Recall your last cross-country flight: As you took off you could look down and gradually gain an increasingly broad perspective of the lay of the land. In fact, (I did some checking) at around 1000ft you can see just under 40miles… Assuming clear skies, you can see the distance between landmarks, and the roads that connect them, and think things like, “Ha! It looks to me like those plots of land will be the next ones to snap-up – They are just on the outskirts and have a big highway leading right to them.

[Well, that is what I always find myself thinking, but I am also the kid who thought I would one day parachute out of a plane with an upside-down jar so that I could capture a piece of cloud to put on the shelf… Nice kid, no brains.]

The thing about flying is that at some point you get so high that the detail becomes abstract (Call it 2000 feet). You can see that you are over land, the main roads, but you can’t make out the nature of buildings and the unique geographic features.

Leaders need to adjust their altitude frequently

When I ask a leader to explain what is happening operationally in the business, I will get two answers:

1) Here is the playbook/manual/process guide that everyone adheres to

2) Here is the dashboard/summary report that I use to see what is happening

Here’s a big surprise for you:

1) The playbook/manual/process guide hasn’t been looked at since the initial roll-out or onboarding.

2) That dashboard/summary doesn’t give you actionable insight, it just tells you (sometimes) where you need to double-click (drill down to inspect further). I say “sometimes” because I have many examples where reality is distorted at a dashboard level:

  • Sales pipeline coverage (A couple of MASSIVE tenuous deals that belie the fact you have nowhere near enough coverage in run rate deals)
  • Net churn (You have many small accounts churning, covered by the fact a few biggies are renewing).
  • Team attainment: You have 10% of the reps making 80% of the number.
  • Activity levels: A CSM’s/AE’s calendar is filled with customer calls (They are all friendlies in existing accounts with zero upside).
  • Managers are having 1:1 accountability meetings week: No. They. Aren’t . They are having conversational catchups where the manager finds an opportunity to put their pawprints on all the deals they can – Doing the deals for the reps and seeing how the weekend was.
  • …..

Dashboards and summary reports tell you where to look, not what to do. They are like flying at 2000 feet – If you are looking to grow veggies, you are looking for an arable field – If you see it at 2000 feet, it might look fine, but if you drop down to 500 feet, you see it is a muddy, undrainable swamp…

What to do differently

Here is how I know there is a problem – I ask a leader a question about managing to a KPI. EG: How do you know that your people are spending time on their highest potential opportunities – They will usually pull up a ‘Hygiene’ dashboard and show me all opportunities with no activity in more than 2 weeks.

No good.

I then ask them to pick the top deals for the quarter and we drill in to see the last activity and see a call logged, “Called, left voicemail’… No good.

Here is what I coach people to do (And you can collaborate on at SKO to get alignment across leaders, regardless of function (Sales/Marketing/Product/etc)

Write down all your leading indicators of success and then what health looks like at the 500ft level eg:

Leading indicator: Pipeline coverage of 4.5X

500ft level:At least 80% of the quarter is from run-rate business. Every deal is currently in a stage (validly selected) that allows time to close in this quarter.

Then ask yourself, how do I see if that is true, conveniently enough that I can inspect weekly if I want?

A quick way to lose the confidence of your exec

We are heading into a new fiscal year – Planning is happening now, and soon QBRs will also be. The quickest way to lose your leadership’s confidence is not to know the answers to:

  • Where are we currently exposed and what should we do about it?
  • Where can we focus our resources for the highest impact?

I can’t tell you how often I meet VPs and L1/L2 managers who lose their jobs because they have bee flying in the clouds and oblivious to the reality of what is happening on the ground.

You have heard it before:

“Inspect what you expect.”

Some things to know about me:

  • I coach SVP/CRO sales leaders 1:1 to fly at the right level and work more effectively with their peers
  • Companies with 20-200 sales leaders hire me to enable frontline managers (Often kick-started at SKO)
  • I like working with PE-backed companies…