Level Eleven: 3 Ways To Use Sales KPI Research





May 04, 2017

By Brianna Valleskey

A few months ago, we unveiled the second annual Sales KPI Report, featuring research of more than 3,000 sales metrics and 800 sales teams. The results were captivating.

For example, we found that Progressing Opportunities — a KPI that didn’t appear in last year’s study — make it to the top KPI list for every sales role we reviewed. In some cases, it ranked higher than the Opportunities Created KPI. This suggests a need for higher emphasis on opportunity quality.

Our mission is to empower modern sales leaders, so we asked a few sales experts to weigh in on how to make the most of this research. Here’s what they told us.

How to use sales KPI research to optimize performance

Boost your sales strategy

As the chief marketing officer of Versature, Anastasia Valentine leads a combined team, where sales, sales development and channel sales are completely intertwined with marketing. She described the new sales KPI research as the pulse of what’s going on in the sales industry.

“What are other people doing outside of our category or industry?” Anastasia said. “Salespeople have to adjust their thinking. The traditional model doesn’t work anymore. Buyers are savvier. There’s more information about vendors out there. Online reviews can be really honest and, sometimes, cutthroat.”

She said that the benefit of having the research is that it can help sales leaders align their day-to-day activities to high-level company objectives. Sales teams can sometimes be seen as rogue factions working separately from the rest of the organization. But we know they’re not. Anastasia recommended that sales leaders get really clear about their business objectives, then consider how their sales efforts roll up to that. Then they can select transparent KPIs that the entire company can monitor to ensure alignment.

Get more specific with sales KPIs

SalesGlobe managing partner Mark Donnolo agrees with Anastasia. A benchmark for sales metrics is helpful because it shows what other companies are doing. But he warns that those benchmarks may not be the right answer for everyone.

In other words, use the Sales KPI Report for reference, but then get specific and creative about which sales KPIs reflect your current business goals.

“Start with your go-to-market strategy and sales process. Ask yourself: What is it that I want to know about? What kinds of metrics will be important to me? And what metrics will support my strategy and provide transparency?” Mark explained.

He gave a great example: Imagine a technology company that primarily sells hardware, but also sells software and services that go with the hardware. In terms of metrics, sales leaders might be interested in seeing more than just how many opportunities are in the pipeline. They might be interested in measuring the percentage of opportunities for hardware sales vs. the percentage of ones for software and services. Or, the sales leaders might want to understand the rate of upsells from hardware to software and services. The point is that benchmark metrics, alone, may not be effective for a go-to-market strategy such as this.

Mark’s advice is to use this research as a baseline, then get more specific for your sales process.

Drastically improve sales coaching

For TopLine Leadership president Kevin F. Davis, the value of the sales KPI research was in emphasizing that sales leaders can’t try to measure everything.

“That’s the curse of CRM: You can measure everything, but everything is not of equal importance,” Kevin said, adding that if a manager has too many things to measure, they’re not on top of their game as a sales leader.

The reason why is that when you’re trying to measure too many things at once, you’ll never be able to give reps real-time, actionable feedback on what’s most important. Effective sales coaching is all about timeliness. So when you talk to a rep about what happened last week or last month, Kevin explained, you’re evaluating and judging them on what has already happened.

Metrics like Wins and Close Rate are lagging indicators, which only tell you what’s already happened. Sales KPIs are leading indicators, so they provide an indication of what will happen in the future. Calculating sales KPI goals and then monitoring their performance in real-time allows a manager to truly guide sales performance through coaching. But when managers don’t do that, those bad KPIs turn into bad sales results.

“If you’re timely as a sales coach, it can change the entire culture of your team from one of blame and judgment to one of progress and future-focused success,” Kevin said.

“That’s a fine line with huge ramifications for engagement, productivity, quota – and all the other things that are near and dear to a sales manager’s heart.”

A sales KPI approach (and this research) helps sales managers define the key selling activities that are most important to closing business for their team, then set achievable metrics around them. Managers keep a pulse on the sales team, and can use the KPIs to determine who, what and when to coach (all in real time, if they use a sales management system).