If You Want Better Outputs, Focus on Improving Inputs

Yesterday I published a post on the idea that we like measuring objective inputs, mostly because they are easy to count. What we really want to measure are the subjective outputs of those inputs, where we struggle to know what measurements to take and how to assess them. Here is more for the sales leader, sales manager, or success-minded individual.

If you are a sales leader, you might say something that sounds like, “Our highest priority is the acquisition of new clients.” That measurement is an output. To drive this output, the oldest of old-school leaders would say, “make more calls.” The slightly wiser old-school leader would say, “have more sales meetings,” recognizing that that outcome is greater than phone calls. The even wiser sales leaders would say, “in those meetings, do the things that create opportunities and that move an opportunity forward.”

The wisest sales leader, however, would recognize that there are inputs that come before the activities and outcomes listed above, all of which are important, all of which have their place, and all of which are being pursued by the people that are doing this work, making the people themselves the critical input. Improving the output means improving all of the inputs, and the effectiveness of the persons doing the work is the primary variable.

It’s easy to say make more calls and have more meetings, a recipe that works well when activity is your problem, and something that is probably necessary in a world where opportunity creation is avoided, even though it is required before opportunity capture is possible. What is more difficult is to invest the time, the energy, and the financial resources in training, developing, and coaching the individuals to improve the first and most important input. It’s difficult to invest the resources, and it’s more difficult to assess the improvement, especially when you simply check the box, making no real effort to transform the people on your team.

The quality of the input is the quality of the output. More low-quality activity is not better than better quality activity and a higher quality outcome. In the age of constant, accelerating disruptive change, where you are under threat of being disintermediated and have almost certainly been commoditized, winning requires that you are different in a way that makes a difference. Believing this is something outside of people and culture is to concede.

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