How specific should a KR be? A case study from a Sales Team
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How specific should a KR be? A case study from a Sales Team

A KR is advisable to be specific and explicit; it shouldn't be vague or ambiguous. But, what did we mean by "specific"? How should we measure the specificity of a KR?
How specific should a KR be? A case study from a Sales Team

A Key Result must be specific; it should avoid ambiguity and ensure the same understanding for everyone in the team. This criterion, while easy to understand, apparently has another layer of difficulty in the implementation. How specific should a KR be? And if a KR must always be specific, what should we do in regards to the complexity that arises?

This question was often asked by a Sales Team. One of the team leads came to us with this concern. She explained that each salesperson was tasked to pursue and maintain 20 potential clients in one week (the cadence was weekly). In that case, should one person have 20 KRs (one for each client) or would one OKR enough to contain 20 potential clients?

Let’s dissect each option below.

Option A – 20 KRs, each for 1 client

The first option is to have 20 Key Results, one for each potential client. While there is nothing wrong with this approach, it might be too excessive for some people. Imagine if the Sales Team had 15 salespersons; each was tasked with 20 clients, how many KRs would the team have for that particular week? It would also be challenging when doing OKR Review later.

Option B – 1 KR for all clients

The second option is the opposite of the first one. It’s practical; one KR to contain all the clients. However, the challenge comes during the OKR Review. If there are 20 clients and the progress for each client varies differently (let’s say you managed to get the action items and timeline from client A, only able to secure the meeting with client B, client C cancelled last minute, etc), then how would you measure the progress and score for that KR? What would be your basis to determine the progress and score? It would definitely be hard.

In addition, it would be hard to identify all the necessary lessons learned because the salesperson would look at this as one big piece; creating a summary to represent 20 clients that might not properly reflect what’s going on in each client.

Both options (A and B) do not offer the optimum solution for this case. Now, is there another option, one that can address the concerns stated in both options above?

Option C – dividing the target into KRs and tasks

There’s actually a third option, one that combines the advantages from the first and second options. Instead of looking at the case through the lens of how many KRs should we have, perhaps it’d be better to look at it from another angle: should this be a KR or a task?    

When one salesperson was tasked to pursue and maintain 20 potential clients, could she define what would be the expected outcome for each client? If she could, then most likely it was a KR. If not, then it should be recorded as a task.

If all 20 clients had their own expected outcome, we could use another filter to determine whether that was a KR: the impact. In that particular week, which expected outcome that could have a significant impact on the team OKR?

Let’s say that we almost closed the deals with 5 clients, and we were trying to upsell or cross-sell our products to the other 2. The other 13 were still at the beginning of the stage; we were still trying to gauge their interest.

Then it’d be best to focus on the 7 clients that could bring significant impact to the team OKR; they were the KRs. It’d be advisable to create one for each client. The other 13 should still be recorded, but as tasks, not KRs.

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