The global recession was a perfect storm. With skyrocketing fuel prices, the heartwrenching state of the Ukraine War, plummeting valuations of Technology companies, and to top it all, a series of layoffs and cutbacks on spending. The impact on business has been brutal! A domino effect, of a yawning gap in sales cycles, and a nagging deferment of purchase decisions and flattening lines on growth.
Most Sales teams across the globe are facing the heat of deal closures, resulting in anything but a blue-sky holiday experience during investor meetings!
These troubling times are forcing Sales leaders to get back to the drawing board and double down efforts to work with teams on how to hit revenue numbers. The bitter truth is that revenue is a lag indicator, something which happens post facto after a series of preceding indicators is achieved or surpassed. So, it’s not surprising that winning Sales teams are increasingly moving towards enhancing their sales strategy by setting OKRs, encouraging teams to work together to achieve more ambitious targets.
Although KPIs or individual sales goals may coexist with OKRs and contribute to strategy execution, OKRs play a crucial role in providing focus, clarity, and essential alignment to the company's long-term business strategy.
While many define OKRs as a strategy execution framework, which it certainly is, OKRs is a critical thinking framework that gets teams to think about their most important business metrics. OKRs are cherry-picked as shared commitments by teams and not in silos. OKRs are a fundamental shift from ME to WE. They are tracked and measured, weekly not quarterly. Teams place significant emphasis on
So, it’s not surprising that companies are stepping forward to use OKRs, to supercharge growth, drive change, innovate or excel in a manner that every employee in the company knows how they contribute.
More than 80% of Silicon Valley startups have adopted OKRs and experienced a meteoric rise in their growth, by just being thoughtful about the metrics they measure. While OKRs have been celebrated in start-ups, mid and large enterprises have started adopting OKRs to break organizational silos and increase speed and collaboration.
OKRs is an acronym for Objectives and Key Results.
Objectives tell you “What do we need to achieve?”
Key Results focus on the “How do we measure success?”
Key Results Start with a Verb + Metric to be measured and improved + movement from X to Y
Tasks/Initiatives which is “What do we need to do to get there?"
The Verbs in OKRs are important, as everything about OKRs is about moving the organization through actions!
There are very fine or subtle differences between Sales OKRs and Sales Goals.
Sales OKRs are written as cross-functional teams. There is a deep conversation on the Sales strategy, giving clarity and seeking consensus to have all hands on deck. These OKRs are in turn aligned to the company OKRs, bringing transparency on how teams are moving the needle.
Sales goals are mostly spun around Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). These are important as well, as every sales Rep would have an individual quota to achieve on revenue, and a series of activities to make them happen. Whether an organization has taken to OKRs or not, KPIs have existed for years before and will continue to work hand-in-glove with OKRs.
Sales OKRs are selected after spending thought on a team’s Sales strategy for 90 days. For instance, if a company's Key Result is to ‘Increase revenue from USD 10 Million to 22 Million’ Sales teams come together to reflect on what would be their specific strategy to make this happen. They call for a bottom-up alignment from Teams to Company Key Results, connecting and aligning vertically and bi-directionally.
Sales Goals or KPIs are mostly cascaded from a manager to the rest of the team. They are aligned to funnel metrics and activities which are essential to make it happen. They are mostly written by the Sales team and assigned to Individuals.
Sales OKRs focus on outcomes. The outcome metrics could be a combination of led and lag indicators. Let's take an example of a company whose customer acquisition channel is through partnership. One of the lead indicators for Sales to meet their KPIs is equipping partners with the right tools to advocate their products to end users. This calls our a Key Result, and co-owned by Sales and Sales Enablement ‘Increase awareness/ training sessions on our products among partners from 60% to 100%’
To learn more about Lead and Lag indicators, you could refer to our article: 50 best lead indicators to grow your business.
Sales goals could be more activity-centric or input-focused. For instance, ‘Make 60 calls per day’ is a KPI that is assigned to an individual Sales rep. This activity is an input, but when combined with an OKR, can impact a key result on ‘Increase SQLs (Qualified leads) to Opportunity from 8% to 25%.
The fundamental difference between OKRs and goals is that it is written as teams rather than individuals. It calls for a deep reflection on strategy, before selecting an OKR. Only a few metrics, carefully cherry-picked make it to an OKR.
Let's go back to the example of a company Key Result, which is looking to ‘Increase revenues from USD 10 Million to 22 Million’.
The Sales team huddles together, not only with Sales team members but includes stakeholders who are critical to making this number happen. It could include Customer Support, Product or Technology teams, Marketing, operations, HR, and finance.
Objective: Double down on upsell of offerings in order to accelerate revenues
KR 1: Increase referrals in Top 10 accounts from 3 to 7 per month
KR 2: Increase CTR of email campaigns in existing accounts from 3% to 11%
KR 3: Increase completion rates Product offerings training for Sales reps from 54% to 100%
KR 4: Increase pipeline from USD 3 Million to USD 6.5 Million
KR 5: Increase revenue through Upsell from USD 3 Million to USD 8 Million
Now, let's get to the second strategic lever zoned in by the Sales Team to Increase sales in North America.
Objective: Focus on widening our presence in North America to accelerate revenues
KR 1: Increase high-intent demos in NA from 3 to 10 per month
KR 2: Increase avg (personalized) touchpoints with each prospect from 3 to 7
KR 3: Improve MQL to SQLs from 13% to 20%
KR 4: Increase ACV from USD 100 K to USD 150 K
KR 5: Increase revenue from USD 5 Million to USD 14 Million
In the illustration above, each KR will have a series of initiatives/activities which are assigned to Individuals. For instance, to Increase high-intent demos from 3 to 10 per month, an Individual Sales rep will have to take an Activity, of making 60 calls per day to qualified prospects within the customer segment. Alongside this, the Sales rep would also need to write stellar email marketing scripts. Here’s a KPI alignment and activity alignment to an OKR as well!
These examples are illustrative, and would probably have another OKR by Account Management or Customer Success on Expansion Revenues as well.
Using Fitbots OKRs software, teams can eloquently set and manage Sales Team OKRs, integrating with their favorite tools, and most importantly calling out week-on-week progress with a click using our Progress Board with Insights.
OKRs are anything but a set-and-forget. It requires a strong cadence, reflective conversations, and experiments to make it happen.
The agenda of Sales meetings can be moved to Weekly Check-Ins - These are recurring meetings, same day, same time. Check-Ins are for 30 minutes, keeping the team motivated to stay on course.
Team OKR Champions are like the Coxswain in rowing. They get the group together during check-in meetings, spot if the team is steering in the right direction, and call out KRs at risk early. OKR Champions also are the leaders of tomorrow, learning end to end of the business.
Check-in meetings are the heartbeat of a great OKR rollout. Visualize your entire company going over OKR progress, week-on-week, and updating progress. Not whenever they wish, but a day of the week when everyone calls out OKRs. Just as they say in Google ‘OKRs are just how we do business’.
In OKRs, one is looking at progress, and eliminating constraints early, should they arise. OKR Check-in meetings, when done week-on-week, require data to be updated on progress.
Asking a few powerful questions would be important to get teams thinking about outcomes rather than inputs.
Making Sales OKR meetings fun is a game-changer to get teams enthused. Here are some OKR Games highly recommended by Team OKR Champions:
People Bingo: Get some fun facts about your team members. Place a clue, and have the rest guess who that is! That’s the team member who goes next with the OKR updates. People come up with all kinds of fun clues in People Bingo ‘Who had the longest conversation with a prospect’ or ‘The one who makes the best discovery calls!’.
The OKR Jeopardy Game: This is a good game to get new members to create a jeopardy game board (you can get some free sites to create these boards). Divide the team into groups, and shoot away those questions. Oh! Don’t forget to get those fun gifts, even if they are gift cards or virtual points.
Reviews are conducted either Bi-Monthly or Monthly. During Leadership reviews, each Team Champion presents progress on the team OKRs, and how they are moving the company forward. Leadership reviews are best chaired by the OKRs Sponsor. The intent of the reviews is to:
Leadership reviews are also a great forum to course correct and make any adjustments to OKRs.
An OKR Retro Reboot meeting is a significant OKR ritual that happens at the end of every quarter. Teams and leadership get together to discuss their progress and learnings for the entire quarter to better strategize for the next quarter.
Sales Teams get together with their learnings and insights to reflect on what went well and how it can be made better during the next quarter. This is the time to analyze results, celebrate success, and celebrate failure! As teams share learnings on prioritization and challenges and update their overall progress, the organization gets an understanding of the vision for the next quarter. This helps reset OKRs for the next quarter.
Fitbots has worked with 5000+ teams, enabling companies to connect and align to business-critical metrics. To learn more about how to set and align Sale OKRs, book a demo with Fitbots.
Vidya Santhanam is the Co-Founder of Fitbots OKRs. Having coached 600+ teams, and conducted 1000+ check-in meetings, Vidya likes writing about Metrics, high performance, and leadership.
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