proposals submitted, wins/losses, expenses/budget, CPOD, people hired, turnover (voluntary/involuntary), performance in customers (e.g. major accounts), performance in market sectors, performance by product line, performance in geographic region/territory, customer satisfaction/NPS, customer acquisition cost, new customer acquisition, retention, churn, renewal, open rates, click throughs, forwards, bounce rates……
Differing segments have specialized terminology for many of these metrics. For example XaaS oriented businesses have a propensity to endless acronyms measuring the same things as above. It should be no surprise from a segment that defines itself by an acronym, that metrics are acronyms, including ARR, LTV, CLV, CAC, Arpu, and on an on–you get the point.
Marketing creates a language of their own, usually accompanied by the appropriate acronyms, as wel–MQL, SAL, ABCD (OK, I made that up).
Numbers are important, they provide an indicator of progress, or lack of progress, toward a goal.
But numbers are just numbers.
And we run into problems when managers just manage to the numbers—which is what too many managers do.
“You are behind on quota performance, you have to sell more…”
“You have to make more calls, demos, meetings, proposals…”
“You have to have more pipeline coverage….”
“You must increase your activity levels….”
The problem with numbers is, they are just numbers.
They are indicators, they may draw our attention to something that’s going right, something that’s going wrong, or the progress we are making toward a goal.
They don’t give us much more insight into why the numbers are what they are. They don’t tell us why we may or may not be making our revenue/quota/margin goals, why we aren’t having enough customer meetings, why our activity levels are not where they should be, or whether the activities are producing what we expect them to be producing.
I worry about managers who proudly focus on “Managing to the numbers.” They will always fail—or at least underperform those who seek to understand what the numbers mean.
Yet, that’s just what most managers do–they manage to the numbers.
Recently, I spoke to a senior manager who had set a “proposal goal” for all his sales people—“You have to present X proposals per week.” I started asking, “Why did you choose X, should it be Y or Z? Are X proposals a week producing the outcomes you want? Are the quality of the proposals at the level you expect? Are proposals even the most important thing do achieving your other goals? and on and on….”
He was confused by my questions, he frankly didn’t have much patience for my questions. He tried to dismiss them, “I know proposals are necessary to produce orders.” When I produced data showing the average trend in revenue per proposal was declining precipitously, his reaction was, “I have to up the proposal goal by 50%….”
Instead he should have asked questions like, “What’s happening, why is it happening, what are the causes of this, what might we do differently…..?”
We don’t understand performance problems by managing to the numbers. Yet that’s just what too many managers do, they live in a volume and velocity world, where the answer to bad numbers is “Do more, faster.”
This is, primarily, a management problem–starting at the top of the management food chain.
We have to stop managing to the numbers, but using the numbers to help us understand what is causing them, why, and what we might do to achieve the numbers we want. At all levels, we have to constantly drill down to understand not just the symptoms (the numbers), but what the root causes are. We have to ask the 5 Why’s. We have to assess what we might change and why. We have to understand cause/effect. We have to ask ourselves whether we should be doing things differently.
We have to ask ourselves if we are even looking at the right numbers in the right way.
It starts with management, but is not just a management issue. Each of us has to look at our own performance. Are we achieving what we should, if we aren’t why aren’t we, what might we do differently. If our calls aren’t producing the results we expect, we need to examine who we are calling, how we are engaging, what we should be doing differently–our managers can help us, but it’s our own job to figure this out and to fix this. At least if you want to be a sales professional-a high performer, you must always be assessing your own performance and improving.
Numbers are important and will always be. But they are just indicators, they are signs we see on our journey, they help us understand our progress.
The most important thing about numbers is they should cause us to ask questions and probe.
Afterword: Imagine applying the same analytic approach to your customer and their numbers. Like us, too often they fail to probe and understand what underlies the numbers, whether they are looking at the right things, or whether they can improve their numbers.
Yeah, I know what the immediate reaction to the title of this post will be…..
“But Dave, we’re slaves to our managers and our companies………!”P谩nsk谩 obuv Renegade GTX Mid Lowa pro mu啪e, Sepia / Sepia, 10 W US - SOREL D谩msk谩 louka Zip-up Boot Bl谩to , Naturalizer Womens TYNNER ko啪en茅 uzav艡en茅 prstov茅 kotn铆kov茅 boty Dover Taupe Suede , Santimon P谩nsk茅 kovbojsk茅 boty ko啪en茅 Wingtip Western Chelsea se zipem 膶ern谩 Ariat p谩nsk谩 vysok谩 v谩le膷ka z谩padn铆 kovbojsk谩 obuv, Bittersweet 膷okol谩da, 12 D USA Bitrosov谩 膷okol谩da , Coolloog Mu啪i 沤eny Snow Boots Bavlna Boty pln臎 ko啪铆 Lemovan媒 vod臎odoln媒 艩n臎rovac铆 zima Tepl茅 kotn铆kov茅 tenisky Zelen谩 Pobo膷ky D谩msk茅 Plimsoll pro拧铆van茅 kv臎tinov茅 vysok茅 zimn铆 boty na sn臎hu 膶ern谩 Adidas Performance P谩nsk谩 Crazy Train Cross-Training Shoe 膶ern谩 / Semi sol谩rn铆 啪lut谩 / tmav臎 拧ed谩 Nine West Women s Calhoun m贸dn铆 boty Tmav臎 p艡铆rodn铆 k暖啪e FRYE p谩nsk茅 boty Logan Cap Toe 150 Tmav臎 hn臎d谩 - 80156 ECCO P谩nsk谩 golfov谩 obuv Biom G2 Boa Gore-TEX B铆l媒 膷ern媒 Stacy Adams P谩nsk谩 Madison Boot Taupe - 015 , LifeStride Women s Parigi Tmav臎 膷erven谩 , Bella Marie Helena-13 D谩msk谩 mandlov谩 拧pi膷ka na podpatku Mary Jane Glitter Suede Pumps 膶ern谩 D谩msk谩 obuv Emilia s dvojit媒m lemem Fixed Toe Flat 膶ern媒 suede , ALEADER D谩msk谩 k暖啪e Classic Comfort Ballerina Walking Flats Shoes-Size Aktualizov谩no N谩mo艡nictvo , Obuv 18 沤eny Balletina Ballet Flat Shoes Solids & Leopards & hellip; Black Micro Drew Shoe D谩msk茅 kv臎ty II Mary Jane 膶ern媒 tele , PUMA p谩nsk谩 pono啪ka B.O.G Vysok谩 rizika 膷erven谩 / Puma b铆l谩 , Nadizi mu啪i 啪eny Unisex Letn铆 prody拧n茅 S铆钮ov茅 sand谩ly, Papu膷e, Pl谩啪 Obuv, voda Boty, klasick茅 p艡铆le啪itostn茅 Obuv 膶ern谩 , Mofri d谩msk茅 stylov茅 拧pi膷ky 拧pi膷at茅 拧pi膷ky - barevn茅 barvy uzav艡en茅 拧pi膷ky - posu艌te na ploch茅 boty Mules B茅啪ov媒 , Honeystore D谩msk茅 boty s uzav艡enou 拧pi膷kou Mary Jane Dance Zlat茅 holuby 50 odst铆n暖 mu啪暖 Standard 1 \ Tane膷n铆 obuv Sb铆rka (艩irok谩 艩铆艡ka k dispozici): Komfortn铆 tane膷n铆 s谩l, Standard, Smooth, Latina, Salsa, Theather Um臎n铆 po stran谩ch C919101 膷ern谩 k暖啪e , NIKE P谩nsk茅 Zoom Stefan Janoski Skate Shoe Obsidian / 膷ern谩 SAS Women s Bounce 膶epice nahoru 膶ern谩 , Skate boty Supra Vaider Sv臎tle 拧ed谩 - b铆l谩 Mus茅 & Cloud d谩msk茅 Sayuri Slide Sandal K暖啪e, Tan Bates p谩nsk茅 Ulta-lites 8 palc暖 taktick茅 Sport Comp Toe Work Boot 膶ern谩 Dal拧铆 dny bez skluzu Vodn铆 sportovn铆 obuv Lehk媒 Barefoot Rychl谩 such谩 voda Pono啪ky Beach baz茅n Plav谩n铆 j贸ga cvi膷en铆 膶ern谩 , Demetory Unisex Rychlou suchou vodou Obuv lehk谩 Aqua pono啪ky pro Plavat, ch暖ze, J贸ga, pl谩啪, voda Park 2-啪lut谩 ,
I get it, I’m talking about something different, but if your managers are treating you like slaves, gently remind them the Emancipation Proclamation was put into effect on January 1, 1863 (for non US readers, I’ll have to do some research).
What I’m focusing on is the application of the principles of Servant Leadership to our how we work with our customers.
Underlying the concept of servant or transformational leadership are roughly 10 principles:
But what if we examined the principles of servant leadership as applied to selling?
The Servant Sales Person creates superior value with their customers. The Servant Sales Person creates superior value with their colleagues and within their organization.
The principles of Servant Leadership are also fundamentals to becoming a high performance sales person.
Oh, and by the way, you may want to drop a copy of this on your manager’s desk. Perhaps, they’ll think of their role in being servant leaders to their teams 😉
Imagine you have an appointment with your ideal customer. The only constraint is that you can’t talk about your product.
Could you make the call? What would it look like?
I suppose you could talk about the weather, exchange chit chat about the World Cup, perhaps the latest baseball games or cricket matches.
But that wouldn’t be very satisfying to you or the customer. It probably would be a very short meeting, because your ideal customer probably doesn’t like to have her time wasted.
What could you possible talk about that would be a good use of the customer’s time?
A good start would be to talk about what the customer is most interested in talking about.
But you’d be wasting your time, and possibly be unqualified if you just spoke about any topic your customer is interested in.
You’d have to harness the discussion to talk about challenges they have about the problems you are the best in the world about solving.
But you’d be forced to talk about it from their perspective–not pitching your product features, functions, feeds, and speeds.
You’d be forced to get the customer to talk about the issues and how it impacts them and their organization. You’d have to drill down asking them to define the issues specifically. You’d probably then ask them how it impacts them. You’d immediately get into how important the issue is in the scheme of things.
You might then guide the discussion to what they’d like to change, when, and why. You’d probably follow that up by asking their goals or “what would it look like if that problem/challenge were eliminated?”
You might help them realize there might be different ways to look at or think about the issues. Or you might help them understand they may be overlooking important aspects about the problem or things to consider as they look to eliminating the problem. These, of course, wouldn’t be product/solution capabilities, these would be change and risk management issues.
Through the conversation, you would help the customer shape their thinking about their urgency in addressing the issues, the impact they of the change, you’d help them create a vision of a future state where they be moving past the problem, addressing new opportunities.
Properly executed, by the end of the meeting, the customer will be left with one question.
“How can you help me do this?”
It’s only then that your solution is relevant–in fact critical to them. At that point they will be hungry to learn how you can help them.
Think about your next critical meeting with a customer. Imagine what that meeting would look like without ever mentioning your products. Even if the customer asks you, don’t give into the temptation, shift the conversation away from the product, focusing on the customer. Develop your call plan, then execute it.
Magic happens when you do this.
This is Dave Brock's Blog. It offers my views on a variety of business, sales, marketing, and leadership topic. My goal is to make a difference for you, the reader, in both your professional and personal lives.
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