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How to Leverage Benchmarking and Baselining

Sales, by its very nature, is a binary, win-lose contest: the lagging indicators – stock price, revenues, and market share reek of performance comparisons, and that is a good thing. These are clear, rearview mirror benchmarks – the results speak for themselves and are impossible to debate. In this case, benchmarks have a very clear standard and should be leveraged. They help organizations understand how they stack up or compare in terms of results.

When looking forward to the leading indicators that drive results, benchmarking can be a distraction. Benchmarking competitive sales practices can shed some light on things you could be doing better, however, it has much more potential for distracting your sales force.

World-class sales organizations spend the vast majority of their time on the setting, monitoring, executing, and evaluating performance against very clear baselines. This allows for razor-like focus on what sales teams can and should control – their own performance.

John Wooden, widely considered the best coach in sports, downplayed the role of scouting in his team’s preparation year after year. Instead, he insisted on measuring and evaluating his players based on what they could do. He knew that if his team did its job, the right outcome would be assured.

So the question is, “What internal standard have you set for your sales organization, sales teams, and individual sellers?” Are they clear, achievable, and most importantly, do they drive every person to do all that they can in order to fulfill their potential? Obviously, the seller’s quote is the ultimate baseline to work from. Identifying the key behavioral/leading baselines to execute against is merely the first step. For ideal results, it is active involvement, coaching, and development of the salesperson (through the various stages of the sales cycle) that yields real learning and the best outcomes.

It is only through an in-depth focus on best practice sales behaviors that organizations can follow-through on the individual promise of each salesperson. Talking about what others are doing and how they are doing it typically leads down the slippery slope of the seller being a victim of the company, industry, and/or competition. So, remove the distraction and the excuse – focus your team on what they and you can control and follow through on.

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