As a young sales person, I must have really frustrated my managers. I was disorganized, undisciplined–in short, all over the place.

In spite of that, I always made my number…..

Well, I’ve got to be honest, I had lots of ups and downs. Some months I’d miss, another month, I’d blow away my number, but I always made my number for the year! Usually on December 31 at 23:45.

It drove my managers crazy. While I always made my number, I couldn’t tell them how I was going to make it. I worked hard, scrambled a lot, and had some great luck. I never did the same thing twice. But there was never any predictability. It never looked pretty, there were a lot of starts and stops, and I never knew until I knew–which led to sleepless nights.

Finally, one of my managers sat me down at a performance review. He gave me what I considered to be a very poor review. I protested, saying, “I always make my numbers, why am I getting such a poor review?”

It was then I learned that how I made my numbers was as important as making the number (in some cases, I’ll get to later, it may be a little more important.).

The lessons she gave me at the time have stuck with me through my career. I learned the importance of the sales process, of a disciplined approach to managing myself, my time. I learned the importance of putting together a plan, whether it was for my account, territory, or for the year.

The disciplined approach to making my numbers actually made it easier for me to make my numbers, because I knew what things produced more business. I knew the things I did today that would enable me to make my numbers tomorrow. I could focus on doing more of those things and not those things that wasted my time. So I stopped having to stay in the office until midnight on New Year’s Eve and could start going to parties. Or rather than scraping through with crossed fingers and a few prayers, I could now aim for overachieving my numbers (that’s where the real money started kicking in.)

As individual sales people, it’s critical that we have a disciplined approach to how we make the number. For example, having a strong pipeline management process enables each of us to look at our business, not only this month, but next and some months down the line. If we see we are off on our numbers, we can identify it, take corrective action, and get ourselves back on target. Rather than leaving things to chance, we can be proactive in managing the territory, creating greater confidence in our ability to meet our goals and making the numbers.

My managers loved the “new and improved Dave,” because now there was much less uncertainty, far fewer heroic efforts, fewer sighs of relief because they had better visibility of what I was doing and the business it would produce. More importantly, for me, they could really help me, they could coach me, help me find systematic ways to improve my performance, ways to be more effective and more efficient.

Being focused how I made my numbers, as well as being driven to make my numbers provided both me and my managers a basis for learning, developing, and improving. Since I now had a systematic and disciplined approach to making my numbers, it was easier to understand what worked and what didn’t Growing my performance became a matter of stopping the things that didn’t work and doing more of the things that did. It allowed me to move from scrambling to make my number to being one of the top performers.

At an organizational level, this is even more important. Making the number is everyone’s primary objective-but from an organizational point of view we have to look beyond making this month’s, this quarter’s, this year’s numbers. We have to have the strategies, capabilities, capacities in place to grow the business year after year. We have to have the capabilities of making the number consistently year after year, to extend share, to grow profitability. This means putting in place the right mix of leadership, strategies, business management, and people.

As stewards of the business, we have to make sure we are leveraging all the resources we have available to us, maximizing performance, productivity, effectiveness, and efficiency. As leaders, we constantly must assess the investments we make in selling and the return we get out of those investments. Absent a disciplined way of assessing performance, productivity and effectiveness, we can’t manage the business of selling to maximize the results each individual achieves and the organization, as a whole achieves.

The rest of the business is dependent on us. Manufacturing builds inventory planning and production schedules base on us. Finance looks at cash needs based on our revenue/profitability projections. The rest of the business needs the ability to plan and execute, based on our ability to drive sales in a predictable manner.

As a consequence, the “how we make our number,” becomes critical to our ability to set a direction, to know who to hire, to know how to train and develop them, to know the right programs to invest in, to know when and how to take corrective action, to have a framework for fixing things when the Sh*t starts hitting the fan.

Finally, we owe it to our people to provide leadership, direction, and coaching to maximize their personal and organizational success. We need to put in processes that enable them to maximize their win rates, reduce cycle time, drive deal profitability. We need to provide systems and tools to help them be as efficient as possible. We need to establish best practices for our own organizations and drive the consistent execution of those practices. We need to coach and develop them, so they can achieve this year and to prepare them to achieve more next year and the following year, and…..

Consistently making the number, doing it effectively and efficiently is not a crapshoot. How you make the number, how you do it consistently, how you continue to learn and grow is critical to making the number.