What to Do When You’re Missing Your Number

By James Dorn, President

The quarter is ending and you’re not hitting your number …

We’ve all been there. Some periods you’re the hero crushing growth targets. Other times you’re the one person in the room who is off-plan, jeopardizing the whole leadership team’s annual performance incentive.

Missing your number can bring a lot of different stressors, but if you find yourself in a trailing position, your first thoughts should go towards understanding why the business is falling short of plan. In these times, it’s important to remember to remain calm, be in control, stay assertive, and focus on a course of action. Before reacting, you need to diagnose exactly which areas of your plan need attention and what degree of change is required in each area.

Action Steps for Meeting Sales and Growth Goals

Here are some tips to help you get back on track towards crushing your growth targets.

  • Segment your business by current performance. How your business is segmented will be specific to the way your firm operates. But as you look for the root causes of missing your number, consider things from a variety of angles. For example, you might segment things by key initiative, customer, market, product line, channel, sales leader and/or territory. Viewing your business through multiple lenses will not only help to pinpoint key areas of interest, but it also helps you see things in a broader context. This helps avoid tunnel vision and prevents hasty missteps when it comes to deciding on a course of action.
  • Categorize each of your segments by performance. Where are you behind plan, on-plan, or beating plan? Are you noticing any patterns develop? Commonalities that may be able to help you trace back to root causes?
  • Ensure that your diagnosis captures data for each performance area. If not, continue to segment your business until you start to see data appear. This will help in evaluating what’s working, what’s not and why.

After you have successfully segmented the business and collected supporting data, do a Miss Analysis to visualize the situation. We’ve created an Excel template to make this part easy (see below).

Interpreting Your Miss Analysis

As you look at your miss analysis, what you’re really looking for are root causes for what’s affecting your organization’s performance. This is why it’s important to slice and dice the analysis a few different ways. A first glance may show that revenue is down in the Southeast region and cast a negative light on your regional sales team. However, a deeper dive may also show that a certain product line’s sales have plummeted due to a competitive entrant, and thus, product strategy, availability and competitive countermeasures are more likely to help change the course of the business than changes within the sales team.

Misses, especially substantial ones, are rarely caused by a single factor. What may be apparent from looking at the data one way may be more hidden in the data while looking through a different lens. If, after analyzing your miss more critically, root causes are not jumping out at you as obviously as you feel like they should be, run another analysis of your data using the same segmentation – but using different date range parameters from when the business was healthier. This will help identify a baseline set of expectations, and may help contextualize the results you’re seeing. Often, after running the second analysis, executives can identify whether or not the miss they’re experiencing is purely a performance issue, or, if part of the shortfall may have been due to unrealistic forecasting when the original plan number was created.

Either way, identifying and categorizing these factors will help you, or a cross-functional team, understand the workings of the business in an enlightened way. It is important to get everyone to reach a consensus on root causes so that future activity can be mapped accordingly.

The path back to growth following a miss can be long and arduous, however, if you’re armed with a sound analysis of what’s going wrong and why, these are a few great first steps towards righting the ship.

For a fresh perspective on how to counteract a missed number, Dorn has a team of seasoned executives that can help you prioritize what to do in both the short term and over the long haul. Give us a call today, or schedule a Kickstarting Growth Workshop. This executive whiteboard session is designed to help speed the process of identifying root causes and starting to build countermeasures that will get you back on track fast.

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