Measuring Objective Inputs and Subjective Outputs

I’m on record here and here and here saying that when too little activity is your problem, then more activity is what is needed. When you look at metrics and KPIs, you have to balance inputs and outputs.

Telephone calls to prospective clients are inputs. The output of those telephone calls might be meetings in a B2B sale, or it might be a sale in one that is more transactional. Treating the telephone call as an output itself is to confuse the activity with the desired outcome.

Meetings are also an input. The goal of a client meeting isn’t to have a meeting, it is to accomplish something, some goal, some outcome. Even though the sales process is more non-linear than ever, your sales process is still a valuable map, and it outlines the things that you need to do to create and win an opportunity. These things are the output of the meetings, and they tell you whether or not you have made any progress.

The progress that you make on an individual sales call is an input, the output of which is the moving of a prospective deal from one stage of the sales process into a later stage, moving you closer to a decision. That movement is the output, and it is measured by noting the change in the stage of the process.

It’s important not to confuse inputs with outputs.

Let’s say the new client acquisition is what you want most of all. By placing too much of a focus on making calls (a mistake that is still made), you are looking at an input that says very little about how you are doing pursuing your goal. High activity might be better than low activity, but it isn’t better than effective activity.

Meetings are important, too. You will not create an opportunity to win a prospective client without speaking to them. But the meeting itself is simply an input, something worth measuring, but not a metric that tells you much without looking at the output.

And here we get to the reason why a lot of people like inputs better than outputs. To measure the effectiveness of a sales meeting, we enter the area where what we are measuring has a subjective component. We have to decide whether we obtained a certain goal that can be measured objectively. Was the call really a success? Is the prospective client really interested? Did we really gain the consensus of the two stakeholders that have previously been obstacles to change?

Outputs are more important than inputs, without which they cannot be generated. Measuring success requires that you look at the inputs and outputs together, and that you inspect the subjective outputs in a way that allows you to determine their validity. Even though outputs may not provide the same objective certainty as the easier to capture inputs, they’ll tell you much more about how you are doing.

Filed under: Sales 3.0

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