During a recent webinar I delivered for sales managers, nearly half (46%) of the 150+ participants said that they struggle with focusing too much on results. Sounds odd, doesn’t it, for sales managers to think they are over-focused on results?

Not really.

One person who knew a lot about winning was famed college basketball coach John Wooden. Coach Wooden and his historic UCLA dynasty won 10 NCAA championships in 12 years, including 88 straight games! Wooden once said, “Competitiveness must be focused exclusively on the process of what you are doing rather than the result of that effort.” When coaching, Wooden was focused on the total effort of his players – he constantly urged them to strive for the self-satisfaction that always comes from knowing that you did the best you could do to become the best you are capable of.

Winning is the result of excellence, not the other way around. Too often we recognize and reward only outcomes and thus miss out on the opportunity right under our noses to help our salespeople become truly excellent by improving their processes.

What we discussed in the webinar with sales managers was the irony that paying too much attention to end results makes it harder for a manager to improve those results. You cannot help your team improve if all you know is the final score. You don’t know what decisions they made along the way, what actions they took or didn’t take that led to the poor outcomes, what skills they did well and what skills need work.

Yet too many sales managers, perhaps feeling the time and quota pressure, believe that monitoring the weekly, monthly, or quarterly numbers is enough to help them manage their team. They think that helping reps close an impending deal is the best use of their time.

Research done by the Sales Management Association and CSO Insights very clearly contradicts these beliefs. The strongest link to high revenue growth was in organizations where sales managers spent a lot of time “identifying skill deficiencies” and presumably correcting those deficiencies. In other words, the sales manager made time for developing the skills of their reps. They didn’t just look at the numbers that reflected behaviors long past. They didn’t just focus on closing the deals that were already in the pipeline. They focused on developing skills that would help reps in the long-term, not just the short term.

When you work on developing rep skills, you’re improving the input side of the results equation. Their attitude – and commitment to you and your company – get better too.

There’s a famous saying that you can’t manage time, you can only manage yourself. Something similar applies here: You can’t directly manage results. You can only manage the processes and skills that reps use to produce those results.

Coach Wooden believed that the “final score” is not the final score. Instead, he believed that his final score as a coach was how effectively he prepared the team to execute near their own individual capability of performance. To Wooden, it was about maximizing the performance of each person on the team. That was his final score. What will yours be?