Measure What Matters

It’s both a blessing and a curse to be living in an age of unlimited data. While we can now track it with laser-like precision on an incredibly wide array of subjects, not all of it is meaningful, and it’s easy to get distracted with interesting but irrelevant information.

So whether you’re looking at company-wide data or personal metrics, pay heed: measuring the wrong things isn’t just a misuse of your time, it will set you back from meeting your most important goals in sales.

Start with what matters.

Your goal must always be to identify what is helping you accelerate your sales: fine-tuning what works, getting rid of what doesn’t, and constantly testing the effectiveness of new approaches and methods.

Knowing that goal—and sticking to it—is how to distinguish between signaling metrics and performance metrics. Let’s look at what each of these mean and how they can affect your business.

Signaling metrics tell us stories about ourselves. When we want to know how busy we are, we measure how many hours we’ve worked this week, or how many call attempts we’ve made to a client. And when we want to see how popular we are with our friends, we measure how many Facebook likes we get on our posts, or how many followers we have on Twitter on LinkedIn. These stories might make you feel good about yourself, but they tell you nothing about whether you’re meeting your sales goals.

Companies are just as prone to this kind of thinking. A client of mine recently shared a story about how he was reprimanded by his boss because his monthly business-travel mileage numbers were down significantly. What was frustrating about that demoralizing exchange was that he had just finished bringing in record-breaking sales numbers that year! Since the company was bent on measuring a signaling metric—presumably because the felt client facetime was a busy-ness indicator—they couldn’t see that there was a far more meaningful (and profitable) measure right under their collective noses.

Performance metrics give us facts on how effective we are in our work and in meeting our sales goals. Even when working with the same inputs I just described —whether it’s client facetime or social media activity—performance metrics strip away pointless vanity posturing and focus instead on how well your efforts are converting directly into sales.

So instead of just fixating on call attempts, performance metrics look at them relative to your call ratios (i.e., comparing attempts to meetings set, win rates, opportunities created). Here’s another example. Instead of looking just at Twitter followers and likes on LinkedIn or Facebook, performance metrics consider how well you are engaging with those people. 

As you can see, numbers in isolation are meaningless. All they do is give you raw data. You only gain knowledge and insight if you understand what you are looking for in that data and why it matters.

In part 2 of this series, we will look deeper at performance metrics and show how they can help you stay focused on the measures that matter—and avoid the ones that don’t.