What UNC Coach Dean Smith Taught Us About Sales Metrics
Legendary University of North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith died on Saturday. Sales managers across the country who have been through our sales leadership program know that I often use Dean Smith’s scoring system as an example of what sales leaders should focus on when measuring performance.
During his 36 seasons the UNC basketball coach (from 1961 to 1997) Dean Smith amassed a record of 879 wins and 254 losses. His Tar Heel teams made it to 11 Final Four appearances and won National Championships in 1982 and 1993. He had great players come through his program and he coached them to work together as a TEAM.
One of the ways he did this was by creating a team scoring system that awarded points for making the right play, the best-possible-play in the situation, instead of the end result. It also subtracted points for making the wrong play for the situation (regardless of the end result). So if James Worthy took a beautiful 10-foot jumper and made the shot instead of passing the ball to an open Michael Jordan who had a better shot, in Coach Smith’s scoring system Worthy would get a negative score (even though he made the basket). And if instead he passed the ball and somehow Jordan missed the shot, Worthy would get a positive score for making the right play (even though no points were scored).
Focusing on the right activities, within a clear system, with a common goal and where everyone understands their role and expected contributions, drives results. For Dean Smith that meant accumulating 879 wins, 11 Final Fours and two national championships.
We see sales managers focusing on results instead of the right activities all the time. It’s part of what frustrates managers who have a team of Lone Wolves (in the Challenger Sales model) because while sales people with this profile put up impressive numbers, they all do their own thing and want to be left alone. They don’t work well with others. They don’t like to fit within a system. Dean Smith didn’t tolerate lone wolves. If you played for UNC during his tenure you followed his system or you were gone.
If you want to build a predictable, repeatable, scalable sales engine to drive growth at your company, have your sales leaders turn their focus to the activities that drive results. Instead of having your sales leaders focus on results (closed deals) with their team, challenge them to focus on activities earlier in the sales process that should drive those closings (and I’m sure there are enough people in your company tracking closed deals!). And while the activities that lead to closed deals will vary from company to company, typical activities to monitor might include:
Net new meetings per week/month with qualified prospects (frequency will vary based on the length of your sales cycle)
Compelling reasons identified during discovery conversations
Quantification of those compelling reasons (both time and money impacts)
Learning how and why the prospect will buy
Understanding the buying landscape (know all the players and the influence do they have)
Identifying the budget and timeline for a decision
Disqualifying low-probability opportunities
Maintaining proper balance in their opportunity pipeline (by stage, by deal size, by offering, etc.)
And so on….
When your sales leaders move the focus to activities earlier in the pipeline and give positive feedback for making “the right play” in that situation regardless of whether or not they “got the sale,” results and consistency will improve. Sales forecasting accuracy will improve. Revenue will grow. Your leadership team will have more confidence in the sales forecast. Ask your sales managers to focus on making the right play and your sales team will start to score more baskets (closed sales).
My sympathies go out to all of Dean Smith’s family and friends, as well as to all of my North Carolina friends who are mourning this loss. Go Tar Heels!