Why do Businesses Struggle with Key Performance Indicators?

Cyclist

One of the great benefits of going out for a long bike ride is it gives me a great uninterrupted time to think and process. The phone is not ringing, email notifications are not flashing across my screen, and I can really dig down deep and wrestle with my thoughts.

A few days ago on an early morning solo ride, instead of looking at the incredible Connecticut countryside, I was trying to understand why business leaders have a difficult time developing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). In so many cases, the leadership teams I work with are more focused on lagging indicators: year-to-date sales, profit results, on-time deliveries, etc. These are great information points, but they are in the rearview mirror. What about the road ahead?

So many of us use KPIs in our hobbies without really giving it a second thought. When I am cycling, I am constantly looking at my KPIs to gauge how I am going to perform. In preparing for two big rides this summer (a charity ride for Cancer Survivorship I have ridden for the past 15 years, and a ride from Nova Scotia to Boston), I have two big goals (targets) to hit. The KPIs I am tracking include at least three rides per week, weekly mileage goals of 100 miles, average cadence of 80 RPM or more, elevation gain of 900 feet per hour, and an average speed of 15.5 MPH.

These are all leading indicators. They are not the end result. In my cycling example, the end result is successfully completing two big rides. However, if I can keep on track with these KPIs, I know I will meet my target.

So how do you apply this to sales? Think of KPIs as behaviors or tasks that must be completed to get you to the finish line – be it your annual or quarterly quota, a team or division sales target.

KPIs to consider:

  • Number of calls to clients or prospects per specific timeframe
  • Number of new LinkedIn connections per week
  • Meeting per week with clients or prospects
  • Metrics in your pipeline
  • Number of accounts at different stages in the sales funnel

None of these KPIs have anything to do with specific results. However, having specific goals for specific behaviors bring those results to fruition.

In the meantime, dust off your bike and meet me on the road!