They must be leading, not lagging. A predictive view allows for course corrections if the indicator is below expectations.

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2 WHAT IS A VERIFIABLE OUTCOME? In our sales process mapping workshops, we begin by reviewing and challenging our clients existing best practices. These have been gathered in interviews with key client stakeholders, including top performers in the field. The process is straightforward and usually yields little debate and early agreement on what good looks like for the client. Next, we challenge the workshop participants, usually including global heads of sales, to identify without our prompting a small number of leading indicators that can provide immediate visibility to sales managers of the status, quality and confidence of an opportunity in the pipeline. This sounds simple until we establish a few key criteria: They must be leading, not lagging. A predictive view allows for course corrections if the indicator is below expectations. They are verifiable. This is evidence either, documented or anecdotal, that informs the sales manager whether or not the indicator has been achieved. They improve confidence. A positive indicator gives the sales manager confidence that the opportunity is viable and winnable. Customer reaction is captured. True leading indicators must include some reaction from the customer that either confirms or changes the strategy and course of action for the opportunity. When these criteria are explained, we see seasoned executives and line leaders struggle to find indicators that are relevant to their business. While we, as consultants, can certainly recommend best-in-class indicators used across multiple industries, each company will have unique indicators embedded in the way it does business on a daily basis. These unique indicators can have strong value in their ability to predict the success of an opportunity for that particular company, but they can be wholly unimportant to other companies in other industries. It is this process of self-discovery by company executives that is most critical to the success of these indicators from a change-management perspective. This introspection gives the resulting indicators immediate relevance and credibility, as they are instantly recognized in the field as informal signs of confidence among top performances, even though they were never previously codified in the common language of the organization.

3 HOW DO VERIFIABLE OUTCOMES CHANGE BEHAVIOR? Most of our clients are successful even before they come to Richardson. Their leadership has the vision to see what challenges lie ahead, and they typically set aggressive goals for market share and profitability for their organizations. The in today s increasingly competitive and uncertain markets. Where companies stumble is in attempting to impose prefabricated one-size-fits-all sales processes, and their associated verifiable outcomes, on their sales organizations only to see little change in behavior. Even worse, the distraction and pushback from the field can stall a slow, healthy improvement, causing a brief but disastrous hiccup in revenue and earnings. The approach that has worked the best, we find, is to leverage existing best practices and enhance them with solid, relevant recommendations to create a process that looks native from the outset. By doing the hard work of self-discovery to identify appropriate verifiable outcomes, companies start farther down the path of changing behavior to achieve new business outcomes. Once the sales process and verifiable outcomes have been identified, we continue working with the clients to develop a plan to deploy, embed, and sustain behavior change in the organization. Deployment itself is highly situational and depends on the culture, geography, and multiple other factors to execute successfully. Common to any development are five key elements necessary to change the behavior of sales professionals: Measuring and managing adoption rates Testing the verifiable outcomes relentlessly at the line Embedding a leadership discipline vertically in the organization Giving managers tools to coach Tracking, measuring, and using data If this looks like change management, it is. While any transformational change of this magnitude should be guided by a proven framework, like John Kotter s eight steps of leading change, we re focusing on a few basic steps and drilling down to a layer of best practices that have proven to be key differentiators for successful organizations.

4 1 MEASURING AND MANAGING ADOPTION RATE Inspection is key to measuring adoption rates when a sales process is cascaded to the field. The idea in not to add new inspection on top of existing metrics but to substitute more effective metrics for less meaningful ones. CRM systems lie at the core of our ability to track adoption. Unfortunately, many CRM systems already track a myriad of activities and lagging indicators the sales professionals and their managers find onerous and less than useful. We advocate a paradigm shift away from tracking activities and toward measuring progress through verifiable outcomes. By definition, verifiable outcomes confirm active movement through a sales cycle. As sales managers track and inspect these outcomes, they gain the most powerful indicators to assess progress in the pipeline, building confidence or spotting red flags. To track adoption, we replace traditional fields of data capture to activities with verifiable outcomes. Over time, frequency equals adoption. In the first year, we advocate looking at the frequency of association of each verifiable outcome with an opportunity. For example, at two months after a rollout, if 20% of opportunities in a particular stage of the sales cycle are associated with a cleared verifiable outcome in the prior stage, we can safely say there is a 20% adoption rate. The goal is to seek higher rates of association with a realistic target in mind. Is the target 100%? No. As we work with clients to map and deploy sales processes, we infuse the idea of situational flexibility. This simply means that the sales process is a powerful guideline to be leveraged, but each sale requires the situational application of some activities. We recently codified a single sales process for a company with multiple diverse business units ranging from solutions sold in a single sales call to concept products that can take years to position and sell. The flexibility built into the sales process was a critical factor in attaining buy-in across multiple business units and global regions. As we begin to track frequency of association of verifiable outcomes to opportunities, it is critical to also track close ratios, comparing those with verifiable outcome to opportunities without them. This provides powerful evidence to first-line managers that by managing to these key indicators, close rates and associated performance will improve. This answers the What s in it for me? question for both sales managers and sales professionals.

5 2TESTING THE VERIFIABLE OUTCOMES RELENTLESSLY AT THE LINE Just because a field within a CRM system is completed, it doesn t mean that the verifiable outcome was cleared in a quality manner. Populated fields in CRM System rarely offer insights into the qualitative elements of particular activities, and there is no exception here. But, because we have reduced the number of factors managers must monitor and oversee, we can introduce the element of qualitative inspection. When a sales professional performs a series of required sales activities, feedback from the client becomes a verifiable outcome. If the verifiable outcome was not successful, the cause usually lies in important activities being skipped or performed inadequately by the sales professional. A key element of making verifiable outcomes operational is to equip managers with the tools to diagnose a breakdown in process. We have successfully accomplished this in a variety of companies across multiple industries by developing diagnostic questions that serve as a toolset for managers. They use these questions with sales professionals to better understand underlying issues that may be affecting the quality of opportunities. The questions are tied into the company s sales process and can quickly pinpoint missed or poorly executed steps. If, for example, the verifiable outcome associated with gaining feedback from a client on our understanding of their compelling need to change has been cleared in CRM System by a sales professional for a key opportunity, the manager should perform a qualitative check by asking first about specific feedback from the client. If the feedback seems vague or negative, this signals the manager to ask more qualitative questions about level of contact, budget, timeline, competitive landscape, and other factors relevant to this company s defined sales process. Using verifiable outcomes as a starting point for meaningful dialogues about specific opportunities in the pipeline should quickly become routine.

6 3 EMBEDDING A LEADERSHIP DISCIPLINE VERTICALLY IN THE ORGANIZATION Just as mid-level leadership may set expectations of line management to focus on verifiable outcomes and test them qualitatively, so should the next higher levels adopt a discipline around this process. Most senior executives we speak to routinely travel with field sales professionals and sales managers on key calls to clients. This is an ideal opportunity to perform qualitative checks on verifiable outcomes. Prior to a client meeting, we coach senior managers to ask where the client and/or opportunity are in the sales process and to quiz the sales professional about the quality of the verifiable outcome. Simply put, senior executives need to question and understand the real status of the opportunity. We have learned from observation that the first time a senior executive asks these questions and doesn t receive quality answers, it initiates an immediate behavior change in both the sales professional and sales manager. Being relentless about these questions at senior levels in the organization is key to sustaining the desired behavior. Changing the conversation in the field is critical but not enough on its own to create enduring change. Leaders at all levels need to seek out evidence that the conversations have truly changed by continuously challenging the quality of the pipeline. We recently worked closely with a well-respected financial institution to create this kind of leadership discipline from the line up to business unit leadership. In addition to asking disciplined questions of line-level managers and sales professionals, we re helping them change the conversation in higherlevel pipeline reviews and staff meetings. Senior executives should be asking how often opportunities are being reclassified as a result of line-level conversations about verifiable outcome. Additionally, we have seen success in companies that implement skip-level meetings between senior executives and the line and direct contact with customers to gain visibility into the accuracy and quality of the pipeline.

7 4GIVING MANAGERS THE TOOLS TO COACH The use of qualitative questioning to check that verifiable outcomes have been successfully cleared is never a substitute for coaching. Instead, these conversations are the starting point for true coaching. When key activities in the sales process are repeatedly missed or performed poorly by sales professionals, it is the manager s job to coach to the lack of skill, will, or ability to perform. The verifiable outcome conversations help to diagnose the issues that should be coached by managers. Effective coaching is a skill that must be learned. Managers need to be provided the models, the skills, and the ability to practice in order to see a change in business outcomes related to changes in the sales professionals behavior. For customers who have engaged the Richardson team in organizational transformations, including mapping of sales process and identification of verifiable outcomes, we integrate coaching skills training in the classroom. Not only are managers taught the Coaching Model and skills, but they also get to practice conversations about the sales process and verifiable outcomes in customized role plays and exercises. We don t and can t expect managers to do something in the field if they haven t experienced it firsthand in the classroom.

8 5TRACKING, MEASURING, AND USING DATA We contend that tracking and measuring verifiable outcomes should replace much of the current activity reporting that sales professionals are required to do today. This refined focus allows companies to become more efficient and nimble, as they manage to the fewest metrics that make the most sense. It has been our experience that an appropriate number of leading indicators, or verifiable outcomes, is between nine and 12 for a robust, solution-centric sales process. Clearly, it is also important to measure a few essential lagging indicators, and we have found that after examining their processes and metrics, many companies also begin to challenge their existing lagging indicators as well. We recommend CRM System as the right tool for tracking verifiable outcomes, and this information should be tracked in three dimension: frequency of association of verifiable outcomes with opportunities; close ratios from each verifiable outcome to a win/loss decision; and velocity from one verifiable outcome to the rest. The first dimension measures adoption. If we track association of verifiable outcomes with opportunities, we create visibility into the change of behavior organizationally, at the team level and individually. Adoption rates can be used most powerfully as an element of leadership discipline. It makes sense to set targets over time, installing MBOs for line and mid-level leadership. Tying MBOs to compensation is also an effective reinforcement tool. The second dimension is useful as proof that managing to verifiable outcomes results in behavior change and positive business impact. We would be looking at differences in close ratios between opportunities with high association rates and those with low ones. In the spirit of continuous improvement, we would also use this analysis to identify verifiable outcomes that may not be useful or predictive of success. Finally, by measuring close ratios over an adequate time period, confidence factors can be derived to more accurately forecast at the individual, team, and organizational level. The third dimension also supports more accurate forecasting over time, measuring the length of the sales cycle by business unit, product line, or customer segment. We consider this the lesser important outcome in measuring velocity of the sales cycle, but it can become a powerful coaching tool for managers to use at the team level. By inspecting the velocity from one verifiable outcome to the next of top performers on sales teams, or even organizationally, we can begin to set benchmarks. These benchmarks become diagnostic tools for managers who are trying to improve productivity and performance across sales teams. By comparing velocity throughout the average sales cycles of top, mid, and low performers, managers can gain insights into where people are spending their time, getting stuck, or moving too fast. Managers can then zero in on differences to understand where sales professionals may lack the skill of confidence to properly execute at any stage of a sales process.

9 CHANGE BEHAVIOR TO GROW BUSINESS OUTCOMES By focusing on just a few things that really matter, sales professionals and their manager can make a significant change in their results on both a company and individual level, Many companies already employ verifiable outcomes in their sales process. The key and what differentiates Richardson is to identify outcomes that are truly leading indicators of customer engagement. The result leads to greater confidence in sales forecasts and, ultimately, business results.

10 Contact the Richardson Team at Visit us on the web at

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