A wish list of unlikely sales measurements.
We’re all struggling to measure the effectiveness of our sales efforts. This is nothing new. It used to be handled through account books, call reviews, lots of paper shuffling back and forth – and much of it, frankly, was useless at helping to arrive at any conclusions about which activities were effective and which ones were not.
Ask any salesperson who has been in a professional selling position for 20 years or more, and they will tell you that most of the time, those reports were really more of a checkbox rather than an effective tracking method.
Fast forward to today, and CRM systems have become much more sophisticated, and have provided to some extent the illusion that everything was being monitored effectively. Metrics would deliver sales increases, a more efficient sales force and a more effective selling proposition for organizations. Unfortunately, in the real world of the automotive aftermarket, this is not always the case.
So here are metrics I wish (only half jokingly) were tracked CRM companies.
Boomerang Customer Tracking
Many of those CRM systems metrics are based on a model of customer and supplier relationships that is not that closely tied to reality. Measuring something like churn, for example, often described as a key metric to track, really doesn’t apply in a market the same way when there are a limited number of customers and a limited number of suppliers. And those customer and supplier relationships, while they may wander from each other over time, often intersect repeatedly over time.
So while it’s certainly important to know if you are losing business from a customer, whether partially or totally, that is not necessarily the same as indicating that that customer is gone forever.
Especially in local markets served by jobbers and regional warehouses, it is quite common for customers to be enticed away to other supplier relationships for a time, only to return later due to the personal relationships that they might have with shop owners or counter people.
Quality of Interactions
It is pretty normal for salespeople to be tracked on how many customer contacts they make, how many calls, how many notes, how many interactions they have with customers, and to judge their work on that basis. What would really be better would be to track the quality of those interactions. (And I’m not just talking about whether the sale came through or not, though that’s obviously very important.) A metric like this would speak much more precisely to the relationships that your sales professionals have with their clients.
If you are putting a strong emphasis on just the quantity of calls, you are going to naturally drive salespeople to conduct shorter calls with their customers, and move rapidly to the sales proposition, rather than building relationships, and having longer conversations with clients that might unlock more opportunities and potentially, tie customers to your organization more effectively through those stronger relationships.
Engaging Story Telling
It would be great to measure how interesting your salespeople are, right? In classic sales, we often talked about sales professionals having the “gift of the gab,” or some such quality. To my personal experience, those folks who are more interesting, can tell interesting stories, and have interesting activities outside of the specific business concern, are more likely to develop good relationships with their customers.
You often see that as younger salespeople move into new sales positions, they start talking almost immediately about the product offerings that you have on tap – going straight to the sale, as it were, rather than getting to know the customer as an individual, or letting the customer know them as an individual.
While certainly some judgement on this is required – when a customer reaches out for a quick piece of information, you might not choose that time to talk about your latest fishing trip – but it might not be a bad idea to plant that seed for a later conversation.
And it would be great if CRM systems would measure that.
One-Swing Home Run
One metric that you can probably pull from a CRM system but probably don’t, is how many sales made by a given salesperson were recorded as only a single interaction or contact. So what does this tell you? It’s possible that this salesperson’s effect on the customer is so profound, all they need to do is simply call or visit one time and the customer signs up. But in the B2B world, it’s not that likely. What it really should tell you is that you have a salesperson who’s not recording their interactions with the customer in their CRM system.
While that might prompt a meeting to suggest that salesperson should probably be recording their interactions with the customer more precisely, it’s also incumbent on a wise manager to not punish a salesperson for making sales.
One metric I would love to see addresses what you might call “impossible promises” – where a single huge sale leaves the rest of the organization scrambling to fulfill a set of impossible, or near-impossible, promises. We have all had situations where a sale is made and it’s incredibly difficult (for a variety of reasons) to actually fulfill the requirements of that sale, whether due to supply issues or other facets of the deal that are out of the ordinary, off plan or not part of your normal duty of business. But we can probably also think of those sales professionals who continually leave the rest of the fulfillment team in the lurch.
So, while yes, sales are always great, if situations like this are chronic, it can kill your organizational efficiency and morale; and it can also show up in other metrics that might not be easily traced back to problems with the initial deal.
Revenue and profit
Over the years I have had the privilege of getting to know many excellent sales professionals with as many different approaches as there are individuals – from the classic old-school friendly, engaging soul (something that might just be becoming a lost art these days), to “technocrats” who focus on metrics, demographics, spreadsheets, and the like.
All of these can be effective in the hands of the right person, but at the end of the day, it is about the revenue and the profit, and actually very few CRM systems focus on this. CRM systems focus on activity, and seek to drive the process. While this is quite correct, salespeople are charged with the responsibility of bringing in revenue, and CRM systems often put this reality down the priority list (if they even properly record it at all) in favour of tracking process-related metrics.
In the end, CRM systems are only as good as the information you put into them, and the reports you generate. They can be a great tool to keep your sales on track. Above all, it is paramount for your business to drive your CRM, and not the other way around.