Talk to any sales manager or executive about their priorities and you’ll get this universal answer, “Make the numbers!”

Without a doubt, every sales leader has to produce results, we’re measured on it, we’re compensated on it, we get to keep our jobs based on our ability to do this–quarter after quarter, year after year.

But when I ask managers and executives, what are the most critical things you need to focus on to make the numbers? That’s where there are huge differences in responses. With some, it’s all about deals. Watching them is typically seeing a frenzy of activity, meeting after meeting. They’re doing deal reviews–directing/telling people what to do next, stepping in and taking control of the deal themselves.

They are constantly moving from deal to deal, micromanaging them as well as micromanaging the pipeline. When they start seeing the pipeline dry up, there’s a frenzy of activity and initiatives around prospecting. They beat sales people up on the number of calls they make each day, start new programs, push on marketing for “Get me leads—today if not sooner!”

Spending time with these manager is exhausting, they are whirlwinds of motion and activity. They may take a brief rest in the first week of each month, cautiously regrouping, looking at the forecast, but in the next week they are busy closing deals to make the month’s numbers.

Working in one of these organizations is exhausting and confusing. The focus is activity, any activity is good because being busy must produce business. But activities and priorities shift on a daily basis, based on the latest crisis. “We need to get the customer to issue a PO!” “You need to break that deal loose!” “You’ve got to find another $2M to book in the next couple of weeks!”

Every month, every quarter, every year is like this. It’s a constant struggle, if you make the number it’s after doing any number of unnatural acts to do it, then the whole thing starts all over.

Making the number in these organizations is a constant struggle. Driving growth, driving improvement, increasing profitability is virtually impossible because all efforts are focused solely on day to day crisis management. Doing anything strategically different in these organizations is impossible, because everything is focused on today. This focus on today creates great exposure to the future success of the sales organization, competitively, strategically, and from a performance effectiveness/efficiency perspective. Because of the focus managerial focus on today, the organization is always trailing in what it needs to do/be tomorrow.

Other leaders and executives have a different approach. They are as intensely focused on making the number and achieving their goals as the first type of manager. But they know something different. They know the only way to is through maximizing the performance of each person in the organization. Consequently, these leaders focus on building organizational capability and capacity.

Yes, these leaders are involved in many of the same activities as the others. They do deal reviews, they do pipeline reviews, they are involved with customers, they are concerned with forecasts. But the way they engage in these activities is different than the other managers. In each one, they are looking to build the capability of each person involved. They are coaching, developing, they are helping each person perform better in their jobs. They aren’t just focused on “this deal,” but on using this deal to build better capability for the sales person to perform better in all deals.

They are focused on removing barriers to performance. They want to drive productivity, effectiveness, and efficiency. They know their people have to continually improve their capabilities, if they don’t they will fail. As a result, they spend a lot of time looking at structure, systems, processes, programs, methods, training, tools, and metrics. They spend a lot of time assessing the skills, competencies, attitudes and behaviors needed to drive performance–building teams with these capabilities.

These leaders know their customers, markets, and competition is constantly changing. They know they must continually change, growing the capability and capacity of each person and the organization to achieve both today and tomorrow.

These leaders are deeply involved in the day to day, as well as the strategic, but they aren’t micromanaging. They are drawn in by sales people to help and support them, they are sought after for thoughtful advice, to help sales people learn how to think and solve their own problems. They set expectations, they provide clear direction and support. They set an example and are role models of what great performance should be.

Our jobs as managers and leaders is to make the numbers. We do this by building the capability and capacity of each person in our organization and the organization, as a whole. It’s our sales people’s jobs to do the deals, make sure they are doing their jobs at the highest performance levels possible!