If you’re running a sales team, you’ve no doubt become obsessed with measurement and metrics. The good news is today’s sales technologies enable teams to measure almost anything. What separates good teams from the average ones, though, is the ability to analyze the data they collect. The key is to focus on the metrics that matter most. So what are today’s sales teams doing to stay focused on the right metrics? What other scenarios should teams be focused on to ensure sales goals are met?

First, it’s important to note the difference between leading and lagging indicators

Leading indicators are metrics that help you plan for the future. They define the steps required for your sales team to achieve the goals that will move your business forward.

Lagging indicators target the output of your sales team —things like number of deals closed, length of sales cycle, or average deal size. Both are critical, but leading indicators are more strategic and provide a better road map for how the sales process should look. Let’s look at three areas that can augment your most important leading indicators.

Focus on Business Outcomes

Often, your customer doesn’t know exactly what they need. The best sales reps have a knack for partnering early on in the sales process to counteract this. They become an instrumental part of the fact-finding phase and work alongside customers, helping to define what the business really needs. With such a rigorous focus on business outcomes, key sales metrics that are more performance-oriented come into play. As sales reps develop a more strategic eye for what clients need, the likelihood increases for things like cross-selling, up-selling and expanded contracts.

Structure the Right Solution

If there’s a guiding phrase for this scenario let it be, “features don’t drive a business strategy.” Too many salespeople start mapping features to a customer’s business before listening and identifying solutions tied to specific outcomes. The minute this happens, your sales team becomes just another hopeful order-taker. Instead, turn the tables and use a pilot phase to solidify real options.

As this occurs, your sales team is building trust, learning the ins and outs of the business and teeing up the negotiation process. Customers appreciate the effort when a salesperson puts a priority on crafting the right solution, which helps to lift key long-term metrics like year-over-year growth, average lifetime value (LTV) of customer and Net Promoter Scores (NPS).

Don’t Over-Promise, Over-Deliver

Customers understand salespeople are paid to acquire new business. After the highs and lows that lead up to the deal, clients can feel they’ve been abandoned once the deal is signed. Sales teams must stay close to delivery teams to ensure all business requirements are met. Few things have greater impact on long-term customer value and repeat business than delivering on the sales promise.

Don’t make this harder than it is; get your professional services teams involved early on. Delivery teams are usually staffed with some of your best operational resources. These are people that can quickly decipher why a customer might buy, or other intricacies. Not only that, but your customer will see the cohesion that exists between sales and delivery, which drives up customer confidence. Your sales team can now focus on mining more business from a happy customer.

Prospects Aren’t Just Buyers, They’re Future Users

In closing, one Harvard Business Review piece underscores another trend tied to metrics. The authors conducted an online survey of more than 5,000 U.S. consumers on roughly 50 digital and traditional brands. They asked about “perception, usage, preference and advocacy for the brands.”

Their findings included a B2B angle of how cloud and subscription models are changing the way businesses perceive buyers, and how this perception can add value to the sales process.

“Business solutions tend to have longer life cycles than consumer products and there is an even greater opportunity to deliver value outside the sales funnel. In addition, many B2B companies are moving to cloud-based services with membership and subscription-based business models. With these models, the purchase is just the beginning of a long-term relationship. The economics are driven primarily by renewals rather than by initial purchase. In turn, renewal rates are driven not by what buyers think about the brand, but what users experience of the product or service. The key is to think about prospects not as buyers, but as future users.”

 

The notion of “future users” has huge implications for sales teams. For years the “consumerization of IT” has been in play, but teams that grasp what it really means to build grassroots adoption and help a user base will create even more separation.