Why You’re Struggling With Metrics in the Sales Conversation

By: John Kaplan on March 20th, 2019

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Why You’re Struggling With Metrics in the Sales Conversation

Categories: Sales Conversation

We’ve done hundreds of deliveries around our Command of the Message® methodology and there’s one topic that frequently comes up in our initial facilitation, even when we do refresher sessions for experienced reps. People continually struggle with defining the metrics in a sales conversation.

In a value-based conversation, metrics are the way you measure required capabilities or the requirements for solution success. The reason they are part of your Value Framework (if you’re an FM customer) or a great value-based conversation (if you’re not), is that you need some proof in the implementation process that you’re doing what you said you could do. If you’re going to run a race, you need some sort of benchmark to know that you’re on the right path.

Metrics help us focus on how we are measuring the capabilities of the solution. They don’t necessarily solve the Positive Business Outcomes or the Required Capabilities. Your metrics are driving the outcome, but they aren’t the whole story.

The Challenge with Metrics in Value-Based Sales Conversation

The challenge that many reps struggle with is that the metrics, if used the wrong way, can drive a more technical conversation. Remember, you’re delegated to whom you sound like. If you use the metrics as a focus of your conversation with the wrong decision-maker, you won’t gain traction and you’ll have to resort to a feature and function conversation.

After a recent Command of the Message delivery, where once again I was answering questions on metrics, I thought a lot about the reason why. Why were so many people continually struggling with the concept? In my mind, there were far more difficult parts of our curriculum and metrics is a pretty-straight forward concept. That’s when I had a bit of epiphany. These reps were simply focusing too much on the metrics in their sales conversations, particularly when they went beyond the technical buyer and up in a sales organization. The metrics weren’t resonating with those higher-level buyers and therefore, the reps were confused as to how to use the metrics in the sales conversation. That’s when I thought about the analogy of the house.

The House of the Customer

Think of the sales conversation or the sales process as a house. It’s a big house, with many rooms and multiple floors. The reps that were struggling with metrics were doing a great job in one room, but they were missing everything else in the house.

Let’s say you’re a rep and you’re having a great conversation with one decision maker, but that person is in a small room. The windows are closed. The door is shut. You’re talking to them, without considering the rest of the house. You are so busy with this one person that you don’t have any idea what’s going on in the other rooms.

So what do you do? You have two choices.

  1. Go out of the room and go to other rooms.
  2. Open the door and the windows. Connect this decision maker to the rest of the house.

Remember, Required Capabilities and Metrics are at a technical level. You as a rep, need to open the windows and translate those bullet points into the Positive Business Outcomes.

Take your technical buyer up the stairs with you. The metrics are important, but they are technical in nature. They aren’t typically what a C-level executive is going to care about. Therefore, you can’t focus your conversations on the metrics. It’s about the outcomes.

If your solution decreases network latency by X milliseconds, that’s important. But, improving customer experience is the  business outcome that your c-level executive is going to care about. Remember, you need to adjust your sales conversations based on what’s important to that particular buyer.

You can’t assume that the rest of your decision makers are going to understand the importance of those technical metrics. Considering the house metaphor, they’re important to the people in that one room. They impact the rest of the house, but, they aren’t the focus of the people in the rest of the house. Upstairs, they’re looking at the weather, if it’s raining, when the temperature is increasing and if there’s a tornado on the way.

The best salespeople link their technical buyer to the metrics and their role in driving the outcomes. If you as the sales rep can emotionally connect those metrics-focused buyers on the impact they have for the entire company, they’re better able to internally sell the importance of your solutions. Remember, your solution impacts decision-makers in different ways and their reasoning for choosing yours over alternatives is also different. Your job is to understand (1) what room in the house they’re in and (2) help them understand how your solution impacts the other rooms in that house.

One of the best leadership teams we work with are the folks at Turbonomic. CEO Ben Nye and COO Mark Thurmond use a great concept with their reps. They talk about the sales conversation as a W or an M. You either start high in an organization, then go down and back up. Or you start low and then go up. If you’re selling complex solutions, that’s what you have to do. If it’s either a W or an M, you’re moving in the right direction. If you’re moving in an L formation, you’ve got a problem.

Metrics shouldn’t trip you up as a salesperson. They’re merely the benchmarks for how you’re going to reach the Positive Business Outcomes. Your job is to ensure you’re articulating the right components of the value-based conversation to the right buyer.

Once you get in the house, account for what room you’re in, make sure you’re heading up the stairs and opening the windows.

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