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Should I Fire My Sales Managers?

Should I Fire My Sales Managers?

Give Them the Tools They Need to be Good Coaches Instead!


First Off: What is a Customer Verifiable Outcome?

At its core, Customer Verifiable Outcomes (CVOs) are those few tangible things sales leaders can manage in order to gain insight into the accuracy and quality of their teams’ forecasts.

The use of CVOs has become more widely adopted by companies engaged in complex sales. These measures are providing visibility into the sales process, pipeline performance, and forecasting. The problem, however, is that most of these CVOs are lagging indicators of past performance, not leading indicators of future achievement.

Oak Island Associates has adopted a more predictive approach to CVOs that can create an enduring and systemic impact on business results. Because our primary focus is on changing behaviors to achieve desired outcomes, we have differentiated ourselves by helping clients to identify and use CVOs that are leading indicators of customer engagement.

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:

  1. They must be leading, not lagging. A predictive view allows for course corrections if the indicator is below expectations, well before a deal is lost.
  2. They are verifiable. This is evidence, either documented or anecdotal, that inform the sales manager whether or not the indicator has been achieved.
  3. They improve confidence. A positive indicator gives the sales manager confidence that the opportunity is viable and winnable.
  4. 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 be wholly unimportant to other companies in other industries.

It’s 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 performers