What B2B Sales Leaders Can Learn from the Revolution in Golf Metrics

What B2B Sales Leaders Can Learn from the Revolution in Golf Metrics

Golf is a lot like sales – maybe even more than sales leaders realize. Professional golfers seek data-based insights to improve their performance. Like sales, golf traditionally relied on simple metrics, such as average drive distance or total putts, that provided information but lacked real insight. And just like sales, these metrics often created more questions than they answer.

Everything changed in 2011 when the Professional Golfers’ Association adopted “strokes gained” analytics, pioneered by a Columbia Business School professor. Strokes gained metrics are innovative because they are completely comparative in nature. With strokes gained, we can tell how each player’s performance compares to their competitors and what specific activities drive their success or failure. This insight was a game-changer for golf analytics.

Similar to golf pre-2011, the way that sales leaders typically approach sales performance analysis leaves critical questions unanswered:

  1. Sellers wonder how individual performance metrics are relevant to their overall performance.
  2. Managers are unsure which insights to prioritize for seller coaching.
  3. Sales operations and enablement leaders don’t know what efforts will deliver the best ROI.

Choosing the right performance metrics is critical, but that’s only half of the battle. Knowing how to evaluate and compare performers is just as important. If sales organizations are not basing their analyses on comparative performance, they’re missing out on critical insights.

To make seller performance metrics truly actionable, sales leaders must create their own comparative analyses by defining unique cohorts and measures, comparing sellers and coaching accordingly, and prioritizing support efforts based on these insights.

Define Unique Cohorts and Measures

There is no universal definition of productivity that can be applied to all organizations and sales roles. Sales leaders must identify cohorts of sellers who execute in comparable conditions, and define what productivity really means for each of those cohorts.

Once that definition is agreed, then sales leaders can identify the supporting metrics that can be analyzed in a comparative manner.

For example, take someone in an account executive (AE) role. AE productivity could be equated to the revenue they deliver. Sales leaders might identify pipeline creation, average deal size and win rate as supporting performance measures for all AEs.

Understanding the supporting performance measures for each cohort will ultimately reveal which specific activities drive a seller’s success or failure – just like in golf.

Compare Sellers and Coach Accordingly

Once performance measurements for each cohort are established, sellers and managers can draw insights and take action from them. To do this, sales leaders must build a comparative seller performance index (CSPI), which effectively normalizes supporting performance metrics to comparable, unitless values.

The CSPI calculation indicates how much an individual’s performance outperforms or underperforms their peers. This produces critical insights for coaching by showing which activities are contributing to and detracting from each seller’s overall performance, and by how much. Even more interestingly, CSPI calculations can show the seller how their over- or under-performance in each activity impacts their final revenue, similar to strokes gained in golf.

Prioritize Support Efforts with Certainty Using CSPI

Now that a powerful, comparative dataset has been established with CSPI, sales leaders can use it to make data-driven decisions about sales support investments.

When comparative metrics objectively show what top performers do best, sales leaders can correctly deduce where the average sellers on their team need improvement or better tools.

For example, if CSPI analysis proves that pipeline creation has a greater impact on field seller performance than win rate, deal size and cycle time, that would tell sales leaders that investing in training or tools to help the average seller generate pipeline will offer the best return on investment for this cohort.

Comparative seller performance analyses are uniquely powerful since they provide an unbiased view into what behaviors drive performance within various groups of sellers. That insight allows sales leaders to prioritize operations and enablement efforts with complete confidence.

The adoption of strokes gained in golf not only redefined our understanding of player performance. It revolutionized how players practice, choose their tools, and make game-time decisions. Comparative performance metrics using CSPI offers B2B sales organizations similar benefits by changing the way we evaluate existing data to unlock critical insights.

Steve Rietberg, a VP Analyst in the Gartner for Sales Practice, is presenting live on this subject at the Gartner CSO & Sales Leaders Conference, taking place May 16-17, 2023 in Las Vegas.


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