The salespeople I work with sometimes tell me how well they are doing. There’s only one problem. They’re not doing all that well. Why? They are the ones who think they’re doing well. Here’s what I tell sales managers to use as they gauge their salespeople’s success. You can use the same criteria to judge how you explain your own sales success.
Measure what counts. Results talk.
Sales managers have to be careful not to get sold. How does this happen? Their salespeople tell them how much they’re working. The salesperson might talk about the time they’re spending calling on customers. Or they’re talking about the books they’re reading and research they’re doing. Some talk about how many sales calls they’re making. While each function is important to sales success, each one isn’t the gauge of success. There’s only one gauge of sales success and that’s sales numbers.
I often tell sales managers that talented sales people make their sales goals. Sure there can be a year that’s an outlier (think this year) for many. Successful salespeople make sales. Their numbers speak for themselves. I don’t care if a salesperson makes one sales call and makes his goals or makes 5 sales calls. (Actually, I would care if the sale could have been made in fewer sales calls.) The point being, the most important measure for sales success is sales. Talking about how hard you work unfortunately doesn’t count. You have to realize that you have a problem with your sales process if you’re working so hard and not making sales.
They move business forward.
Another indicator of a successful salesperson is how quickly they move their customers along to make their purchases. Yes, there are some products that can be sold in one sales call. A quick sale is atypical for large revenue purchases. That’s why you have to look at the sales process to see how the salesperson moves his customer along to buy.
I ask salespeople about their sales process to learn how they qualify a prospect to be sure they are calling only on legitimate prospects who are likely to buy. I ask how they determine that they’re talking with decision makers. Then I find out how they’ve uncovered the customer’s need or want. Only after a salesperson takes these steps is a salesperson ready to present a product as a solution. Too many unsuccessful salespeople get mired in “getting to know” a prospect without doing any real customer discovery that could lead to a sale. Successful salespeople move the sale forward and often do it in fewer sales calls than less successful salespeople.
They keep business for the long-term.
I’ve seen sales teams that had deceptive sales numbers. The top revenue generator was not the most profitable salesperson. It had nothing to do with the profitably of his products. What was happening was the top revenue generator was only keeping business for a short time. As a result, he was losing business faster than he was gaining new customers. Even worse, he was making promises he could not keep. He was not offering after the sale support. He was doing everything to run his new business off.
Some companies prevent these types of short-term practices by only paying commission after business is retained for a certain period of time. Even if that’s the case, companies should value long-term customers. It’s more expensive to find a new customer than keep the ones you have. Why not modify the sales process to encourage your sales team to keep their business long-term so they’re not churning new business? More successful salespeople have long-term customers. They get word of mouth sales as well.
It’s hard to hear that your gauge for your success doesn’t count. I don’t care how hard you work. It’s the results you produce in sales that matter. Make your work count. Make sales. That is the way to be successful in sales.