Lance Armstrong’s Metrics Applied to the Sales Force Equals Results

Recently, I completed Lance Armstrong’s 2001 book on how he became a champion cyclist, was diagnosed with Cancer, beat the cancer, and then returned to become the greatest cyclist in the world.  It was an inspiring, fast-reading book.  While this won’t come as a surprise to my cyclist friends, I was quite surprised to learn how metric-intensive competitive cycling is.

While training for races, Lance uses a heavy and expensive power meter that measures output (wattage). For the big race, he uses a smaller and lighter top of the line cycling computer to track speed, heart rate, incline, cadence, altitude gain, and power output. He simply adjusts his cycling until the numbers are where they were when he was training at peak performance and he figures the rest will take care of itself. Wow.

Sales is exactly the same.  You train hard and once the metrics have been established, you simply continue to meet those numbers and the rest will take care of itself.  Simple.

There are only a few problems with this:

  • Most companies, sales teams and salespeople do not train hard.  As a matter of fact, a significant percentage of companies provide no training at all. They mistakenly believe that their salespeople won’t benefit from it.  My feeling is if it doesn’t address root problems then salespeople won’t benefit but in this day and age every company should be able to find a proven sales development expert who consistently gets results for clients.  Do these companies not need lawyers, accountants, insurance and benefits advisers, marketing and advertising experts and consultants either?
  • Many companies don’t have metrics and even more companies have metrics that are contextually irrelevant.  They pull numbers out of the sky, establish them as baselines, and then can’t understand why their salespeople don’t hit those numbers.
  • Most companies don’t know how to correctly calculate the metrics.  Even more incredibly, they don’t even know what to measure!
  • When companies do have metrics, know what to measure and analyze the ratios to calculate the correct values, most can’t get their salespeople motivated, disciplined, committed or consistent enough for it to matter.

So what do companies do?

  • They discontinue the effort.
  • They provide training on closing skills – by the way, you can’t imagine how much of a waste of time this is.  The problems salespeople have at closing time have nothing to do with closing skills.  The delays, put-offs, stalls and think-it-overs are directly related to how inept they are at the early stages of the sales process!
  • Provide training on cold-calling – this isn’t as much of a time-waster as closing skills but it’s a close second.  Why?  How about:
    • they train on scripts but their scripts are ineffective.
    • they train on presenting but pitches cause resistance.
    • they train on getting through but there isn’t anyone to get through to anymore.  Now it’s voice mail and the key there is on how to get a call returned, not on how to get through.
    • they don’t train on overcoming the fear, discomfort and rejection – the real reasons salespeople don’t work the phones.
    • they don’t talk about how to gain a prospect’s attention and engagement – prerequisites to a conversation.
    • they don’t teach salespeople how to converse with as opposed to pitching a top executive
  • Revert to pulling numbers out of the sky
  • Change strategies
  • Change sales managers
  • Change salespeople
  • Change markets
  • Realign territories
  • Change compensation plans

It should be obvious that if you identify the proper things to measure, properly determine their values, get the salespeople committed, and hold them accountable, the results will follow. Add in a dose of consequences for failing to remain disciplined and consistent and you can maintain those results.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan