Too many sales organisations rely just on quantitative metrics to performance coach their teams members.
Before we reveal why this is limited in effect and how sales orientated sales organisations can improve performance with qualitative metrics, it is important to define what meant by quantitative and qualitative metrics are.
It is also important to recognise the importance of quantitative metrics and why they are used so frequently.
Lastly it is important to understand the impact of qualitative metrics, how to create them and then how to use these metrics effectively to drive team performance.
Quantitative Metrics v Qualitative metrics.
In 4 Disciplines of execution, Stephen Covey outlines lead v lag measures. Lag measures the end goal. these are typically easy quantitative measures. Quantitative measurement goals can be as simple as losing 10 kgs over the next 6 months. In a sales environment that could be €1 million new sales in the financial year of 2018.
Anyone can measure these two numbers on a weekly and monthly basis, by looking the revenue invoiced and by weighing yourself. As a manager or coach the measurement has value as it demonstrates progress to the target goal, but how does it help in conversation with someone looking to lose 10kg or a sales person looking to achieve the million euro target? A manager that states "you need to lose more weight this month" or "you need to invoice more revenue this month" is not coaching performing, they are merely stating the obvious that both parties are aware of.
Stephen R Covey also talks about lead measurements, which are the actions that lead to the goal and are predictive and can be influenced. For someones losing 10 kg that could be; eat 2100 calories a day and run 25 km a week. It is predictive because we know less calories eaten and more calories dispensed is a reliable way of losing weight.
For a sales person the qualitative metric is more multi-faceted in comparison to the weight loss analogy, however we know that learning and communicating the relevant key messages to the correct stakeholders enough times will significantly influence the sales revenue. This simple sales analogy is not intended to cover all the complex processes, knowledge and skills required for many complex sales engagement, rather to highlight that are observable behaviours that can be coached for improved performance.
Why we use Quantitative measurements?
The simple truth is that these lag or quantitative measurements are both important and easy to measure.
Important as they dictate the health and strategy direction of a company. They are easy to measure an they are frequently reported from Accountancy and invoice systems to ERP and more latterly CRM's
Sales managers can easily review a team members revenue and activity funnel and as a skilled professional will ask lots of questions as the status and key actions of various deals, knowing that 3 x funnel is more likely to bring in the sales target revenue.
I remember the 10 face to face meeting mantra, measurements at all levels to ensure these meetings were achieved. Managers constantly driving teams to make more face to face meetings. This drove sales people to make meetings for meetings sake. As this was the overriding measurement, quality measurements such as qualifying customer needs with the correctly identified stakeholders which were present but ignored. This lead to performance conversation limited to the number of meetings that were logged in the system. I have heard of sales people counting 4 people who were present in one meeting as 4 separate meetings that he logged into the CRM system. Who was wrong the sales person or the measurement.
Quantitative measures whilst they are important over a longer time periods can be harmful to use on a daily and weekly basis.
How to create and measure Qualitative metrics?
Sales organisations need to identify and agree across the organisation what behaviours lead to success. It is often helpful to interview the experienced sales team members t0 explore what are critical steps, stakeholders and messages or techniques they employ to be successful. These can help form the basis of qualitative measurements to implement combined with some quantitative measures. These should be as predicable for each specific organisation. These measures should be observable, and can even be specific for each engagement. The football coach who asks a defender to behave in a specific manner when playing a team with a special attacking player. "I want you man mark him", " I want you push high up the field as she is liable to off side decisions". This is more behaviour specific than " make sure he does not score a goal". It is easy to measure if someone has scored a goal by the end of the match through the match result, even if you the coach were not present, and have not access to footage of the game.
What needs to be physically observed how is how many times a player was left unmarked. In business meetings the same issue occurs, if the manager or coach is not present to observe the performance how they can be sure that sales person asked good open questions, presented a relevant industry case study and whether they communicated the key product attributes and benefits relevant to the customer needs? Yogi Berra the famous baseball player and coach said that you observe alot by watching. This may sound common sense but is not common practice.
How much time do managers and coaches spend observing the performance of their staff? In this cost and time aggressive work environment with remote team members, fewer observations are being made. Another reason why managers rely so heavily on quantitative data from CRM's.
Lets assume that we have defined what is desirable, predictable and potentially observable behaviour that leads to results. How does a manager or coach use these observations to coach and improve their team's performance.
The truth is Managers are more like firemen reacting and putting out fires than spiritual leaders providing guidance to their teams.
Managers should help others learn more, make smarter choices and act more effectively. So how can they help when they cannot observe, when they cannot hear for themselves how conversations played out.
Short of accompanying team members into business meetings, a manager can practice with team members. They can can practice situations that they are likely to encounter and they can play the customer role and test their team members skills and knowledge. Sports coaches pick their teams based on how they performed in practice as well as in matches . The All Blacks rugby team the most successful international team consistently of all time, practice hard and play easy. All the planning practice and coaching enables them to play on instinct on game day.
There are lessons to be learnt from this approach, but simply analogies are limited in they usefulness. Peter Drucker drew parallels of a manager to an orchestra conductor, pulling all the different musical components together to interpret the composer's script. Leonard completes the analogy saying that various musiciens are having personal problems, the stage hands are moving the music stands around and the sponsor is insisting on irrational changes. Pick your own metaphor, but be careful to draw too many parallels with the analogies you make.
What is universally true, is practice makes perfect, whether you are an All Black rugby player or a business development manager. The All Black player benefits from video replays of the match and constant observation and coaching during training. This is is not reasonable for remote teams, but this should not discourage teams from seeking solutions to practice and observe one another for improved individual and team performance.