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What We Miss About Sales Metrics

by David Brock on April 1st, 2011

We’re having a terrific discussion about metrics at Future Selling Institute.  One of the things I’ve realized is there is something missing in the way we think about and leverage metrics.

As sales professionals, we’re used to measuring and being measured.  We’re focused on our quota’s and goal attainment.  As sales leaders, metrics are important in analyzing the performance of our teams, people, and organization.  We use metrics to assess performance, and coach improvement.  This is very important, but I think each of us, whether we are individual contributors or leaders miss a key thing about metrics–using them as a guide to our own personal performance.

Let me digress a moment.  I’m a wannabe bike racer/triathlete.  I like riding, I like riding fast, I like to see performance on the bike improve.  Every once in a while I compete in a bike race or a triathlon.  I like doing it to test my performance against much better athletes, some of whom are world class.  I’m not trying to beat them–some are half my age.  The person I’m really trying to beat is myself.  You see, I measure everything I do.  I set goals for myself, how many miles am I going to ride each week, what’s target average speed, how much climbing will I do, what’s my target performance on the hills, how much swimming will I do, what are my target times.  There are all sorts of things I track myself on.  I have computers that I wear swimming and running, they keep track of my performance.  There’s a computer on my bike, that keeps track of my performance.  I look at the data in my computer.

Why do I do this?  It’s simply that I want to get better–not for anyone else but for myself.  I want to constantly improve my performance.  I set goals for running distance, average time, biking distance, average speed, swimming distance, average time, and so forth.  I measure how I do against those goals–I constantly look at my performance against those goals to try to figure out where I am in achieving my plan, what I may need to change.  I learned how to pedal more smoothly, getting more power, more consistently.  I learn how to adjust my swimming stroke—I still have a long way to go on the swimming side of things.

Goals and measuring my performance against those goals in my athletic endeavors are important.  I want to improve, I want to beat my last performance.  The metrics show my where I am and help me understand what I might change and improve.

In sales it’s kind of similar.  Goals and measuring our attainment against the goals is important.  It’s how we tell whether we are on track, it’s how we start looking at what we do, tweaking our performance and seeking to improve.  Did I accomplish as much as I could have in that last sales call?  Am I improving my win rate?  Am I compressing my sales cycle?  Where am I in doing the things I need to do to achieve my annual goals and quota?  What do I need to do to tweak my own performance?

Goals and metrics are critical.  I establish them because they help me!  They are my personal yardstick.  Yes, they’re good for my manager–she can help coach me in things that I can do to more effectively achieve my goals–just like my coach for my athletic training.  But the goals and metrics are mine–not my manager’s.  Goals and metrics are how our performance is evaluated–that’s a fact of corporate life, but that’s not really why they are important to me.  Sure I want to perform well in the organization–but if I achieve my goals, I’ll outperform everyone else.

See the opportunity I think we miss, whether we’re individual contributors or managers, is that too often we think goals and metrics are only for our organization.  It’s what they want and expect of us.  It’s how my contributions will be evaluated.  That is an important aspect of why we have goals and metrics.

But to me, the more powerful reason is very selfish.  Goals and metrics are for me.  They help me identify what I want to achieve, track my performance, and help give me clues about what I can do to improve.

Are the goals and metrics that you have yours–or are they someone else’s?  If you don’t have some of your own, it seems you may be missing some great opportunities for yourself.

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