I was recently asked about how I measured my Inside Sales team people back in the day when I had over 200 of them.  I shared that we used lots of standard criteria, but that we also stack ranked each of our Inside Sales people.  The puzzled look told me I may need to go into greater detail, possibly for two reasons.  First, not all managers are familiar with stacked rankings.  Secondly, those that are familiar know that stacked rankings can have a bad reputation.

For those of you not familiar with stacked rankings, it is a tool designed to measure and rank employees on particular sets of criteria.  The “stacked” part refers to listing, in order from best to worst, all sales people being measured.  The bad reputation comes from the fact that many companies utilized stacked rankings to manage the bottom 10 to 20% out of the business.  This was not and is not true in my case, nor was it true in the case of many others.  It is just an additional management tool to visually see the relationship between effort, cost and results.  I also shared with my befuddled counterpart that I utilized stacked rankings when I had 5 sales people, indicating that it not just reserved for big business.  Once again, I wanted to visually see the productivity curve, even for a small group of sales people.

Let’s get into some real world details and how they apply to Inside Sales teams that primarily sell over the telephone.   I ranked my team members into three stacks; effort, lead burn (or total cost) and positive results.   If your shop is like most, dials or attempted calls is one of the measurements that you keep an eye on.  I referred to this as “Effort”.  I would stack rank my reps, on a per project basis, on calls attempted per hour.  The person who attempted the most calls per hour went to the top; the person with the least went to the bottom.

inside sales team

The second vertical in my triple stack is what I called “lead burn”.  This stack ranked the reps in ascending order based on the total numbers of leads they would they would close per hour. Think of it as a total of the result codes: yes, no, disconnected, wrong number and so forth.   In other words, I wanted to know how many leads they were getting into a “yes” position or killing on average per hour.  This data plays a vital role in determining the cost for a positive result, and when part of the ranking stack, can reveal quite a bit of actionable data on your sales team.

The third and final stack ranks the sales people in ascending order based on positive results per hour.  Stacks are usually displayed as horizontal bar graphs and all three stacks are set up side by side.  Without having to delve deep into the numbers a manager can simply look at the three stacks and quickly determine vital data such as:

Calls attempted  per hour-which represents effort

Lead Burn per hour– which goes to cost

Positives per hour – which is our results

Here is an example of five sales people stack ranked.  What can we learn from a quick review of the charts?

We can quickly see that Henry gives the biggest effort in terms of calls attempted and is also our biggest burner of leads in the system.  However, Henry delivers very little value in terms of producing positive results.  Sally on the other hand is in the middle of the pack on both attempted calls and lead burn but more than doubles the positive results of the other agents.

Depending on the cost of the leads being burned Bob may actually be our best sales person.  The data clearly shows that Bob is very efficient at maximizing his leads.  He moves slowly but moves with meaning.  If a company is utilizing high priced trigger leads it becomes imperative for management to understand lead burn and be able to determine the true cost of each rep.  If these were $15 trigger leads Henry may only be costing you $15 per hour in labor but he is burning $300 in lead cost and not getting the results to offset the cost.

When it comes to stacked rankings think of it as just another tool to assist management in the measure of performance.  Remember, you get to set the criteria and determine how you want to stack and also the value you place on the stack.  Today, Inside Sales Software will often have default stacking as part of their reporting platform, making stacked ranking as simple as picking a date range and clicking the mouse to stack.   Good luck with your stacks and I hope that when you do stack, you don’t find yourself with a Henry at the top of two of them and at the bottom of the important one.

Good Selling,