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Making The Number Isn’t The Point!

by David Brock on January 13th, 2014

The discussion around my post, “Don’t Bother Me With Process!” has been generating some interesting discussions.  I’ve been surprised with the number of reactions basically saying, “Who cares whether they follow the process if they are making the number?”  What’s surprising me, is most of those comments are coming from managers!

As sales leaders, we have a number of responsibilities.

First, we have to make the number—no if’s and’s, or but’s.  The number is sacred, we sign up for it, and we have to make it.

Second, we have to maximize the performance both of the overall organization and of each individual in the organization.  Here’s where things get a little murky.

Let me start with maximizing the performance of each individual in the organization.  This means that we have to get each person to contribute the most they can–both in the short term and the long term.  In the short term, minimum performance is making the number.  If they aren’t making the number they aren’t achieving the basic levels of performance we expect.  Sure, there are some good reasons why a person might not make a number.  There is, also, no end to excuses and rationalizations our people, and sometimes we as managers make about not making the number.  However, when you wash away all the nice stuff we use to “soften” our message, minimum performance is making the number.  Stated differently, you make the number and you probably get to keep your job.

But our jobs as leaders is maximizing performance–not meeting minimums.  Given that context, making the number really isn’t the point, making sure each individual is contributing to the most of their capabilities is what we need to focus on.  So that involves performing as best possible today, not being limited or constrained to the number.  But, it also means maximizing the future contribution of each individual.  This means we have to also coach, develop, and grow them to take on more responsibility in the future.  It’s our obligation tor our companies, and to each individual in our organization.

Now let me move on to the organizational perspective.  Our jobs as sales leaders is to maximize the performance of the overall organization.  This is where a lot of consultant types start tossing around words like effectiveness and efficiency.  These are both critical elements in maximizing performance.  Effectiveness really looks to the quality, content, context of selling.  I looking at effectiveness, we generally are looking at our engagement strategies, value creation strategies, go to customer and deployment issues, sales process. sales competencies,  and all sorts of  issues.  In looking at efficiency, we generally are focused on the cost and time elements of all those effectiveness issues.  We are looking to achieve the most at the least possible cost and in the least possible time.

While I’ve tried to capture things in neat little buckets and simple concepts, in reality, balancing all this stuff is really messy and complex.  It seems every time we tweak one thing, it adversely impacts something else.  So as we look at effectiveness, efficiency, and maximizing overall organizational performance, it becomes an iterative process, often taking a few steps forwards and maybe some backwards.  Often, just as we think we have things sorted out and stabilized, things change and we have to start the process all over again.

But in the end, we as sales leaders are accountable for maximizing the overall performance of the organization.

So it’s in that context that I have a problem when anyone says, “Anything is OK as long as they make the numbers!”  If every person did their own thing, whether it is using the sales process, selling the full product line, using or not using the systems and tools we have in place, what ever it might be — but they are making the numbers; we are not fulfilling our responsibilities and obligations as managers.  We are not maximizing performance!

The reason we talk so much about strategies, Go To Customer Models, sales competencies, recruiting, coaching, sales process, systems, tools, programs, metrics, performance management, incentives, account/deal/call/territory planning, coaching, training, and on and on is these are things we leverage to maximize performance, effectiveness and efficiency.

The consistent top performing sales organizations in the world do all these things in a very disciplined, structured way.  Their people execute in a disciplined and structured way.  They make their numbers–more often than not, but not always.  When they miss, they are disciplined and structured in their recovery plans.  But when you look at what they are really doing, they are always trying to maximize performance–not just make the numbers.

So making the number isn’t really the point of performance management.  Making the number is achieving minimum expectations.

If everyone did their own thing, we would be neither as effective as we could be, nor are we be as efficient as we could be.  We could also be significantly underperforming to the potential.

Our job is sales leaders is not to do the minimum, it’s to help each individual and the organization achieve the highest levels of performance possible!

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8 Comments
  1. “But our jobs as [Sales] leaders is maximizing performance–not meeting minimums.”

    That is the very reason why:
    So many Salespeople are NOT meeting Target,
    So many Sales Managers lose their jobs,
    So many Companies are performing poorly!

    The cause?
    Sales Leaders do not understand their Job,
    it is NOT Survival, it IS Success.

    And, success is not making a number!

    Or, as every Competitive Golfer knows:
    PAR is NOT good enough!

    Let’s make 2014 the year of The Sales Leader.

  2. Great article.

    I’m not a professional sales person, but I’ve said this many times to many of my sales teams:

    “…our jobs as leaders is maximizing performance–not meeting minimums.”
    The focus shouldn’t be on ‘hitting the number’, it should be on delivering what our clients need / want in a way that gets them excited about us and gets people talking about us.

    We do that, we’ll hit our numbers.

  3. Doug Schmidt permalink

    Dave and Brian, The scenario of “Don’t bother me with process” may be more prevalent than we I think. You both hit the nail on the head when you talk about “sales leadership”! Where is it, how can we train more effective sales leaders and what can we do about it? Dave and Brain, keep on being role models and leaders in the sales profession.

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