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Sales & Metrics - What Are We Really Measuring?

Why less can be more when measuring sales cycle activities

As a consultative business development specialist my clients often ask me to provide metrics on my sales efforts. Fair enough, but what do they really mean?

In too many cases metrics are used to measure quantity of activity rather than progress. For me it's always important why we measure and to work toward an objective. What's more important for you: Keeping nice, neat spreadsheets with lots of entries that might please the CEO or results that reflect a meaningful process and real progress toward closing sales?

Does Quantity Matter?
There is this widely held misconception that quantity in sales is the key to success. It's important, but only when it is tied to a process. It's certainly not the key to success. If it were, all those high-volume sales callers would be way ahead of the pack.

First of all, we need to understand who our ideal prospect is, what industry they live in and why they would want to buy from us. Secondly, we need to find the decision maker/buyer within the target company and then we can start counting. It is meaningless, in my opinion, even wasteful to pick up the phone or shoot off an e-mail to just any company in your CRM without understanding who they are and why they would be a good fit. You might get lucky and make some progress, but it will take a long time to actually gain traction.

How many calls should I make?
Sales metrics, as my experience has shown me, should be tied to results and to results only. It really doesn't matter how many phone calls, e-mails or marketing touches you make. All that matters is that every action you set will take you a step closer to closing the sale. Activity is important but only if it's streamlined, targeted and measured against a clear objective.

A salesperson who makes 500 client touches a week and never gets to go on a qualified sales presentation or meeting will most likely never make a sale. On the other hand, salespeople who work smart will research a great deal, find out about their prospects and then make fewer calls, followed by well-written customized e-mails. And these salespeople will open up doors faster. These are sales professionals who employ consultative selling strategies.

The Smart Funnel
There is a reason why we compare the sales process to a funnel. So, in a cutting-edge version of the funnel, we start with a large (or wide) number of potential prospects, and then we tighten the funnel with research. Every interaction with the targeted prospects will lead to tightening the funnel more. And if planned and executed well, will take us a step closer to a sale. Yes, quantity is important when keeping your sales funnel full, but all the activity in the world will not help you close if you don't work toward and measure actual results.

Reports or Real Results?
Whenever my clients ask me to provide results reports, I always ask them what they plan to do with them. I ask questions like: Do you hold your salespeople accountable for setting up a follow-up meeting after the first meeting? What is planned to happen after the first meeting? Are there next steps arranged? Do we know more about the prospect than we did prior to the meeting? Do we know the decision-making and purchasing process? What is the budget cycle? Who is the decision maker? Who do they currently work with? And so on. These are questions that not only help qualify a prospect further, but are also essential to compiling data for future prospecting. Don't ask your salespeople to just put numbers on a spreadsheet.

Make sure the numbers show progress in developing business, deepening business relationships. The numbers should show a path to increased revenue and not just increased activity.

Monika D’Agostino is the Chief Consultative Sales Officer of the Consultative Sales Academy, which helps companies and individuals grow their business through a mindful, consultative sales approach. She can be reached at monika@consultativesales.net.