Know Your Math

I am often asked how I would go about diagnosing a sales team performance issue by an executive, a sales leader and even an individual contributor.  Most expect me to respond with something ordinary like, “I would want to talk to the team or the team’s leadership and conduct interviews.”  In reality, that is the last place I would want to go for answers, because if they held the answers they wouldn’t be talking to me.

I always want to start with the math, which is shockingly hard to gather because very few organizations know their math.  Math resides in a couple of critical areas.  First, there is the organization’s “sales funnel math”.  How many contacts turn in to how many meetings, how many first meetings turn into second meetings, and how many meetings does it take to close x dollars in sales.  The secondary math simply takes this same concept down to the individual level, as the math will be different for a new team member, a seasoned pro or your star performer.  If you are a sales leader and you can’t tell me these two sets of numbers than I can predict you will become frustrated with most of your team and thus begin the cycle of “upgrading your talent”, which is the universal sales leader excuse for not making numbers.

Here is where the train comes off the rails…  I work for you, and we have our dreaded weekly 1:1.  You didn’t really prepare anything, and not much has changed since last week so you figure you will ask about specific deals in the pipeline, or worse yet, tell me “this is my time”, how can I help make you successful? (to which I hold back what I am really am really thinking, “How about we cancel these stupid 1:1s?”).  I see the opportunity to dive into the weeds and kill 30 minutes talking about a deal that will never happen, so I can move on with my day.  It serves as the perfect distraction to keep you focused on anything other than my dismal month’s numbers.

To keep the train on the rails, do your homework, prepare for these meetings and know your math.  I sat in a very expensive sales leadership course in which I was told to “reward success, not activity”.  That is exactly half right.  The “reward success” half, to be specific.  Ignoring activity will land you squarely back to last months performance, with not one dollar of improvement.  I’ll save the rewarding success conversation for later, but I will ask you to consider how you address activity.  Inspecting, expecting, verifying and increasing activity rates are the very things that will have the greatest impact on your team’s performance.  Refine your math often and make sure it is accurate then work backwards through the funnel calculations to determine how many initial contacts each team member will have to make to mathematically achieve your team’s goal.  1:1’s should be focused on the top of the funnel for 80% of the meeting time due to the fact that 80% of sales performance issues are rooted in a lack of new prospects.  Easy math.

Your star performer already knows their statistics, and manages their time accordingly, but the rest of your team is looking to you for magic answers…and now you will have them.  Management is knowing which levers move performance and by how much, sharing that knowledge and driving activity.  Leadership can only happen after successes start stacking up because you fulfilled your management responsibilities.  Only now, because of that success, will I trust you to lead.