Applying Deming’s Cycle To Spot Check Sales Activity Quality

Most organizations measure sales activity, but how many check the quality of that activity? Sales activity is a key input for leading indicators such as funnel velocity, call volume and conversion rates. Measuring activity along the selling process is one way to look for early warning flags that sales teams might be able to address in advance of an outcome such as winning or losing a deal.

According to our 2018 Sales Talent Study, one-quarter (27.0%) of organizations use both leading and lagging indicators to measure sales performance. In other words, sales performance depends on the quality of each activity along the selling process. But if the quality of the activity being measured is not spot-checked, organizations could end up taking action based on unreliable information.

In today’s blog, we take a look at one approach sales operations can provide sales managers to help spot-check the quality of the sales activities being measured.

Applying Deming’s Cycle to set up a sales activity QA process (Click to tweet)

In the 1950s, W. Edwards Deming took the original work of Walter A. Shewart, who introduced the concept of Plan, Do, See, and modified it into a continuous improvement model consisting of four steps: Plan, Do, Study and Act (PDSA):

  • Plan: Identify an opportunity for improvement, and plan a change.
  • Do: Test the change in small increments.
  • Study: Review the results of the tests, and ask “Did it work?” and “Why did it work?”
  • Act: Document and implement the change, and track progress continuously.

 

If we apply this continuous improvement approach to spot-check the quality of sales activities, it might look like this:

  • Plan. When you identify a sales activity that requires a quality check, clearly define what you are observing and the results associated with your observation, and develop a plan for investigation. For example, let’s say you are measuring “first call” to “solution presentation” conversion rates based on the sales activity of business development teams making calls and scheduling meetings for sales account executives. You observe that the number of calls the team is making is on target, but the conversion of these calls to scheduled meetings is quite low. To help determine the root cause of the low conversion rate, pull together a plan to spot-check the quality of the calls, and compare them against deal wins and losses.

 

  • Do. It’s important in this stage to test in small increments. If you already record the calls, you might consider reviewing them more frequently. You can start by reviewing the historical call recordings first. Listen to the recordings that did not result in a meeting, make note of your key observations, and document any trends you see. Next, review the call recordings that did result in a meeting, and make note of your observations. Based on your observations, determine what coaching you might provide to the team. Finally, test your hypotheses, sit in on active business development team calls, and provide real-time coaching as well as post-call debriefs. Then make sure to track the results of the calls.

 

  • Study. Once you have the results of the calls where you provided real-time coaching and/or post-call debriefs, study them and see what you observe. This step is not just about reviewing the results; it’s also about asking whether your efforts worked so that you can gather best practices and/or adjust your “Do” approach and test again in small increments. Did the coaching help? If so, which approach helped the most? Which coaching and/or post-call debrief resulted in securing a meeting, and which did not? Why might that be? Make sure to get the team’s input, as they may provide some insights based on their experience of receiving the coaching and going through the debrief process. In some cases, you might even be bold enough to request customer feedback on why they agreed to a meeting or not.

 

  • Act. Now that you have determined the root cause of the low conversion rates—and also identified the appropriate coaching and debrief approach—it’s time to apply the new approach. What’s important in this stage is to continuously make note of your progress so you can stay ahead of any minor adjustments that might be needed after implementing the new approach. Without this step, you are back to the original state where you implemented something but did not continue to monitor progress and check sales activity quality.

 

Sales activity quality matters (Click to tweet), as this is what drives the quality of leading indicators, which organizations use to not only measure sales performance but also to influence the sales performance outcome itself. And a structured framework like Deming’s Cycle can help sales managers to do exactly that, drive sales performance overall!

 

Questions for you:

  • Do you use leading indicators to measure the progress of sales activities?
  • When was the last time you checked the quality of your team’s sales activities?
  • What criteria might you use to determine the quality of your sales activities?

 

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