Vice President of Sales at Copper
As Sr. Director of Sales here at Copper, I can only spend so much time in our sales pod. And even if I could, it’s impossible to be on every call.
Yet, staying in tune with the business is critical. I leverage direct intel from sales managers and sellers, but rely on a core set of key performance indicators (KPIs) to continuously inform our sales strategy.
KPIs are absolutely critical for me to understand exactly what’s going on, in real time, on the sales floor and with our business. They not only shine a light on closed revenue, but also tell me how our product, marketing, and sales reps are performing.
KPIs are, well, performance indicators. They’re a collection of the most important metrics used to tell how team members, departments, or your business as a whole is performing at any given time (and, consequently, how you’re doing as a manager).
They give you a birds’ eye view into your sales operations, as well as the different factors at play with your sales and go-to-market strategy. The story that your KPIs tell also informs the strategic initiatives you choose to focus on as you iterate with your go-to-market motion.
The important thing is, you’ve got to make sure you’re focusing on the right KPIs. As the name implies, key performance indicators need to be a powerful, confined set of metrics that the sales and go-to-market (GTM) team believe are the critical indicators of success.
That’s not to say there won’t be other metrics you look at as a business; but if you’re ultimately measuring success against too many KPIs, you cloud your team’s focus and risk wasting time and money.
It took me a while to find the core KPIs that were most useful to me in my role as a sales leader. In fact, according to Vantage Point, there are more than 300 metrics that monitor or otherwise affect your sales performance. Not all of these are going to be relevant or important to your business. Plus, monitoring 300+ metrics definitely isn’t productive.
Narrowing these things down is easier said than done. So, to help you out, I’ve put together this list of six KPIs that have proven to be the most crucial metrics to track, in my own experience:
- Number of marketing qualified leads (MQLs)
- Number of sales qualified leads (SQLs)
- Number of sales accepted opportunities (SAOs)
- Number of wins
- Sales team happiness
I'll go into more detail about each of these below.
1. Number of marketing qualified leads (MQLs)
I want to know how our awareness and marketing efforts are going, and how many inbound MQLs are getting passed to sales for us to work. Aligning with marketing on the success criteria for a lead to become an MQL will help ensure this metric is a strong leading indicator for revenue generation. MQLs also show ROI on inbound marketing efforts and inform our strategy when it comes to reps’ outbound sales prospecting initiatives.
Copper’s Leads dashboard
Copper’s Leads dashboard (above) shows me how many leads we have in our system in total and how many we’ve converted so far. This view can be set up to show all leads and how many convert to MQLs, or to look at MQLs and how many are converting into SQLs (or opportunities).
2. Number of sales qualified leads (SQLs)
Once our Sales Development team has qualified an MQL, it becomes a sales qualified lead and an opportunity is created. This KPI tells me how many sales qualified leads—or newly created opportunities—are in our sales pipeline at a given time. I compare this number to the MQL KPI to understand our MQL-to-SQL conversion rate.
If the ratio is off, it could mean we need to retarget marketing efforts, re-evaluate the accuracy of our ideal customer profile (ICP), or rethink the success criteria for handoff between marketing and sales. Deep-diving to the sales rep level, it can shine light on opportunities for coaching and process improvements on the sales side.
3. Number of sales accepted opportunities (SAOs)
Once a lead becomes an SQL and an opportunity is created, that opportunity is passed over to our Account Executive (AE) team. Many organizations miss the importance of measuring a sales-accepted opportunity: an opportunity that the AE team has connected with, completed discovery for, validated as a real opportunity, and is ready to progress through our primary sales stages.
I want to know how many opportunities the AE team is picking up, and what the SQL-SAO ratio is. This KPI is a strong mid-funnel indicator for revenue, and also informs how effective our Sales Development team is at building pipeline.
In fact, this is the primary driver for variable compensation for that team. If we aren’t converting 80%+ of our SQLs into SAOs, our qualification criteria is off and we’re distracting our AE team with the wrong accounts.
4. Number of wins
This KPI may be one of the more obvious ones given its direct link (along with deal size) to revenue. By measuring number of wins, I’m really looking to understand our SAO-to-win ratio.
If we’re not winning 35%+ of our SAOs, that could mean:
- Our qualification and opportunity acceptance criteria needs revisiting
- One or more of our sales reps aren’t closing as efficiently as they could be
- Our value proposition isn’t resonating with customers as we progress through our sales cycle
Whatever the reason, this KPI becomes a ‘check-engine’ light to dive deeper into our sales process, diagnose challenges, and solve them (e.g., refine our qualification criteria, provide supplemental training to sales reps, or engage our marketing and product teams to provide insights and feedback).
An example of how Copper breaks down total sales by individual reps
Revenue, of course, is referring to the total amount of money we bring in. I want to make sure we’re on track to hit the targets that are in the company plan, which is my commitment to the organization, our Board of Directors, and our stakeholders. I also want to make sure the team is on track to hit quota at any given time.
Note that revenue comes both from new customers buying the product for the first time, and existing customers who are buying more seats or upgrading their product subscription tier.
This is one of those KPIs that you can slice and dice quickly, and in many ways, to derive additional insights. For example, I like to look at revenue generated on a per rep basis to understand rep performance against the mean, and inform the potential ROI of adding a new rep to the team (given a capacity-constrained sales model). I also like to look at revenue associated with current or active opportunities, which represents our open pipeline.
Copper’s Sales dashboard shows me what our number is at any given period, how it compares to previous periods, and how we’re tracking against goals.
6. Sales team happiness
Yep, this is the technical term for it (just kidding) and the single most important KPI of all (seriously, it is, full stop).
Happy sales reps perform better, make happy customers, engage in strategy dialogue, share product feedback, and are the beating heart of a high-functioning organization. If you want your sales team to work their best, you need to make sure they’re feeling their best and have the best tools in place to support them and help them feel motivated throughout the day.
Sales is a high-stress job. It’s often framed as “quota at all costs” and it’s easy to get burnt out. If my team is burning out—or even starting to move in that direction—I want to know that.
That’s where employee feedback and regular check-ins come in super handy. It’s critical to always be reading the energy of the team.
Periodically, we run employee satisfaction surveys across the organization to surface happiness levels. Within sales specifically, we have monthly “step-back” 1-1’s (in addition to standard weekly 1-1s) with every member of the team and hold quarterly 360 reviews that include formal upward feedback. For me personally, team happiness and the overall culture of the organization is a focus in every 1-1, team meeting, or leadership session that we have.
Put your sales KPIs to work.
These sales KPIs are what keep me as close to the field as possible, even if my daily meeting or travel schedule takes me away from the floor. I always know what’s going on, where we need to double down, and where we need to retool to continue improving and drive better performance.
For all sales leaders, KPIs provide the data and clarity we need to make important tactical and strategic business decisions.
There’s no silver bullet; rather, sales optimization is an iterative process that relies on continuously diagnosing challenges, recognizing opportunities, and fine-tuning the motion.
Remember to spend the time upfront to define and consolidate your KPIs to a manageable list of the most important metrics. From there, share out with other parts of the business to hold yourself accountable and put the mechanisms in place to measure them on an ongoing basis. While important, though, all of that is the easy part. You need to put in the effort to understand why your results are what they are, and take action based on your findings.
Well, now you know how we think about the sales KPIs we track here at Copper. Which ones are most important to you? Let us know!