Stop reporting on pointless sales metrics!


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dog at desk in office making calls

We thought it would be fun to ask some of our colleagues and partners about the most pointless metrics they’ve been asked to report on. Below our Sales Director, Nathan, shares his least-valuable Sales metrics. We’re sure some of you can relate and we hope these posts help you redirect energies to more impactful metrics! 

There’s a mindset that many sales managers (including myself) have ingrained in us that “more calls = more sales”.  There’s some truth in that – after all, if you only have 5 conversations, you’ll never stand a chance of closing 6 deals.

However, data-driven marketing technology, the advent of social media (and so called “social selling”), as well as the overwhelming nature of email in business have changed the way sales is done.

These days the ‘more calls = more sales’ mantra conjures up images of boiler-room style sales environments (bell ringing and all), call-centers and telemarketing.  Few people enjoy receiving those kind of calls – and few salespeople can honestly say they enjoy making them.

But, as someone who has been an active salesperson and manager of sales teams, I see the importance of activity metrics, but also understand they can cause bad habits to form, direct attention to the wrong kinds of activity and demotivate colleagues (as well as not actually delivering more sales).

Here are some I have seen, been measured on and, admittedly, used: 

1. Meetings conducted per week 

This is a common metric for any face-to-face salesperson.  In my role as a field sales rep for a large media company, this was the most important activity metric.  We were expected to be out of the office and in front of potential customers at least 3 days a week (leaving time for admin tasks and setting up next week’s appointments).

Aside from revenue, this KPI was the most important metric reviewed by those in the ‘ivory tower’.  We had to look busy.  If we were in the office more than a couple of days a week, questions were asked.

The predictable outcome was that myself and colleagues were often tempted to schedule ‘easy’ meetings.  ‘Relationship building’ with existing clients was an easy excuse and somewhat rewarding.  Some prospect companies gained a reputation for offering an “easy meeting”.  Hours would be spent driving to a company’s office, for the sake of a polite conversation.

2. Conversations 

I’m pretty sure a major US mobile operator (who happens to be my service provider) target their outbound sales people in this way.  Every few weeks, I get a call on my mobile phone and the representative asks to speak to my wife.  (We usually get very close to maxing out our data plan, so I’m sure they are looking for us to increase our plan).  When I reply saying she is not available, they abruptly cut short the conversation and end the call.

As my wife initially set up our account, she is listed as the customer name on both phone numbers (hers and mine) in our account.  The company in question clearly doesn’t train their staff to research their CRM data, or even ask questions….

If they simply would ask me for my own name, or about my experience (or if I needed any additional services), they might uncover a new sale.  But, they seem content to get through and move on.  Not only missed opportunities, but also a bad reflection of their company and brand.

3. Time on the phone

I’ve seen this used both for pushing reps to be on the phone for extended periods of time, as well as to keep calls short.  

In one of my early sales jobs (which was entirely telephone based), we were targeted on ‘DMP’ (Decision Making Person) calls.  The qualitative measure was a call over 2 minutes in length – the rationale being that if you were on the phone that long, you had got through to someone and made an impact.  Calls were measured via a call tracking system, which showed length of call.  Let’s just say that it’s amazing how long you can take speaking to a receptionist, or navigating an automated directory…

I’ve also worked in situations where total ‘phone time’ is a measure of success.  I’ve never been the most talkative person, preferring to not use 10 words when one will do.  One of my colleagues was constantly leading the scoreboard with time on the phone.  He also happened to be the loudest voice in the room and had a reputation as they guy that ‘never shuts up’.  To be fair, he was able to keep people on the phone better than anyone I’ve met… but is that always a good thing?

One of our team members at Sweetspot spent time in a customer service call center for a large financial institution.  Despite the fact their whole purpose was to answer customer questions and maintain happy clients, their KPI was brevity of calls.  Yes, they were actually incentivized to get people off the phone.  We’ve all experienced the annoyance of hold music and messages like “Your call is important to us and will be answered shortly” but most people would recognize that customer service agents deal with a lot of calls every day, almost incessantly.  This metric seems to encourage the exact kind of sharp, uninterested customer service that is a big reason why most people hate calling those lines.

In summary, activity metrics in sales have a place but without tracking the quality of those interactions, their inclusion in reporting can lead to misdirected attention and inaccurate recognition of success.

We would love to hear some of the worst sales metrics you’ve been asked to report on in the comments section below!


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Nathan Easom

Director of Sales for Sweetspot. Works with customers to streamline their reporting, saving companies hours of valuable time and helping them react quicker to insights. Languages graduate from the University of Nottingham, UK. A banjo-picking, ice hockey playing Englishman in New York.

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