Sales and Sales Management Blog

May 3, 2008

Will Sales Metrics Ever be More Than a Bat to Beat Salespeople?


Sales metrics, those pesky sales and activity numbers—hated and loathed by salespeople, and often for good reason.

In many companies (most?), the bit of metrics data the sales manager and company get on their sales team members is used only for the purpose of harassing, browbeating, and threatening the salespeople.

Call reports turn into demands for the salesperson to make more calls. Commission reports are used to highlight weak sales and demand more calls. Pipeline reports are used to demonstrate a lack of activity and to demand more calls.

So what happens to the call and pipeline reports? They get padded. Salespeople have learned that if you’re just going to use it as a bat to beat them with, they’re not going to cut the tree down for you.

With the ‘metrics’ available to managers from the traditional call, pipeline, customer status, and commission reports it is very difficult to isolate the root issues a salesperson has. It can be done. It takes study, practice and well developed analytical skills and real knowledge of the salesperson involved.

Unfortunately, that’s a lot of work. So, many managers take the easy way out—take a quick look, determine the root cause is not enough calls and demand more. It makes no difference if call quantity is an issue or not. It makes little difference if the salesperson has been properly trained in prospecting and personal marketing strategies. It makes no difference if the real issue is their interpersonal skills, their communication skills, their presentation skills, or their ability to probe, identify and solve prospect issues. The answer is usually the same—make more calls.

Since the salesperson sees no benefit from developing accurate reports—but certainly sees a very real determent, is it any wonder the reports are fanciful?

Now, what happens when the company institutes an automated system and demands compliance to faithfully use the system? Resistance, of course. From the salesperson’s point of view, all the automated system is going to do is give the manager and the company a bigger bat to beat them with.

Yet, salespeople can be taught to relish sales metrics. Certainly not by using the data the way it’s been used in the past, but by using it to proactively help the salesperson make more money.

The information gathered by an automated system—in fact, even that puff of information generated by traditional reports—can literally change a salesperson’s career if used properly. Even a reasonable handful of accurate data can pinpoint real issues and real root problems that hinder a salesperson’s performance. The data in the hands of someone who has been properly trained to analyze the information can be used to create an individualized training and coaching program for each team member.

If salespeople understand the information makes them money through pinpoint training and coaching, improving their skills, getting them to comply with using the system and producing accurate data—even a handwritten or very basic spreadsheet system—isn’t an issue. Most salespeople want to sell more. They want to earn more. They want to excel. But those same salespeople have no desire to be consistently beaten over the head.

If you want accurate reports from your salespeople, think seriously about why you want them and exactly what you’re going to do with them. If can’t or won’t use them to help your salespeople become better salespeople, don’t even bother to ask for them because what you get will be designed to keep you off their back as long as possible.

On the other hand, if you’re goal is to help your team become the best salespeople they can be and to grow your team’s sales, communicate to your team in no uncertain terms what the purpose of the reports is and then stick to it—use them as training and mentoring tools, not bats. It will take some time to get the response you desire because salespeople have been taught—either at your company or by a previous manager—that metrics aren’t to be trusted.

If you or your managers need help in learning how to thoroughly analyze and use the reports as training and coaching tools, hire a company such as McCord Training or any of the other consulting and coaching companies that specialize in the area. But whether you need outside help or not, you can have salespeople who welcome sales metrics—and the side benefit is the reports you have in your hand will actually have some relationship to reality.

Would you like to learn more about how the new sales technology is going to impact salespeople, managers and companies? Visit The Management Curve where I’ve gathered a group of sales management and tech consultants, sales performance researchers, and CRM, Sales Performance Management and Sales Force Automation developers to discuss the real world impact of technology on the sales force.

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