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Data. A little word with a whole lot of impact, especially when you’re running a sales team. Whether you’re a new manager or a seasoned pro, you’ve probably heard the phrase “data-driven coaching” more times in the past year than you have “you’re on mute.” 

That’s because there’s a growing amount of evidence tying sales coaching to increased win rates, deal sizes, and rep retention. The foundational piece of effective sales coaching? You guessed it: data. 

The problem isn’t convincing sales managers that data is essential. It’s that most managers have a million places they could look for answers and a sea of data to try to sift through. Managers need actionable insights to help them determine future success, not past outcomes. These leading indicators can give sales managers everything they need to know ahead of time, so coaching sessions turn from retrospective rundowns to proactive strategies.

In this post, we’ll share some example leading indicators you might use to benchmark your team’s performance, as well as ideas on how to leverage those insights to drive coaching strategies.

Leading Indicators Defined

Traditionally speaking, sales managers have looked at past outcomes, i.e., lagging indicators, to judge how well their team was performing and whether they were successful. Some examples might include:

  • Quota attainment
  • Number of deals won
  • Number of deals lost
  • Average deal size
  • Average deal length

While lagging indicators give you a good idea of past performance, they don’t allow you to improve future outcomes. The benefit of coaching using leading indicators is that it provides managers early insight into opportunities and potential risks with enough time to change behavior before it’s too late. 

Examples of Leading Indicators By Team

Listed below are just a few examples of leading indicator benchmarks. Remember that these may not fit your business exactly but should give you a jumping-off point on the types of data points you could incorporate into your coaching sessions.

Strategic Account Teams

  • # of meetings past X days
  • # of new people engaged past X days
  • Commit opps ($) current quarter 
  • % of next quarter opps engaged 

Traditional Commercial Teams

  • # of meetings past X days
  • Total meeting hours 
  • # of new accounts engaged past X days 
  • # of new accounts created

Sales Development Teams

  • Emails sent past X days 
  • Calls made past X days
  • New people engaged past X days
  • Meetings set past X days
  • Opps created 

Using Leading Indicators in Coaching Sessions

Now armed with your leading indicators, the next step is knowing how to use them. For now, let’s focus on applying them to three areas: 

  1. Time spent 
  2. People engaged 
  3. Account coverage 

Time Spent

Related leading indicators: # of meetings, emails sent, calls made 

When sales managers know where reps are spending their time, coaching sessions can focus on the activity’s effectiveness rather than the action itself.

Ex: Your rep has hit their goal for email blasts but response rates are low.

Questions to Ask: 

  • How are we positioning our solution? Is it a messaging problem?
  • Who are we targeting in these blasts? Is the value aligned to their needs?

People Engaged

Related leading indicators: new people engaged

Similar to knowing where reps are spending their time, knowing who they’re spending that time with can help focus coaching sessions around how to ensure reps are getting wider and deeper into their accounts.

Ex: Your rep has a strong relationship with their champion but low engagement across the buying group. 

Questions to Ask:

  • What are their perceived risks about moving forward?
  • What do we know about X persona’s goals? Can we align with those?

Account Coverage

Related leading indicators: % of next quarter opps engaged, target accounts engaged

When managers have a realistic picture of account coverage, coaching sessions can be focused on helping reps balance their territory while staying ahead of select accounts eating up the rep’s time.

Ex: Your rep is spending a majority of their time on one or two key accounts with no upcoming activity across other accounts.

Questions to Ask:

  • If bandwidth issue, how can we re-prioritize?
  • Why no upcoming meetings on XYZ accounts?

Data-Driven Coaching Sessions: Moving from Reactive to Proactive 

While data may be the backbone of sales coaching, that doesn’t mean managers shouldn’t still trust their gut instincts. If anything, today’s sales managers should look towards data to refine their instincts and help them better understand their sellers, buyers, and the right path to winning.

Looking to learn more about managing with leading indicators? Check out our ebook, where we dive deeper into lagging vs. leading indicators, examples of each, and how best to implement them on your teams.