In a previous post, we described the importance of developing appropriate performance standards to succeed at rain making.
Again, performance standards are measures by which you can determine:
• The degree to which you are succeeding or failing,
• The degree to which you are on track to succeeding or failing,
• How your performance compares to others, and
• Where you should devote your attention to improving your performance, either by doing more or less of an activity or by doing something else.
Here we will describe three common types of rainmaking performance standard.
Time to Result
Time-to-result measures are common in many fields. In track events, for example, they can be the absolute determinant of success, such as time to finish line in a race, or a contributing factor to success, such as time to hand off the baton in a relay.
In selling professional services time-to-result can also be a potent measure. How long does it take to convert a potential client without an explicit need for your services (or, alternatively, with an explicit need for them) from the date of the first meeting to an authorization to proceed? Many would-be rainmakers underestimate the time required, and so become discouraged with their progress.
A second example is measurement of the time it takes for an associate or manager selling $x amount to increase his sales to $y amount, with $y being the lowest level required of a partner. With this measure an aspiring rainmaker can determine if her originations are increasing faster or slower than others in her position. It can help the firm determine if the development of rainmaking talent is occurring fast enough to meet the its future needs. The measure can also help management focus on bringing high-potential professionals along faster, helping them generate more business sooner.
Routine ratios are the quantities of inputs required to achieve a desired result. In track, for example, marathon runners often talk about the number of miles a week they need to run in the months before the race to prepare them for the grueling event. A poor understanding of routine ratios is a major cause of discouragement and failure in aspiring rainmakers. Professionals usually underestimate the number of relationship development emails, calls and meetings they must make per week to generate sufficient leads.
Reliability measures indicate the deviation from a set outcome. A track team can better tolerate a sprinter with high deviation in performance, e.g. lower reliability, on solo races than on relays. In the solo event, where the runner competes with others on her own team as well as with those from the opposing team, a poor show does not preclude a win in that race by another member of the team. On a relay, a bad day usually results in a total loss of the event.
Aspiring rainmakers almost always go through a phase with low business generation reliability. This is because in the early phases of development they have few leads, so success or failure hinges on converting one to two opportunities into paid work. One loss can seem more devastating than it need be in this environment than it does to a rainmaker, who typically has a stronger lead flow and so more backup opportunities.
If you accept the importance of rainmaking performance measures, it is natural for you to want comparative statistics to help you develop performance standards for yourself or your firm. They are hard to come by. Just as performance standards vary from one track event to another (average distance per second varies widely by the distance of the race and its nature, e.g. sprints, hurdles, relays), so they do among different firms and even practices. For example, standards for a firm selling a lot of relatively small and short assignments will be quite different from one selling large and long ones. A practice that responds to event-driven needs (crisis management, competitive intelligence, residential real estate contracts) will require different standards from one that sells to an ongoing need (audit work, pension advisory). This means that most firms have to develop their own standards.
Reliability measures can include:
• Meetings schedule compared to meetings held: If cancelations rates increase, it may be the sign of a problem, such as a turn in the economy, a bad reference or weakening of selling skills.
• Time-in-stage measures, such as the time it takes to get from a first inquiry about your services to a meeting, from the first meeting to a proposal, from a proposal to presentation, and from presentation to resolution (win or loss): When time-in-stage increases, it can be a sign of insufficient attentiveness or weak sales advancing skills. (For a firm, it is also an important sign that the economy may be faltering.)
In a final post, we will describe some of the common fallacies that result from a poor understanding of performance standards.
By: Gary Pines & Ford Harding