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Today, we want to talk about one of key ways that we motivate and coach people to be their very best: tracking leading indicators.
One of the major challenges that professionals often face in business development is the existence of significant lags between when you start talking to a prospect and the moment when that same client purchases one of your products or services. In expert-driven industries, sometimes it can take years to move from that initial dialogue to closing the deal. From a behavioral perspective, simply keeping yourself motivated throughout that entire time period can be very difficult. A typical indicator of sales success is dollars of business brought in, but this is a lagging indicator that can take months or years to materialize.
To overcome this behavioral science obstacle, we advise our clients to focus on leading indicators.
There are three major characteristics that distinguish leading indicators:
If you identify the right leading indicators to track, you can keep yourself motivated over the short-term. Tracking leading indicators will also help you keep your eye on business development in a more consistent fashion. You can dedicate your time to accomplishing short sprints instead of attempting to visualize the full journey to closing. This way, you will generate a feeling of progress that will work to keep morale high, which will also help motivate you to maintain a full pipeline.
From a managerial perspective, it's easier to coach your team using leading indicators than it is to motivate them around long-term lagging indicators.
Leading indicators provide a meaningful yardstick for progress that can be monitored on an ongoing basis, whereas successfully closing the deal will involve variables that your team will not be able to control.
One of the things that I track myself is the number of Most Important Things (MITs) that I had planned to complete versus tracking the number of random tasks that I accomplished during the week.
Every week, I pick at least three things that I believe that I absolutely need to get done this week. Then, at the end of the week, I review the work done over the prior week to calculate the percentage of MITs completed. The benefit of the method is that I can track my percentages on an ongoing basis, which gives visibility to my performance over the month, quarter, year, or multiple years. In my experience, the weekly review session gives me a burst of activity that helps me to stay on track. Sometimes I realize that I only have one of my three MITs done, which then motivates me to sprint to the end of Friday to get those last couple of things done.
Another good leading indicator is hours spent on business development each week.
In the very cloudy world of doing work and growing a business, it can be difficult to consistently prioritize the "growing the business” part. Clients are asking you questions and giving you deadlines around the “work” part. Hardly anybody asks you about, or gives you deadlines around, creating a bigger pipeline and growing your book of business or practice. If you don’t identify some concrete, short-term targets for yourself or your team, it’s easy to leave the BD work on the back burner.
Another leading indicator that we often suggest that our clients track is offering Give-to-Gets (GTGs).
Give-to-Gets are part of our overall GrowBIG business development system. Offering proper Give-to-Gets is essential to doing business development the right way. GTGs are little bite size strategic investments in clients. The key to the success of this leading indicator is to measure the act of offering the Give-to-Get. That is much more important than focusing on whether the client accepts the offer or gives you another meeting to discuss the offer in more detail. As mentioned earlier, one key to successfully quantifying leading indicators is ensuring that they are completely within your control. Offering GTGs is 100% in your control.
Another great example of a leading indicator is preparing for meetings.
After GrowBIG Training, one of our clients started using this leading indicator to ensure that his team wasn’t having “random acts of lunch,” as he called them (i.e. generally not preparing for meetings and instead letting happenstances occur, as opposed to being intentional about every major client interaction). In order for this to be a valuable indicator, it is important to set a firm definition for the word 'preparing', rather than leaving it up to interpretation. At BIG, we have a specific preparation process called GrowBIG Dynamic Meeting Prep that turns the nebulous term 'preparation' into a well-defined exercise with established steps.
A final example of a good leading indicator is requesting the next client interaction during the current one.
We had one of our clients measure this indicator. It encouraged them to be conscientious about what needed to happen next to move the BD process along. As a result, they were prepared in advance to nail down the details for the next meeting. They even began sending out the calendar invite while they were still with the client, rather than waiting to organize it via email after the fact when the planning process can get derailed much more easily.
All of these examples showcase leading indicators that are within the realm of control of the business developer.
For our clients, quantifying and tracking leading indicators has made a significant impact on the growth of their business.
Here's what you can do to do start using leading indicators.
Think through what your goals are for an entire year, both from a vision and metric standpoint. Then, take a step back and ask yourself, "What behaviors do my team and I have that are 100% in our control? If you can identify these, you can coach your team by measuring those behaviors week to week. You can also quantify their progress over time.
The basic message is that, if you can consistently execute on important leading indicators, you will see the positive results in the lagging indicators (business brought in, etc.) down the road.
As always, I hope this video was helpful. I love to get feedback and welcome your comments. I also appreciate insights around what you all think would be valuable topics for future videos. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Mo Bunnell