Great Sales Leaders Aren’t “Action-Oriented”: Here’s Why

26 November 2020

If you’re not prioritizing outcomes over activity, you’re not performing at your best. 

Our early-stage struggles and successes at Leadfeeder serve to explain why (especially for leaders and managers) this prioritization is essential...

When Leadfeeder reached its first $150K in MRR, it did so without salespeople. 

This meant early-stage growth required a heavy upfront investment in both paid and organic acquisition. 

Our then "hands-off" approach fueled our rapid rise. But, I have to admit that managing such a rapidly scaling, high-impact customer acquisition strategy was tough. 

We had to eke out as much as possible from our affiliate programs, referral/reward systems, content marketing, paid ads, and PR campaigns - it was a struggle. 

Fortunately, we pulled it off. 

And that’s because starting from the executives and reaching all the way down to those executing tactics in the field, we focused on measuring outcomes over activity (and still do). 

Today, prioritizing outcomes over actions is a philosophy I embrace and share with my team.

In this post, I’ll explain how it can revolutionize the performance of your teams, regardless of the vertical you’re in. 

Note: Want to maximize your marketing and sales team's lead generation and prospecting efforts? Sign up and try Leadfeeder free for 14 days to keep your team on track with the right tool, process, and data.

The difference between outcomes and outputs

Outputs and outcomes are connected, but they are not the same thing. The difference? 

Outputs are measurable metrics related to the actions your teams perform. 

Outcomes, on the other hand, are the desired and absolute final results of said actions. 

For example, if we’re talking about outbound sales prospecting, common day-to-day outputs that might (incorrectly) be classed as outcomes include:

  • Number of prospects contacted

  • Emails sent 

  • Email opens 

  • Responses

  • Calls answered 

  • Negative replies

The final outcomes tied to these activities, however, should look like: 

  • 5 sales qualified leads per month

  • 5 new prospect-to-customer conversions 

Outcomes are the sole reason why you’d have a dedicated department. It’s their overall purpose and function within your organization. 

You don’t have a marketing department to write blog posts; they’re there to generate leads. Writing blog posts, however, will help them generate leads. 

Similarly, your sales team’s purpose isn’t just to make cold calls, it’s to close leads and make sales - making calls is the activity that leads to the end result.

Tracking outcomes provide insight

If you want to improve performance and drive powerful change, you need to prioritize outcomes over output. 

This is because using outputs to measure meaningful outcomes disconnects you from the results that matter. 

You fail to measure and improve outcomes that drive real change; growth, revenue, sales, and customer satisfaction all fade into the background without you knowing. 

Going back to the outbound sales team example, imagine if your team’s performance was measured on the number of prospecting emails they sent per day.

Your reps could send hundreds of emails per day, to their family and friends, and fail to convert a single lead. 

Despite poor win rates, management will still class them as “high-performers” because they are making the right number of calls. See how this can snowball into a big issue? 

To avoid getting lost in action metrics, train your teams to be accountable for, and pursue outcomes. Explain why outcomes must take precedence over output. 

Starting with outcomes also makes it easier to identify and diagnose any bottlenecks costing you revenue or productivity. 

If reps are emailing 100 leads a day, but are still failing to convert a single prospect into a lead, you know there’s an underlying problem because they are not achieving the outcome. 

Maybe your messaging needs to be refined, or the problem lies with the leads being targeted. 

Either way, measuring outcomes over activity means you’re closer to identifying foul play and any potential issues plaguing your team’s performance. 

Outcomes create team-wide alignment and clarity

Do your staff know why they’re doing what they’re doing? 

Do they see the difference it is making?

For peak performance, the answer to both of these questions should be “yes.”

A study by Slack found a noticeable difference in the performance and engagement of “aligned” and “unaligned” workers. 

Aligned workers linked their company’s vision to their personal career ambitions. They were also more motivated to take action and give their very best to employers. 

Unaligned workers, however, were detached from their organization’s goals. They often felt disconnected and worked in silos. 

Prioritizing outcomes over activities helps to create company-wide alignment. It reinforces the why behind your team’s actions and invites them into the bigger picture. 

This imbues your staff with a strong sense of purpose, gets them working on the right tasks, and increases the motivation to perform. 

Outcomes keep your company’s eye on the right prize

COVID-19 is triggering serious thoughts about being resilient to change

Business leaders and executives around the globe have now witnessed first-hand how important being agile and adaptable is. 

But this focus on agility and preparedness is something to be considered at all times, not just during turbulent times. 

As the seismic waves of change triggered by COVID-19 have shown, the rug can be ripped from under us at any moment. 

(Especially in the ever-competitive world of SaaS where the number of Martech SaaS companies doubled within 3 years, and customer acquisition costs continue to climb.)

Change is guaranteed in the modern world of business; markets get saturated, competition increases, buyer demands evolve and new technology like AI continues to disrupt and accelerate change. 

As an outcome-driven company, you’ll fare better and increases your chances of survival under the pressure of change.  

This is because unlike action-oriented teams, you’ll spend less time rigidly focusing on the wrong actions and then wondering why nothing is working.

Instead, you’ll have a flexible approach that helps you achieve mission-critical outcomes by any means, and in any environment. 

Measure carefully

Actions are important. By themselves, however, they are borderline irrelevant. 

It’s the connection and contribution to outcomes that really matters. From team objectives to make-or-break executive decisions, outcomes influence everything in an organization. 

And that’s why a good leader might keep an eye on outcomes, but a great leader translates outcomes to actions and vice versa to drive real change.

Note: Want to maximize your marketing and sales team's lead generation and prospecting efforts? Sign up and try Leadfeeder free for 14 days to keep your team on track with the right tool, process, and data.

Pekka Koskinen
By Pekka Koskinen

Pekka has been working on web analytics and sales intelligence for 20 years. He grew Leadfeeder as CEO from zero to 10M+ EUR of annual revenue and 140+ employees since 2012.

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