It’s Priority Management, not Time Management.

If you listened to the first episode of the Millennial Sales Podcast you will hear us reference a focus on priority management versus time management. In thinking about how to lay out these concepts I found it challenging to describe simply verbally since I use a combination of a list in Apple Notes and a Spreadsheet where I track all of my KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and progress etc. So what will follow is a series of blogs that break down these concepts into the major parts that when brought together do something really amazing. They make you super productive and feel amazing that about where you are spending your time. This alleviates the cognitive dissonance, or uneasy feeling you get when you don’t feel like you are doing what you are supposed to be doing. We all know that feeling and it sucks. Greatly reducing this anxiety improves our quality of life and effectiveness in wherever we choose to spend our time.

And in reality that is where this search for, what I also referred to at the time as Time Management, began. In Sales, we have to make our own schedule, develop our own plan of attack on our territory, choose our daily actions that ideally lead to sales and making our number, but the hard part is, for most of us, making our numbers and selling our products are all trailing indicators that take a long time to realize. Sales is a process and often times a long one. You won’t know whether or not you are doing the right things everyday to lead to the results you need until it is too late. So how do we make sure we are doing the right things everyday to give us the best shot at meeting our targets 3, 6, or 12 months later? The same way we do anything big. Begin with the end in mind and break it down from there.

This is where I started using the concept of Output KPIs (oKPI) and Input KPIs (iKPI). First, let’s define them.

Output Key Performance Indicators (oKPI)

An Output KPI is pretty easy to understand. An oKPI is simply the measurement of an outcome. So if you are in Sales, one of your oKPIs will always be your quota or however much you tack on top of your quota for your own personal target (I advise doubling your company assigned target to create your own personal quota). Another could be that you want to be Top Sales Rep on your floor or in your Region. There is an important common thread throughout these two examples. They are quantifiable, meaning you can measure them with numbers. When you are setting your oKPIs make sure you make them more Quantitative than Qualitative.

An example of a Qualitative oKPI would be that you feel more confident when making cold calls. These measurements are difficult and proven in the world of health and fitness. In fitness, you will fail if you set goals like, I want to look good in a bikini or feel good when standing naked in a mirror. These Qualitative measurements are subject to your feelings and emotions which can be swayed by many factors and not truly represent you being more fit or not. Goals like, I want to run a mile in six minutes or bench press 350 pounds. are Quantitative measurements. It doesn’t matter if you had bread the day before and feel bad about cheating on your diet and are a little bloated in your bikini, if you can run a six minute mile then you have reached your fitness goal. So save yourself the heartache of trying to nail a moving target attached to your feelings and set Quantitative oKPIs. This also applies to iKPIs as well by the way.

Input Key Performance Indicators (iKPI)

Input KPIs are the series of smaller measurements or targets you have to hit to reach your big targets / Output KPIs. So why do we have iKPIs? Because there is no direct and simple path from an oKPI like Top Rep in the Region or 200% of my quota to what you do everyday. If there were, we would not see stats like 50%+ of sales reps do not hit their numbers. So filling in the gap between goals and actions is crucial and a huge differentiator. There are thousands of activities that you could be doing daily that could lead you to hitting your targets or activities that you think you should be doing that will not lead you to your targets. The goal is to find the right activities you should be engaging in based on your goals and believe that they will get you there. This confidence in your actions and process allows you to repeat them everyday knowing that if you follow through with your plan, you are likely to achieve your goals. Again, like in fitness, it has been proven that with the right balance of diet, exercise, and sleep you can reach your health and wellness goals. We aim to have that same clarity here.

How many of you in Sales roles would pay to have someone tell you, if you do these things everyday / month / quarter, then you will hit your number, make $x amount of money, and have a good shot at being top rep and going to Club? All of us would! Of course if we could take the guess work out of our roles with a recipe that leads us to all being achievers we would do that in a heartbeat. Well that is exactly what this process does, removes the guess work.

Examples of iKPIs are…

  • 3x Quarterly Pipeline

  • One customer go-live a quarter

  • One new sale a month or a week depending on your business

  • Two executive face to face meetings a quarter (aligning your company and customers executives)

The idea is that by breaking down your larger goals into smaller ones that can be measured and acted on weekly, monthly, or quarterly, the big goals are less daunting and more achievable. And if you pick the right iKPIs to achieve your oKPIs, you really don’t even need to look back at the big goal in your weekly reviews. You track your progress by the smaller goals (iKPIs) and if you are hitting those, there is a high likelihood you will hit your big targets (oKPIs). This brings us to the Daily Actions Backlog which is simply a collection of Daily Actions (DA) you need to take to hit your iKPIs.

Daily Actions (DA) and the Next 5 Things

Daily Actions are simply a collection of individual tasks you need to do to move you towards accomplishing your iKPIs and eventually your oKPIs. Since Sales is a dynamic game involving many outside factors and people, it is pointless to plan too far out for things you cannot control. So I build out my DA list as the Next 5 Things I need to do to accomplish my individual iKPIs. So that means for every iKPI you have, you will have a corresponding Next 5 Things list of Daily Actions.

So for example, if we are to look at your iKPI of 2 executive face to face meetings a quarter, your Next 5 Things list might look something like this:

  • Research customer CFO that my SVP of Sales will meet with

  • Develop Executive Briefing Document with the help of my Customer Coach

  • Work with my Collections team to clear up that invoicing issue before the meeting

  • Build return on investment (ROI) model for our project so we can gain the support of the CFO to move forward

  • Set up working session with my business architect Billy to help with Financial Model

That’s it. Simply list the very next 5 things you need to do to move you towards accomplishing your iKPI and list it out like this. And if you do not have a meeting set that you need to prepare for in this way, your list would include the next 5 things you could be doing to secure a meeting. So not only is this method great for preparing for meetings and sales calls, but it makes you think through small actionable steps you need to take to simply keep moving forward. Too many times we think about the destination and cannot see the very next step we need to take to keep moving forward, but that is exactly what we need to do. Just keep moving. This method allows you to keep moving in the right direction and with intent so there is very little wasted energy, attention, and time.

Once you have your Daily Actions for all of your iKPIs you need to keep them in one place so you have a larger list to pull your weekly to-do’s from. The collection of all of your Next 5 Things / Daily Actions make up your Daily Actions Backlog. This backlog is what you will pick from when setting your weekly schedule / list of things to get done that week. Now you may be thinking at this point, man that is a lot of work. You would be correct. It is. Preparation tends to be. But you know what else is a lot of work? Hustling all year in random directions you thought made sense at the time, not hitting your goals, and eventually finding a new job either because you were let go for non-performance or leaving on your own because you think they stuck you with a shitty territory.

You can control your outcome. It takes preparation, focus, and planning. It also turns out that all of these things also make you feel freaking amazing because you know you are on top of things. Take the feeling you get from crossing off your to-do list, or the ease at which you enter a day where you know exactly what you are supposed to be doing and all you have to do is go do it, and experience those feelings everyday. That is what this method does for you. It removes the guess work from your job and produces the results you want.

So if you look at the formula in stages it looks like this.

DA Backlog = iKPI * Next 5 Things (DA)

iKPI = oKPI / Quarterly Goals

oKPI = iKPI * 100%

Daily Actions Backlog is the collection of Daily Actions for each iKPI.

iKPIs are your oKPIs broken into multiple smaller goals that we measure quarterly.

oKPIs and a result of you hitting your iKPIs as close to 100% as possible every quarter.

Follow this formula and you will achieve all or most of your big yearly goals. Hitting large targets takes planning and thoughtful action. You can apply massive action in a straight line towards your goals when you have a clear direction on what those actions should be. Without this targeted approach, you will meander in multiple directions throughout the year which severely decreases your chances of success. So do yourself a favor and lay out this plan for yourself. If you need help, reach out to me at .

How to measure your progress with iKPIs will be covered in the next installment, Weekly Reviews. In addition, in the next installment, we will look at how to take your Daily Actions Backlog and apply it to a weekly task list to ensure you are making progress and not wasting time. The icing on top is that I will show you not only how to do this for your work tasks, but also how to strike what most refer to as Work / Life Balance, but I simply call Priority Management.

Charlie Lisk