Visibility is the most important advantage armies have in battle. From ancient Rome to Iraq, victory and defeat on the battlefield is decided by an understanding of the terrain and knowledge of where each side’s troops are positioned on it.

History’s greatest generals all understood this principle, and avoided conflict when they lacked the visibility they needed to make informed decisions.

In ancient times, generals relied on cavalry and skirmishers to give them the information they needed to prepare for battle. Now, we have airborne surveillance and satellites that give commanders precise, detailed views of the battlefield and everything on it.

Visibility is just as important to sales leaders as it is to military commanders. Effective sales leaders have full visibility into their team’s performance, and use that information to constantly adjust and improve their approach to selling.

However, rather than horses or spy planes, sales leaders rely on Sales Operations to provide them with the intelligence they need. Sales Operations has to go well beyond simply reporting the state of the sales team. Their job is to go a step further and identify what’s relevant — what do managers and VPs need to know?

Just as the most effective intelligence officers are able to sift through reams of data to pinpoint what’s relevant and what’s not, top Sales Operations teams are able to boil sales performance down to the most relevant metrics that give sales leaders a clear course of action to streamline their team’s performance.

Here’s the best way to think about what metrics are most relevant for your sales team:

Forward-Looking Metrics

Some sales work requires constant monitoring. Managers need to have a good pulse on how their team is spending its time so they know where their reps are most in need of coaching and enablement. More importantly for Sales Ops, weekly metrics serve as leading indicators for how well you can expect your reps to fare in the coming weeks and months.

Several examples of weekly metrics that Sales Operations should be able to produce are:

  • Lead flow – are your reps getting enough leads to fill their pipeline?
  • Activities – are reps putting in enough work to be successful? Are they working too hard on certain stages of the sales process (is there room to streamline the process)?
  • Opportunities created – Are enough new opportunities being created for reps to hit their quota? Are opportunities moving out of the process too quickly? Too slowly?

The specific metrics that matter most to your sales team will vary depending on the makeup of your organization, but think of these weekly metrics as the low-level, tactical information managers need to breakdown individual performance and identify the levers that individual salespeople need to pull to improve performance.

These metrics are the early red flags that warn you of larger problems to come. However, while it’s important to know the details behind your firm’s performance, be careful not to get lost in the weeds. Sales Ops teams that spend all their time to investigate minor nuances in sales performance lose their value.

It’s the same principle as generals who ask their cavalry to scout every feature within a 500 mile area — there’s so much ground to cover, they end up getting lost and missing the important intelligence that will actually help them win. Sales Ops leaders need to identify crucial metrics for themselves, and stick to highlighting the information that will help win battles.

Retrospective Metrics

While tactical information about sales performance is essential for daily operations, Sales Ops should also inform the strategic direction of the sales team. This requires analyzing higher level results-based metrics — data that reflects the outcome of sales efforts and pinpoints team-wide trends that have the greatest impact on revenue acquisition.

Examples of results based metrics that your team should review monthly are:

  • Lead to opportunity conversion rates (is your team qualifying leads effectively)?
  • Pipeline sourced quality (Is your team wasting time on bad opportunities? Are they qualifying out good opportunities)?
  • Sales cycle (How long does it take to win deals? Is there any way to shorten the time between opening and closing opportunities?)

Your monthly metrics should inform the high-level strategy of your sales team.

What needs to happen to make your overall sales process more effective? What are the essential takeaways that can inform the direction your sales team needs to take? Do you need more training and tools? Do you need to add headcount, or are there places you can work more efficiently? The monthly metrics should answer all those questions, and shape your sales strategy over the long run.

Sales leaders need a combination of predictive, tactical information and in-depth, retrospective data to make the right management decisions. It’s up to the Sales Ops team to identify the metrics that will give them the visibility they need.

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