The Problem with KPIs in Coaching Your Sales Team

Part 3 of 4

In this series, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about call outcomes and call dispositions as ways to identify coaching milestones—who to coach and what to coach them on. There are in fact many common CRM dispositions that map directly and reliably onto coachable phases that every sales development conversation must go through. But there is a danger of oversimplification.

Some of you might think I’m claiming that there is some sort of KPI (key performance indicator) that you can set and that you can use coaching to help every rep hit or exceed those KPIs, and the result will be an ever-increasing number of meetings set per week.

There are two big problems with a KPI-driven approach:

  1. No one knows what the “right” or “achievable” KPIs are for each phase of the conversation.
  2. Every phase of every conversation depends on what happened in all the phases that preceded it, so the KPIs can’t be treated independently.

Variation in Dispositions

So why did I make the claim that “Call dispositions can be used to figure out both who to coach and what to coach them on”? Because you probably don’t have just one rep. And because each of your reps has different skills, so for each phase of the conversation, one of your reps is the best of the bunch. Their outcomes also tend to have a wide spread. That is, the best of the bunch is usually best by a lot, and better than the worst by a margin so big that I often wonder if they all belong to the same species.

Making calls using the same list, how can one rep report 30% of his dispositions are “Busy – Call Back,” while another reports only 2% with the same outcome? The simple answer is “skill and will.” Skill is sometimes backed up by natural talent, and will shows up, unsurprisingly, in every human (or animal) activity that resembles a fight. And the fact is, when it comes to overcoming the inherent obstacle of each phase of that prize fight that we call a sales-development conversation, people vary to a surprising degree.

And — this is the important part — until you eliminate that variance in the first phase of the conversation, you can’t even properly detect the variance in the next phase. For the best sales training practices in this area, I recommend a program I call “Coaching by the Numbers,” which I’ll detail for you in the final part of this blog series.