What could make you? What could break you? Neither should be a straw on the camels back.

A company’s Make-or-Break is the one thing your com­pa­ny must do excep­tion­al­ly well in order to achieve its vision. Your Make-or-Break can be anything.

Here are some examples:

You are a man­u­fac­tur­ing firm that sells your prod­ucts through man­u­fac­tur­ers’ rep­re­sen­ta­tives (reps). The qual­i­ty of your reps direct­ly impacts the breadth of prod­uct pen­e­tra­tion you have in your tar­get mar­ket. Your Make-or-Break might be the num­ber of man­u­fac­tur­ers’ rep­re­sen­ta­tives on your team with sales in excess of a cer­tain dol­lar amount.

You are a small man­u­fac­tur­ing firm sell­ing a high­ly cus­tomized niche prod­uct glob­al­ly. To the right cus­tomer, price is not a con­straint, as your prod­uct is dif­fi­cult to find and crit­i­cal to those who are look­ing for it. Your cus­tomers find you via the web. Your Make-or-Break might be the num­ber of qual­i­fied inquiries per week on your website.

You are a law firm. Your clients pri­mar­i­ly come from the net­work of your busi­ness-devel­op­ment part­ners. Your Make-or-Break might be the num­ber of busi­ness-devel­op­ment part­ners who are gen­er­at­ing a cer­tain lev­el of new busi­ness per year for your firm.

You are a fam­i­ly enter­tain­ment cen­ter. You live and die by your walk-in cus­tomers. If no one is walk­ing in, there is noth­ing to sell. Once they come in the door, you have just a few hours to max­i­mize your rev­enue per cus­tomer. Your Make-or-Break might be walk-in customers—and your pri­ma­ry suc­cess met­ric, aver­age sale per customer.

You are a gen­er­al con­trac­tor serv­ing your local mar­ket­place. You have ample oppor­tu­ni­ty for new busi­ness, but you find the deci­sion that made you the most mon­ey each year was walk­ing away from the prospect whose bud­get was too tight, and expec­ta­tions, too large. Your Make-or-Break might be gross mar­gin per labor dollar.

You are a web design firm focused on indus­tri­al man­u­fac­tur­ing firms in the US. Vir­tu­al­ly all your busi­ness comes from refer­rals. Nine­ty per­cent of your clients are mem­bers of the largest trade asso­ci­a­tion that serves this mar­ket­place. Your Make-or-Break might be referrals.

If you look at these exam­ples, you will see Make-or-Break gen­er­al­ly involves what caus­es sales to hap­pen. The one excep­tion was the gen­er­al con­trac­tor who had more oppor­tu­ni­ty than capac­i­ty. In that case, the Make-or-Break involved max­i­miz­ing rev­enue on the cus­tomers the com­pa­ny choos­es to do busi­ness with.

To find your Make-or-Break, map the activ­i­ties in your sales process. Begin with your out­bound mar­ket­ing, and end with a closed sale.

Here is an example:

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ERT Man­u­fac­tur­ing worked with their exec­u­tive team and sales team to map their sales process. In a group meet­ing, they con­sid­ered mea­sures through­out the process and came to the con­sen­sus that some mea­sure around refer­rals and cus­tomer sur­vey as Make-or-Break.

By track­ing the source of new busi­ness, they knew most of their busi­ness came from refer­rals. What they didn’t like about refer­rals received as their Make-or-Break was that it wasn’t an activ­i­ty they direct­ly controlled.

They next con­sid­ered track­ing the activ­i­ties the team used to encour­age refer­rals. The down­side to these mea­sures is that most of them occurred spon­ta­neous­ly in one-on-one meet­ings with cus­tomers. The team believed that get­ting the sales and cus­tomer ser­vice team to report good mea­sures on these activ­i­ties would be an exer­cise in futil­i­ty. If they couldn’t find anoth­er mea­sure that was eas­i­er to track, they’d revis­it this.

Track­ing cus­tomer sur­vey results would be easy, and sim­ple to do. What wasn’t clear was if the sur­vey results pre­dict­ed refer­rals. They decid­ed to give it a shot and see. After a few months of track­ing both sur­vey results and refer­rals, the graphs clear­ly showed that the com­pos­ite sur­vey results direct­ly pre­dict­ed refer­rals. They had found their Make-or-Break.

Once you know your Make-or-Break, treat it like any oth­er key mea­sure. Set month­ly and annu­al goals for your Make-or-Break, and mon­i­tor your progress toward those goals. Quick­ly respond to pos­i­tive shifts in your Make-or-Break met­rics to keep the momen­tum of what you are doing. Respond quick­ly to neg­a­tive shifts in your Make-or-Break by iso­lat­ing the cause of the break­down and tak­ing cor­rec­tive action.