What can NFL QBR and Passer Rating tell us about how we measure employee performance in the business world? A lot, actually. 

Several years ago, the NFL released the a new formula for measuring Quarterback performance. Dubbed QBR (Quarterback Rating, in case that really required clarification), the metric was supposed to be a new twist on an old formula that gave more accurate indications about how a Quarterback performed in a given game and over the course of a season.

Let's drill into what advanced metrics like QBR can tell us about measuringsSales personnel.

Evaluating Sales Performance: QBR or Passer Rating

The hallmark of NFL Passer Rating, despite the nuanced algorithms behind it, is clarity. As the NFL's website attests(don't be confused by the QBR title, it is explicitly discussing Passer Rating), Passer Rating is scored by measuring benchmarks. Relevant benchmarks include completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdown pass percentage, and interception percentage.

In essence, the NFL takes these performance benchmarks, weights them, then scores Quarterbacks based on whether they've fallen short, hit, or exceeded each benchmark.

The system works. In an impassioned defense of Passer Rating over QBR, Sports Illustrated columnist Kerry Byrne wrote the following: 

"You cannot be a smart football analyst and dismiss passer rating. In fact, it's impossible to look at the incredible correlation of victory to passer rating and then dismiss it. [...] Few, if any, are more indicative of wins and losses than passer rating. Teams that posted a higher passer rating went 203-53 (.793) in 2010 and an incredible 151-29 (.839) after Week 5."

Ideal numbers. As in sales contests, you want the sales metrics you are measuring to reflect the likelihood of success. With Passer Rating, the NFL seems to have found a formula that gives great indication to a team's likelihood of succeeding based on Quarterback performance.

Evaluating Sales Performance: Quarterback Rating

In contast, QBR proves evocative of how to inefficiently and ineffectively measure performance. Namely, over-analyze irrelevant performance metrics, use a measurement system that is not forthcoming in its evaluation mechanisms, and improperly weight the metrics you value.

For a classic scenario of QBR meltdown, let's look at the 2011 season Week 5 performances of Tim Tebow and Aaron Rodgers. Here are the facts that gave rise to QBR infamy.

The Total QBR system gave the Denver Broncos' Tim Tebow a higher rating (83.2) than the Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers (82.1) in their respective contests. Here are the beakdowns of each player's performance:

Rodgers: 26 of 39 passes completed for 396 passing yards. 2 passing touchdowns. 0 interceptions. Green Bay Win.

Tebow: 4 of 10 passes completed for 79 yards. 1 passing touchdown. 6 rushes for 38 yards. 1 rushing touchdown. Denver loss. 

Rodgers' take: "I saw the [QBR stats] and chuckled to myself. I played a full game, [Tebow] played the half. He completed four passes, I completed 26. I think it incorporates QB runs as well [...] The weighting of it doesn't make a whole lot of sense." 

For what it's worth, Rodgers finished with a Passer Rating 15 points above Tebow.

Applications in Sales Coaching 

The Passer Rating-QBR comparison offers several key insights for how you measure employee performance in a sales contest or otherwise. 

1) Measure what matters Find out the sales metrics that are truly relevant to individual performance and measure those. If you are unsure as to what those metrics may be, look at your highest performers and set benchmarks based around what they are hitting, then continuously refine and revamp your measurement process.

2) Strike the balance between complexity and simplicityDon't oversimplify your measurements. At the same time, it doesn't require 10,000 lines of code to determine how well a Quarterback is performing. Use some degree of advanced metrics when determining how well employees are performing, whether it be conversion rate of calls to deals closed, weekly profit margin, or outbound dials per meeting.

3) Be transparent about how and what you are measuring. When communicating employee performance, obtuseness is your enemy. Make sure that employees possess a clear understanding of their relevant numbers and know where they stand. If I'm a sales rep who puts up an Aaron Rodgers-esque performance, while Tim Tebow gets all the accolades from my manager, you can best believe I'm not long to stay with my company.

Numbers never lie' can be a misnomer if they do not accurately reflect the big picture. Just ask Aaron Rodgers.

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