My colleague Shawn was telling me a story that highlights so much of what we’ve discussed in these Tidbits recently and a number of the concepts I’m constantly preaching.

We often build tools for our joint clients to maximize sales and revenue growth, but he had recently launched an interesting tool with a client of his own. 

The tool allowed for scoring of required tasks and was built to provide management with a pulse on a crucial daily activity. The tool was designed to not only to give them insight into what was getting done but to help them find coaching opportunities for their team.

Shawn checked in on things after the second week of launching and noticed an issue. The report showed that the day before, the tool had only been used a total of five times and before that not a single use over the past two weeks. He enquired with his client who told him that was "impossible," given how much she had been hearing about the scoring for the past two weeks.

Sure enough, she looked and found Shawn was absolutely right. The tool wasn’t being used at all, but every suggestion was being made that it was. 

When his client enquired, she got every excuse in the book from too busy, to too many interruptions, to being unsure about how best to use the tool. But given how much the employees were talking about the tool, she was convinced they had been using it. How long would it have sat gathering dust?

One of the things that are often hardest for my clients to come to grips with is the hard truth that more often than not, the tools don’t matter. The tools merely support the process

As a concrete example, let’s say you invest in a hefty CRM implementation without having an adequate sales process or sales management culture in place. By doing this, your implementation is almost guaranteed to fail. You’d be better off taking away your salespeople’s computers and smartphones and hiring somebody to count the notes in their little black books. At least then they’d know that management cared about their activity.

Quite often, we’ll use a bespoke approach to help build the tools and process simultaneously, and we’ve found it’s an approach that works wonders. It’s so effective because it ensures that the focus is always on the process, the expectations, and the desired results, with the tools in place merely to support those well thought out metrics. 

Doing it the other way around (hoping that you can build your strategy around your tool, or hoping that the tool will somehow create your strategy for you) is often a recipe for failure.

The key to everything, however, often revolves around measuring what gets done and not what people are saying. 

As I’ve discussed before, this is not micromanagement. It’s simply management. Note here that this is often a case of your employees trying too hard… 

They want to do what’s right, they want to help their colleagues, they want to do the work that seems most important to them… 

It’s just that often, their definition of what things MUST get done are different than yours.  

The majority of sales issues revolve around the things you expect are getting done simply aren't getting done. Nine times out of ten when we make it known that senior management will be actively involved in the tracking of daily activity for salespeople or quote follow-up or following a referral process, we drive revenue and results. Nine times of out ten.

Here’s your challenge for the week: 

Pick a department or a person who reports to you, and write out the three most critical things that they need to accomplish this week, even if it means pushing other things aside. 

Then have them write out the same list. See how close it is.  

For bonus points – at the end of the week, see how many of those issues actually got done. If any didn’t, find out what they prioritized so highly that it caused a critical element to be missed, and see if you agree with that trade-off.