The Value of Standards or Benchmarking in Sales

Nearly every professional sales manager or sales executive that I’ve ever spoken to bemoans the fact that it is really hard to quantitatively assess the likelihood of success of a new sales hire. Equally, they are frequently exercised with determining, on some relative scale, whether their sales team is as good as it could be or better or worse than other sales teams in competitive organizations.

When I speak about this topic to professional sales trainers or consultants the response is the same. There are no easily accessible standards, benchmarks or measures that can be used as a reference point.

One of the fundamental problems of course that creates this shaky foundation is that there are few recognized professional qualifications for sales people or sales management or standards with which the sales profession must comply. Most professions have accredited qualifications and standards. Lawyers can’t practice without sitting their bar exams and then they must follows the rules set out by the ABA. An accountant may qualify as a CPA and then rigorously adopt the principles of GAAP. Doctors toil their way through medical school and are subsequently governed by the AMA.

But for the sales professional or sales organization there are no quantifiable measures by which they can be judged, or measured by their peers. Quota achievement, though important, does not cut it as a yardstick of an individual’s professionalism, or as a solid predictor of future execution. Relative, rather than absolute performance of a company’s sales team is a more secure indicator of company success. Current available metrics are a little bit all over the place. I’m trying to change that.

For standards to emerge in any ecosystem, there must be some cooperation between numerous parties, an agreed metric by which professionalism can be measured. With one or more entities acting as the Initiator, who create an easily accessible engagement mechanism, possibilities emerge. That was the vision behind the creation of the Dealmaker Index – an automated sales benchmarking and advice service that is free to all – and I’m grateful for the support of my fellow travelers on this journey.

We are in search of a starting point, a place where the conversation can begin, and the sales profession can engage to begin to develop a recognizable standard, that for both individuals and companies can, in a self-regulating manner, establish a benchmark for the-best-of-the best.

I will describe the Dealmaker Index in more detail later, but first I’d like to present my thoughts on the benefits of benchmarking, and the main steps in a benchmarking process. [Some of these thoughts are informed by a paper by Accenture – Achieving High Performance – The Value of Benchmarking]

The Benefits of Benchmarking For Sales

Benchmarking delivers five primary benefits for companies looking to improve the performance of their sales organization.

  1. The first benefit is a current-state assessment of the function that goes beyond the typical lagging indicators or win-rate, quota achievement, deal size, or market penetration. These lagging indicators are a consequence of the efficacy of leading behaviors in the sales team, how effectively the sales team interacts with the entire company, and the depth of its interaction with the marketplace, including its customers, partners and competitors. But those leading indicators are rarely measured.
  2. Having achieved a comprehensive assessment of the current–state, a company can develop a foundation for transformative programs. It is enabled to more easily identify and prioritize opportunities for improvement.
  3. The third reason to invest in benchmarking is as a basis for continuous improvement. By definition this is on-going and only practical when the system that underpins the benchmarking process allows for evolution of ‘the current state’, and also permits iterative measures of progress.
  4. Perhaps one of the most impactful benefits of the benchmarking process is that everyone involved gains a shared understanding of the current state; and vision of the journey upon the enterprise must embark.
  5. Diagnosis without prescription is sub-optimal, and while the preceding benefits I’ve outlined above have inherent worth, without effective prescription, the patient remains ill. However, when a benchmarking process can dig into an informed knowledge source, and apply that knowledge in the context of the company’s current state, true value transfers to the organization and quantifiable value emerges.

The Main Phases in the process of Benchmarking For Sales

At a high level, the four steps in the benchmarking process are:

  1. Data Collection
  2. Quantitative and qualitative assessment
  3. Absolute and relative performance analysis
  4. Comprehensive prescriptive advice

Benchmarking is only valuable if you can turn insight in to action, and that what we have tried to help you do with the Dealmaker Index free service.

The Dealmaker Index Sales Effectiveness Benchmark

Based on an analysis of 92 sales performance factors, mapped against proven successful approaches, the Dealmaker Index measures the effectiveness of sales organizations and sales individuals. It analyzes their activities, behaviors and attitudes and their strategic alignment with their companies and the resulting sales velocity they can achieve. Using this data the engine behind the Dealmaker Index assesses the impact across areas such as deal close rates, sales cycle management, value creation and sales opportunity development. It then produces a detailed custom sales performance success roadmap for both individuals and companies. This has been extensively reviewed by leading independent analysts as well as by the Dealmaker Index distribution partners (The TAS Group, ES Research, InsideView, DurhamLane, Inflexion Point, and The Bee Group) – so I’m pretty confident that it provides real value to the participants, and is a good foundation we can build on to create a standard global index of sales performance.

Absolute Performance Scores and Peer Comparison: Every participant in the Dealmaker Index study receives a Dealmaker Index score for their company, and a Personal Dealmaker Index as well as a ranking relative to their peers.

Actionable Data: The Dealmaker Index provides:

  • The Executive Summary Report identifies 5 key action areas for immediate improvement, as well as an overview of the company’s Dealmaker Index.
  • The Company Detailed Analysis and Recommendations Report, provides guidance to the company on Strategic Alignment, Sales Process Analysis, Sales Velocity, Sales Coaching, Social Media, Customer Retention, Competitive Differentiation, Sales Methodology, CRM and Revenue Performance Management. This comprehensive report, tailored for the individual company typical exceeds 3000 words of in-depth advice.
  • The Personal Dealmaker Index Report looks at the performance of the individual sales professional, analyzing his or her capability, how he or she approaches a sales engagement, his or her personal sales perspectives and the efficacy of his or her use of sales systems and infrastructure.

Your participation and support is important

Benchmarking can be a powerful tool for helping a sales organization ensure that it is not way behind its competitors. It quantifies the current state, analyzes the situation and can define the roadmap to optimal sales performance.

But my aspirational goal is higher than that. With your help I think we can raise the standards in the industry, and provide a measure we can all turn to. Think what that might do for the economy.

So, here’s my ask. Head on over to the Dealmaker Index to get your own score, your position relative to your peers, and your own personalized advice. But more importantly, tell other people about it. Tweet this blog post. Email your colleagues the link to Dealmaker Index, and next time you meet a sales person – ask her for her Dealmaker Index score.

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