Depending on your approach, your “window” of opportunity can greatly differ. Make sure you’re using the right indicators to fuel success.

Slawek B. CrossLeaf

Lagging Indicators

“Hey Darrell, how’s the LDSB Tech deal coming along? Do you think you can pull it in by yearend? What’s it worth again? Hey, let me know what I can do to help…we really need to get that puppy in. Not to mention that it’ll make your numbers for the year.”

Sound familiar? Unfortunately, this is how many coaching/forecasting meetings sound. Pressure and false hope are not helpful for you, the manager or the salesperson. You put yourself on tender hooks using hope as a way to report your numbers to the rest of the organization. Often, knowing the salesperson, you make your own ‘gut-level’ adjustments to the numbers they promise to bring in and you keep your fingers crossed. The salesperson only knows that ‘somehow’ they need to bring that ‘puppy’ home.

Lagging indicators are often used to track progress on a deal. Percentage of plan, revenue, on-time delivery, customer satisfaction, win-loss ratios, market share, customer retention and customer profitability are all lagging indicators of performance. We love facts and not approximations. But what do all these have in common? While these indicators are important and easier to track, by the time we can accurately measure them, it’s too late to do anything.

Leading Indicators

Although challenging to measure, leading indicators are essential to proactively winning more business. Leading indicators fall into 4 categories: Knowledge, Skills, Process and Engagement.

Knowledge

Do your salespeople know what they need to do? Have you properly set expectations? Do they know how to sell the product? Have you clearly identified key market segments and are your reps focused on the right segments? Have you identified which customers are bringing in 20% of your profit, the 20% that lose you money and the 40% in between and the right coverage model for each group? Other leading indicators you can track in the Knowledge category include how well your salespeople are educated on: Market trends, Business acumen, Financial acumen, Global trends, Industry trends (yours and the customers’) and Your total offerings.

Skills

Are you training/teaching, coaching, observing and reinforcing the desired behaviors such as Communication skills, Presentation skills, Discovery skills, Negotiating, Interpersonal skills, Value creation and Prospecting?
Have you tested whether your salespeople can articulate the value proposition for each segment – answering the question, ‘Why should a customer choose you”? Do you track the number of sales people trained/certified on sales skills and the ability to position and tailor your product to individual customer needs?

Process

Have you identified and are you keeping track of high value sales activities? What are the things that, if completed, almost always lead to a sale? Examples: number of prospects identified, number of customer appointments each month, demos completed, prospects touched in seminars, size of sales pipeline, identified prospects based on alignment of value, technical people on site, proof of concepts completed, ROI analyses.

Are your sales people demonstrating proficiency in account planning and strategic management of opportunities?

Do you conduct regular pipeline hygiene?

Engagement

How are you measuring your people’s emotional engagement and energy for the job? Are people feeling rewarded and appreciated? Emotions and relationships drive behavior. Are their personal values aligned with the corporate values? Are the corporate values cascaded to coachable behaviors and integrated into daily activities?

Identifying and tracking these leading indicators proactively increases your chances of winning more business. Although glancing in the rear view mirror can help at times, always keep in mind that the window is much bigger when you face forward!

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