3 Steps to Set Up Sales KPIs That Actually Work

The right key performance indicators (KPIs) can have a powerful impact on a sales team's success and lead to more resilient customer-engagement strategies, especially for small businesses.

By Faiza Hughell

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The best customer wins feel natural, making the right connections at the right times. But business owners know there's a method behind the magic, as well as plenty of hard work, passion and tough decisions along the way.

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are all about making those moments feel less like a big break and more like the reliable result of a deliberate process. Measuring sales success can be difficult, especially for a small business, but it's a process that doesn't have to be at odds with the everyday interactions and relationship building that's central to any sales team. KPIs can elevate the connections that sales agents make, providing the tools to clearly communicate value and work through trade-offs when pursuing leads.

Like plot points in a narrative, KPIs give you a clear idea of where you've been and the steps you need to take to reach your goals, even if there's a twist or two along the way. Setting them up can be easy and comes down to three basic steps.

Step 1: Determine your business objectives

Start with your end goal. You can keep it simple, and even broad, but just make sure it aligns with your guiding values and your definition of success for your business. Starting broad can also free you up to think creatively, be bold and determine a goal your team can get behind.

From there, make the goal more concrete by quantifying what you want to achieve and in what time frame. Ask yourself questions like, "By how much should revenue increase and by when?" Your answer is your "objective." Here are some examples to get you thinking.

Goal: Secure business funding.

Objective: Secure $93,000 in funding by November 1 to launch operations by December 1.

Goal: Grow sales profitability over time.

Objective: Increase annual revenue by 15 percent for the top-performing product by December 31 of the following year.

Goal: Nurture a positive workplace culture.

Objective: Increase employee retention rates by 10 percent by October 31 of the following year.

Keep in mind that, while you want to be realistic with the figures you choose, they aren't set in stone. You can adjust them as needed over time. Quantifying your objectives from the start simply helps with establishing KPIs.

Related: Focus on These KPIs for Franchise Success

Step 2: Choose KPIs that align with your objectives

KPIs bridge your business objectives with where you currently stand, relating sales performance to your core goals over set increments of time. You're probably accustomed to a variety of sales metrics — call time per sales rep, for example — that, depending on your goal, can make measuring success unnecessarily complicated. Effective KPIs simplify, rather than obfuscate, the connection between the actions of your sales team and the success of your business.

To choose the right KPIs, start by selecting time periods to check in and measure your progress that are appropriate for the way your team works. That could be quarterly, monthly or even weekly, depending on the objective and the end date you set for yourself. Frequent check-ins help build accountability, make simple data entry a habit and provide a closer look at progress. You'll be able to catch discrepancies and reporting errors as soon as they arise and adjust course as needed. Stay flexible with your progress targets between check-ins. Once you start collecting data, you'll get a better idea of what's achievable during a set timeframe.

Related: The Right (and Wrong) Ways to Track Your Company's Performance

Step 3: Adopt the tools — and the team mindset — for consistent success

Intuitive, easy-to-use tools go a long way in adopting KPIs and sticking to them on a regular basis. Foundational to any sales team, CRM platforms can easily become a central hub for KPI measurement. To make measurement easier, look for features that let you accomplish the following:

  • Organize prospect and customer contact information into easy-to-access profiles.
  • Assign tasks across the sales team and keep everyone notified of day-to-day activities.
  • Identify sales opportunities and track their progress through the sales funnel.
  • Automate tasks like data entry, lead generation and email-campaign creation.

Make use of separate dashboards dedicated to your specific objectives and their corresponding KPIs and set up initial benchmarks based on your average performance over time. If you're getting started and have no data to compare against, you can use your industry's average.

Measurement tools are only effective with buy-in from the whole team. Make sure everyone on the team has a clear definition of KPIs and their value. In a small business, everyone wears multiple hats. Each step of the sales process is filled with variability. That means there's a wealth of opportunity for better performance. KPIs provide clarity. They shed light on opportunities that can be seized. They can bring fuzzy, seemingly distant goals into sharp, actionable focus, making them relevant to daily work. KPIs also offer a solid framework for training new staff.

Related: Your Employee Advocacy Program: Measuring the Right KPIs

You may have to clarify and standardize how to measure certain aspects of KPIs, such as customer retention or lead generation. To motivate the team to input data on a regular cadence, ensure that they're comfortable with the CRM tools you've chosen. Likewise, choosing a CRM platform that integrates with your other business and customer communication channels will make logging all types of interactions simple. The result will be a cleaner, more consistent record of data to guide your investments.

When teams are faced with tough decisions and uncertainty, KPIs can become a rallying point for them. Think of KPIs as opportunities to reinforce and reinspire commitment to a shared purpose. They keep growth both focused and organic, helping you know where to put your effort and when to adjust course if conditions change. That kind of flexibility provides much-needed resilience on the path to success.

Faiza Hughell

Senior Vice President, Small Business, RingCentral

Faiza Hughell is the senior vice president of small business at RingCentral, where she is responsible for the growth of RingCentral’s small business customer base worldwide. Her passion is centered around empowering her customers and teams.

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