“What gets measured gets managed” is a longstanding business saying.

In early 2017, a Fortune 500 client of ours had 175 outside salespeople covering a territory in New York City, Manhattan from 57th avenue, south to Wall Street in early 2017. By the end of 2018, they had 50 salespeople covering every borough in New Your City plus parts of New Jersey. In 2017, the number of calls made, and face-to-face visits was one of their key sales activity metrics.

In 2018, a large transportation services client of ours had hundreds of outside salespeople covering the U.S., focusing on selling common carrier services to businesses. They were assigned zip code-based territories. A typical day for their salespeople started by visiting the 2-3 larger tenants of an industrial park, and then they worked their way out of the park by knocking on each 1, 2 or 3 bay door tenants. In late 2018, the outside sales organization shrunk by 30%, and until recently, the number of face-to-face visits and quotes presented was one of their key activity metrics.

Both clients mentioned above have now shifted coverage of small clients, which represented 70%+ of the market, to inside sales teams. Inside sales teams, by the way, are well-suited to activity metrics such as the number of calls since much of their work can be standardized efficiently.

However, we continue to see mature B2B outside sales organizations focus on activity-based metrics for their outside sales teams, which often run counter to their sales strategy to be more consultative and strategic in opportunity pursuits.

We know that the number of calls or visits made can be leading indicators to the number of proposals made and won. However, these metrics are becoming less relevant as outside sales teams are being pushed to sell to fewer, larger prospects. 

We’re seeing leading organizations shift from the activity-based metrics mentioned above to sales pipeline metrics such as number of proposals to target accounts, number of proposals with multiple products, and number of proposals to competitive reports, among other metrics. 

Making a shift from traditional sales “touch’ metrics can be difficult, especially for sales leaders and sales operations teams that need to recalibrate much of their thinking, and CRM reports, and dashboards. The transition can be a bit bumpy as well, since there may be an initial gap in traditional “touch” metrics as the new metrics begin to take hold and show results.

  • It might be time to review your sales activity metrics of your sales organization: Continues to rely heavily on sales touch metrics, and you are nudging salespeople to be more consultative, or;
  • Sales activity “touch” metrics continue to be healthy, but sales results are below expectations.

Establishing the right metrics is the first step. Adopting disciplined pipeline and performance reviews will ensure that the new metrics deliver results.

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