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Getting Personal About Metrics

by David Brock on May 9th, 2010

Sales managers spend a lot of time talking about metrics.  They measure everything–some good, some over measured, but some micromanaged.  There’s a lot of focus in the Sales 2.0 world about metrics, but again, most of the discussion is how to help sales managers.  It’s time to shift the discussion to sales professionals–individual contributors.

Yes, we’re all used to being measured, that’s part of what makes us sales people.  At any point in time, we know (or pretend to know), where we are in our quota attainment.  We always focus on “The Number.”  Making the number is the end game, it’s important to all of us, it’s how our bonus and commissions are calculated and how our performance is evaluated.  In many cases, not making the number may mean that we have to look some place else for a job.

There are a richer set of metrics, though, that are important for every sales person to have–just for themselves.  Each sales person needs his own scorecard to look at how they are performing and to identify areas in which they should improve.  Each sales person needs to have a mix of metrics–we can’t get past the trailing metrics–The Number– but we need to have some forward looking metrics, to help us assess whether we are headed in the right direction and will make our number.  Forward looking metrics help us identify issues in time to be able to do something about our performance.

In looking at building a scorecard of personal metrics, I think metrics in four key areas are critical:  Business management, Operational, Customer growth/relationships,  and Personal Development.

Business management metrics are those that we are most used to.  These are generally focused around The Number.  It could be orders, revenue, profit, attainment against quota.  The numbers could be measured on a monthly, quarterly, or year to date basis—in some industries even on a daily basis.  I won’t spend much time on these, we know all about this and our managers remind us every day.

Operational metrics.  These are critical, they focus on what we are doing now, helping us understand whether we are doing enough of the right things to make the number.  Often, these can be activity metrics–how many calls we make a day, how many meetings we have a week.  I tend to think activity metrics are important for every sales person.  For example, I know that if I don’t have at least 10 telephone meetings a week with new potential clients, I won’t make my number next year.  Regardless, of what I am doing, where I am, I have to make those calls and have those conversations.  There are a lot of other important operational metrics including conversion/win rates, sales cycle time, pipeline/funnel health, deal velocity, average transaction value, etc.  There are dozens, all potentially useful.  But what’s important is to identify the few that are most critical to you in predicting how you will perform and whether you are on target or need to take corrective actions.  Focus on identifying 3-4, set some targets and measure your attainment against those targets.

Customer growth/relationship metrics are also critical.  These are sometimes more difficult to measure.  They also may tend to focus on longer term measures of success, but if you don’t focus on them now, they will impact your ability to continue to grow your business–whether it’s within your territory, account, industry, or markets.  These metrics may focus on account development—how many new executive relationships have we developed in a key account, how many new projects have we started or opportunities have we identified in divisions we have never done business with.  They may focus on territory development–how many new accounts are we generating; on market development–how many new applications or new segments are we developing.  They may focus on customer satisfaction, either in some of the classic ways, or numbers of new references, or numbers of referrals/introductions.  In developing your own business–whether it’s your territory or your personal network, customer relationship metrics help you establish goals and strategies for growth.

Finally, and most often overlooked, are personal development metrics.  Top sales professionals are always learning and developing.  The best establish personal development goals to keep their edge and to be out in front of their peers and competitors.  It may be building new skills, it may be learning how to use new tools, it may be learning new applications.  Set some goals to improve yourself.  There are some obvious one’s like take some sales training classes, read some books on selling, learn how to adopt your CRM system to be a powerful tool for your own productivity.  Look at development outside of just sales skills, develop better business management skills, learn the latest issues in procurement, take a writing or public speaking class, set some personal fitness goals, learn another language.  Consider personal development through volunteer work.  Focus on your development not only as a sales professional, but as a business professional, a human being and a contributor to the local and global community.  These goals are ciritcal to your long term personal success and accomplishment.

Yes, your managers have goals for you–we have to achieve those goals.  But each sales person should have their own personal scorecard.  Each person should establish goals and measurements to assure they are performing to the highest levels thaty can–and growing as much as possible.  The funny thing I’ve discovered, my goals are always tougher than those that management sets for me.  If I achieve my goals, I always pass those established by the organization on the way.

From → Leadership

  1. Dave,

    This is an extremely important topic in my view. Without metrics at many levels of detail that rate performance both in terms of results and the myriad aspects of the process that produces them, a real commitment to continuous improvement is impossible.

    Reps first need to know exactly how effective they are at A, B, C… That requires a baseline metric. They also need to know how their effectiveness changes for each over time. Am I getting better? Am I getting worse? Am I staying the same? At what rate is my performance improving/declining?

    The whole “you want to micro-mange me” mindset is SO wrong-headed. Anyone truly dedicated to continuous self-improvement will DEMAND lots and lots of metrics from the boss.


    • Todd, thansk for the note. Too often we focus on management metrics and not how each sales professional can improve!

  2. Great points Dave. As much as we all resist metrics when it’s in the ‘personal’ realm, it is a very important piece of the puzzle. It provides feedback and a measure of what you are doing well and what needs work. You talk about one of the measures of success is client satisfaction. Yes, that is an acceptable measure but it is a transactional measure. Satisfaction is often related to a specific interaction and if often time sensitive. A better measure of relationship is trust or loyalty. That talks about relationship and is a reflection of intent. Satisfaction doesn’t tell us enough about intent. And trust can clearly be measured.

    • Deborah, it’s great to hear from you. I absolutely agree with you, trust, loyalty, retention and other measures of long term growth of relationships are fantastic. I didn’t mean to limit the discussion to satisfaction, but just provide an example. I would tend to favor the trust/loyalty metrics.

      Actually, though, I’m more interested in your new bike! What did you get? Is it a tri bike? I keep trying to wreck mine so I have the excuse to get a new toy–but it’s really difficult to destroy carbon fiber!

      Thanks for commenting–sorry for the bike diversion 😉

  3. Dave,

    Thanks for pointing out this post to me. I think this is hugely important, because personally chosen metrics are always going to be much more motivational than those imposed from outside. If you haven’t seen them already, I might recommend Drive, by Daniel Pink and Punished By Rewards, by Alfie Kohn.

    I’m going to recommend this post to my client who asked about metrics. Thanks again.

    • Jack, thanks for the comment and the book recommedations. I agree on Drive! I’ll have to pick up Punished By Rewards.

      Keep visiting, I know your comments will really add to the quality of the discussion. Regards, Dave

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