Leaders routinely struggle to escape what they know, which can make finding new ways of thinking and working a central challenge. For leaders who want to continue to lead, an adaptive mindset is crucial for continued success.
In my last post, I shared the story of a sales leader who looked at his team’s lack of success with fresh eyes. In doing so, he was able to recognize his conditioned thinking and gain a new appreciation for where his team needed to focus in order to achieve their goals. Part two of his story highlights where we focused implementation efforts in order to achieve his goals.
While this leader’s sales team sells to retail marketing big brands, the framework and application would be exactly the same for any B2B sales team looking to secure new logos or to grow existing customer relationships.
Step 1: Define the ratios for the activities that lead to bookings
Like many sales leaders, a precise understanding of the ratio between the activities that would produce consistent bookings was absent. Moving right to left, the sales leader made assumptions for each key activity in the value creation chain.
Step 2: Establish target values for every input to output goal
Using the annual bookings target, he assigned weekly objectives for every measure in the value chain. Weekly targets support seller focus but also allow fast feedback loops for adjustments to stay on track (i.e., did I win or lose last week?).
Step 3: Launch new strategy with the team
An in-person sales meeting ensured sellers understood the rationale for their new focus. The team began collecting measures each week from their sellers which resulted in their weekly team meetings focusing on their activity goals. These meetings became a vehicle for shared learning, exploring what was working and what was not.
Step 4: Assessing the model and seller performance
Instead of falling into a common trap of focusing exclusively on what sellers are doing, it’s vital to pay attention to the system and individual seller performance. By asking the following questions, one can get a more holistic view of where to adjust team leadership.
- Are my sellers successful using the approach we have chosen?
- Are my assumed ratios holding?
- What new support (e.g., knowledge, motivation, structure) might my team need?
- What warrants adjustment?
Step 5: Gather the previous month’s data and the most important question
A month after the launch, I asked the sales leader to take a deeper look at his team’s performance. Here is their data:
In reviewing the first month, it was clear his team had engaged in a meaningful way. With goal achievement above target across all categories, one might assume everything was in order. The most important question remained:
Will my model, with its assumptions, enable us to over-achieve our bookings promise to our CEO and shareholders?
Our sales leader certainly doesn’t want to get to the end of the quarter, celebrating having hit these measures, only to find out his team failed to deliver the bookings the company expected.
Step 6: Interrogate model to ensure it will deliver expectations
If you measure something long enough, a ratio you can use to your advantage appears. Since bookings growth is the desired outcome, the sales leader examined the model to ensure his assumptions were holding for each variable (i.e., bookings, pipeline, meeting, contacts, outreach).
- Was the ratio of inputs turning into the expected outputs? In this case, are 10% of outreaches resulting in contacts? Are 50% of contacts resulting in meetings? Are 10% of meetings resulting in projects? Are 30% of new projects turning into bookings?
- If not, how do my targets need to change based on ratios that are appearing? Using this framework, if outreach results were falling short, the sales leader could either adjust seller outreach strategy, improve skills to each conversion, or supplement more marketing to attain the desired outreach to meeting conversion. For each variable where you predicted ratios didn’t materialize, you will want to explore why.
- If you don’t see any choice but to change a ratio, you will need to determine how the ratios of the other variables must also change so that you overdeliver your bookings target.
Step 7: Use learnings to adjust your approach
After this in-depth examination, the sales leader discovered:
- The bookings conversion assumption he made would take time to materialize.
- Large projects were masking their effectiveness at turning meetings into projects.
- Meeting counts were higher because sellers were oversteering on outreach to existing clients.
- New sellers and more marketing were needed to ensure they met their contact targets.
These are fantastic discoveries after just four weeks! The insights allowed the leader to right-size targets and surface new actions to support hitting their quarterly goal. The more often leaders take time to reflect on results, the more improvement cycles they can drive. In doing so, leaders are tending to the predictive accuracy of our model as well as pinpointing their leadership focus.
This sales team produced 499% new project dollars on 150% greater projects in just 90 days! Needless to say, if those projects close at historical rates, this one quarter will have substantively changed the company’s future trajectory. I’ve seen leaders in other functional areas unlock the same unthinkable 100%+ improvements in as little as 90 days.
If you have a team that is falling short, it could be time to dig deeper into the components that produce your outcomes so you can find the one behavior, that if improved, delivers next level performance.