By Andy Smith,
Senior Vice President, Sales & Marketing,
AXIOM Sales Force Development

Let’s imagine for a second that you’re a head football coach. You have quality players at every position, but what really makes everything run so smoothly is your quarterback, who can light up a scoreboard like no one you’ve ever seen. He’s the best player on the field every week and averages four touchdown passes per half.

In your latest game, he gives you another sizable lead by halftime – just as projected. You, being the Hall of Fame coach that you are, tell him to take the rest of the game off and put your backup QB in while also subbing in other players. It’s a sound strategy, but the only problem is that instead of using a different set of expectations for the rest of the game, you still expect your backup QB to produce four more touchdowns – and you get upset when he doesn’t.

Sounds silly, right? In fact, you’re probably saying to yourself, “That doesn’t sound like a Hall of Fame coach to me; I’d never do that.” And you’re probably right. But I use this analogy because it happens all the time in sales.

Your office isn’t a football field, but there’s still a scoreboard in a manner of speaking, and for whatever reason, you’re unknowingly holding everyone to the same lofty standard – even though they don’t all share the same level of expertise. We create our targets by making assumptions based on the historical performance of the organization as a whole or through using generic industry data, and that rarely works at an individual level.

Take the sales pipeline review between a manager and one of their salespeople for example. As sales leaders we often apply the same standards of measurement to everyone on the team by setting expectations that all pipelines need three times their quota at all times. In principle, it is, of course, wise to have more opportunity in the pipeline than quota. But the tough part is knowing how much more does Bob need versus what Mary needs in their individual pipelines?

When doing a pipeline review, we often fail to account for the different levels of skill or experience. In other words, we ignore the human element in projecting a pipeline’s performance.

At Axiom, we believe there are two ways to achieve the perfect pipeline review:

1. Add the Proficiency Metric – This is a fancy term for the human element (the ability of the individual and level of expertise). Just like the star QB and his backup, not everyone is on the same level. Make sure you have a firm grasp of how effective your salesperson is at taking an opportunity and qualifying that for a proposal. What are they capable of?
2. Set appropriate targets – Once you’ve accounted for the human element, whatever targets you are setting should be set according to the required level of activity and proficiency. The star salesperson may be able to close seven out of 10 sales leads, but it might take another employee 30 leads to close the same amount.

The payoff is that when you do conduct a review, it becomes incredibly simple to find the gap between the current state and where you should be. It’s also faster to find the root cause for performance issues. Conversations are clear and open-ended. It’s still all about performance, but you’re not presenting the same standard to everyone.