Customer Experience News & Trends

Shattering the greatest sales myth of all time

Sales is a numbers game, or so the popular saying goes. If you just make enough calls, have enough meetings, and give enough presentations, you’ll succeed. Best of all, every “no” you hear brings you that much closer to a “yes.” Is this still believable?

No indicator of sales success

The reality is, sheer quantity isn’t an indicator of future success. A steady chorus of no’s seldom leads to successful closes.

Studies show that top performers make fewer calls and have fewer prospects than average salespeople. They concentrate on improving the quality of their calls instead of increasing the quantity.

Here are the five critical areas they concentrate on improving:

  • Connection ratio. What percentage of their calls/contacts turn into initial conversations. The more calls they convert to conversations, the fewer calls they need to make.
  • Initial meeting conversions. What percentage of their initial meetings have an immediate follow-up scheduled? The higher this number is, the fewer prospects they need.
  • Length of sales cycle. How long does it take to close a deal? The longer deals are in their pipeline, the less likely prospects are to do business with them.
  • Closing ratio. How many of their initial meetings actually turn into customers? If they close a higher percentage of sales, they’ll be much more successful.
  • Losses to no decisions. What percentage of their prospects stay with the status quo (a current supplier)? Lowering this ratio brings in more revenue.

Implications for you

Don’t just measure how many calls you’re making or emails you’re sending. Go deeper. Ask, “What percentage of contacts are currently converting?” The next question is: “How can I get more to convert into initial conversations”?

Once you’re satisfied with your connection ratio, move on to improving your initial meeting conversation rate. Then move on to improving the other performance indicators.

Questions to ask

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Connection ratio. What are you doing to pique curiosity, establish credibility and engage prospects in conversations?
  • Initial meeting conversations. What’s your strategy for getting a prospect interested in making a change?
  • Length of sales cycle. How are you helping prospects access if a change makes good business sense?
  • Closing ratio. What’s your approach for minimizing the risk inherent in change initiatives?
  • Losses to no decisions. What will you be doing to differentiate yourself, your offering and your company from the competitors that may help avoid stalls.

Research is critical

Prior to any prospect meeting, research is crucial. Check out the prospect’s website to get insights into its business direction, trends and challenges. Research the individuals you’ll meet to learn as much as you can about them. Get a good sense of who your prospects are and what’s important to them.

Questions to ask

As you prepare for the meeting, ask yourself these questions:

  • Where is the prospect in their buying process?
  • What have you done previously with them to get to this point?
  • Have you encountered any stumbling blocks so far? If so, what are they?
  • What is the purpose of this upcoming meeting?
  • In your option, what’s a successful outcome?
  • Who will you be talking to? Can you tell yourself a little about each person?
  • How are you starting the conversation? Why did you make that choice?
  • What questions will you be asking? Why are they important?
  • Do you anticipate any obstacles? If so, what will they be? How will you handle them?
  • What are prospects’ expectations?

Your desired outcome

By making an educated, research-based assessment of where the prospect is in the buying cycle, you’ll know your objective for the meeting. Maybe it’s to prepare an in-depth analysis, or set up a follow-up meeting or a product demonstration. Knowing your objective helps you plan your opening conversation.

Move in a new direction

Planning provides the flexibility to move in new directions when problems or concerns arise in a meeting. It also allows you to get the conversation back on course when it strays. The quality of your planning determines your desired outcome.

Evaluate your performance

Ask yourself these questions after the meeting:

  • What did I expect and what actually happened? If it turned out the way you’d hoped, your planning was sufficient. If not, it’s a sign you missed something.
  • Where did I run into trouble? Being cognizant about your problem areas is the first step to ensuring you don’t repeat the same mistakes.
  • What could I have done differently? Brainstorm some options. Specifically, look for ways you have improved. Explore ways you could have eliminated the obstacle entirely.
  • What did I do well? Paying attention to your positive behaviors is important. You want to be able to repeat them.

Adapted from: “Agile Selling,” by Jill Konrath, a sales strategist whose clients include IBM, Microsoft, Accenture, Staples and Hilton. 

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