Is What You Learned Wrong? Part 3: Measure Sales Behaviors Not Outcomes

How to Measure Sales Effectiveness Correctly

Is What You Learned Wrong? Part 3: Measure Sales Behaviors Not Outcomes

How to Measure Sales Effectiveness Correctly

In our last post, “Is What You Learned About Sales Coaching and Performance Assessment Wrong?” we asked a tough question:

Are you developing the wrong sales team with your sales training? 

With this post, we’re going to explore another big mistake in company sales coaching and performance assessment that impacts sales force effectiveness, win rates, and quota attainment: measuring behaviors instead of results.

Mistake #2: Measuring Behaviors, Not Outcomes. 

Effective sales managers have a common-sense approach to assessing a sales rep’s ability to sell. Instead of getting overwhelmed or distracted by 50+ sales behaviors, the business managers zero in on the handful of outcomes that ultimately determine how well a salesperson may execute deals in the field.

Many great sales managers and sales leaders have a different definition of capability compared to average company managers. They measure the capabilities of their business’s sales reps by customer outcomes and not by looking at what the sales rep attempted to do during the sales cycle (i.e. questions asked, communicated prescribed benefits, etc).

The goal is sales effectiveness for the individual rep, for sales teams, and sales force effectiveness overall.

What is Sales Effectiveness?

“It’s Not How You Hit the Ball But Where it Lands”

Let’s consider a golf analogy. A golfer’s success is based on a score, similar to a sales rep’s quota. But how does your company measure the capabilities that sales reps must possess that ultimately will determine that score. (How do you measure sales effectiveness?) Some would say “look at their short game – that’s a key capability.”

True, that’s like saying “prospecting” is a core sales capability – also true. But again, how does your company and sales management measure that capability?

The key is to break sales effectiveness down into many capabilities that may be measured by a defined outcome.

Let’s go back to the golf analogy. What if we broke down the short game into three competencies: chipping, sand shots, and putting?

Now it is a bit easier to define and measure the capability with effectiveness metrics. I can easily measure putting metrics by the number of putts per round or sand shots by how close the ball consistently lands near the hole. It really doesn’t matter how the golfer holds the putter or their stance. If the golfer consistently has a low number of putts, as a coach, I don’t have to get bogged down with the many elements and metrics that go into putting.

As long as the desired outcome is achieved (i.e. the ball consistently goes in the cup with an acceptable number of putts), move on. On the other hand, if the putting number is high, then it makes sense to take a look at the elements of putting that may be causing the problem and decreasing effectiveness.

Applied to the sales process, great managers and sales leaders define these as behaviors for their sales teams (for example, stance, grip, alignment in golf). This is the level at which development occurs for sales effectiveness. They zero in on the behaviors that affect the capability (or outcome).

Defining Sales Effectiveness

Let’s say a sales manager wants to start with measuring sales behaviors and a sales rep’s ability to build value in a solution. Should that manager first focus on the rep’s ability to communicate benefits, identify barriers, handle objections or close deals?

No. The sales manager will certainly look at those behaviors if they need to, but the key is to first look at building value as a customer outcome (sales effectiveness).

For example, the sales rep successfully built value if customers embraced the recommendation and/or positively changed their opinion of the product/service/company and was willing to advance. If the rep achieved this outcome, they were successful. That is how you measure metrics of sales effectiveness and sales performance.

If the sales rep achieves this outcome consistently, they are competent at building value. The “why” or “how” and the metrics really don’t matter with a consistent sales process.

But if the sales rep fails to achieve the desired outcome, then we focus on the five or six key behaviors that contribute to effectiveness in building value (i.e. communicating benefits instead of features, handling objections, delivery) and diagnose which behavior is causing the sales rep to miss the mark.

There are two benefits to this approach to coaching for sales effectiveness:

  • First, the manager is able to quickly narrow the focus to the root cause of the problem.
  • Second, managers will eliminate arguments with reps who are achieving results, but don’t do it the company way.

Long story short: If they can consistently hit the ball 300 yards down the middle of the fairway with their putter, leave them alone.

Tactics & Techniques

Identifying behaviors is where rep development begins.

Once you see the correlation between capabilities and behaviors, getting a basic understanding of what influences sales performance behaviors will help you determine the optimum rep development strategy, as well as effectiveness metrics or key performance indicators to measure with.

To determine sales rep development and effectiveness, let’s first take a look at the DNA of a behavior:

➢ Talent: Required abilities that cannot be taught or are unable to be developed (who you are)

➢ Skill: Teachable abilities that require time and practice to master (what you are able to do)

➢ Knowledge: Information needed to achieve goals (what you need to know)

You can easily see how understanding whether the problem lies in a talent, skill, or knowledge gap (or a combination) would drive your development approach to coaching your reps and sales teams, while measuring sales effectiveness throughout the sales cycle.

If you recognize a talent gap, you can ignore it and try to compensate with a higher level of skills or expertise (i.e., knowledge) for measuring overall sales effectiveness.

If you recognize the gap in capability due to a lack of skill, then you go to work developing that ability (i.e., listening or questioning skills).

But if a knowledge gap is the root cause of a capability gap, then the sales rep doesn’t need to practice, they need to study – and studying doesn’t require much of a manager’s involvement. It typically only requires accountability.

Once you have a strategy to accurately diagnose the behavior gap, prescribing the most effective corresponding developmental activity becomes much more intuitive. It builds your credibility as a coach, and more importantly, yields tangible results from investing your time in developing your sales reps and sales team. And, as a manager, time is a pretty scarce resource.

Sales leaders, in summation: Invest in the right people within your sales team, and then reward their behaviors.

Effective Sales Coaching = Sales Revenue

Sales coaching is a critical strategy that contributes significantly to an organization’s sales effectiveness. Recent studies continue to support the notion that going forward, organizations that develop long-term sales coaching cultures will enjoy a competitive advantage in the sales and marketing domain, and the marketplace, over those that fail to address this area.

As sales and marketing organizations attempt to establish these coaching strategy cultures within teams to drive sales effectiveness, quota attainment, and improve sales win rates, their primary barrier to success lies in the already over-taxed schedules of front-line sales managers who resist substantial investments in sales coaching based on a real (or perceived) lack of time.

This time challenge is made worse by two common mistakes that are made in sales coaching organizations:

➢ Investing equal amounts of time and effort in coaching all members of the sales and marketing team without regard to their level of receptivity to coaching or their overall performance, demonstrated by sales effectiveness.

➢ Basing sales coaching assessments and developmental efforts on exhaustive lists of sales behaviors rather than a list of sales competencies.

You can read more about our Quadrant Coaching method, which addresses those performance issues in sales coaching.

The best sales organizations that design their coaching process to avoid these common mistakes will enjoy an increase in coaching effectiveness, sales effectiveness and performance, with a decrease in coaching time invested.

What Next?

Measuring and optimizing the best sales teams against performance and effectiveness can better improve your bottom line.

Interested in learning more about how our sales performance training works to increase your sales team’s effectiveness?

Check out one of our case studies or subscribe to our podcast, SALES with ASLAN, where we uncover the best sales rep performance strategies while enjoying a cold one.

If you’ve got questions, feel free to comment below or reach out to us through our contact page. We’re excited to talk with you.

As Co-founder and CEO, Tom’s primary role is to create content that helps people live, sell, and serve more effectively. Find him on LinkedIn

Leave a Comment


The best way to get to know us is to know what we value. If we teach it we live it, because what we do speaks far more eloquently than what we say. We’ll always choose people over profits, and we’re most fulfilled and effective when we serve. It drives our culture, frames our training programs and transforms the lives of the clients we partner with.