When asked, “How’s business?” most salespeople respond with “Great!” “Really busy!” “OK,” “Not bad,” or “Good, all things considered.” Most of these replies translate to, “I don’t know.”
Selling is a numbers game. Before you can answer the above question, you must first know your numbers. Then you can come back with: “I’m doing well. This week I made 22 calls, spoke to nine people, booked four appointments and made two sales, resulting in a £1,700 commission.”
As salespeople, most of us neglect one of our most important sales activities: keeping track of our personal statistics. And, by not doing so, we all do ourselves a big disservice. For only by tracking your numbers can you monitor your selling behaviours. Then, you won’t need a sales manager to tell you how you’re doing. Furthermore, you’ll know how to predict your own success.
As a sales professional, you know how important it is to sell every day. You also know prospecting is the vehicle which enables you to be selling every day and thus is the key to your success. But, what is prospecting and how does it fit in your numbers game? Prospecting is calling on people who may or may not need your product or service. In this broad category of suspects, some people won’t talk to you. Of those who will, some won’t need your product or service. Of those who do, only some will take the time to discuss their needs with you. Of this smaller group, some will drop out as you move them through the qualifying process. Some will not have the money or be willing to invest it with you. Others won’t be able to make a decision. Those who remain, however, are your real prospects.
Keeping track of your numbers will allow you to monitor your behaviour and identify those areas where you need work. The process starts when you pick up the phone or walk into someone’s office to make a prospecting call. We will call this activity attempts. Each time you actually talk to someone will count as a contact; voice mail, no answer, and locked doors don’t count.
More times than not, the person with whom you speak will be a receptionist, secretary or other gate-keeper who will try to keep you from speaking to the decision maker—your real target. Each time you get past the gate-keeper and speak to a decision maker will count as a conversation. Some of those conversations will result in appointments. To differentiate between appointments booked and appointments kept – someone always cancels or reschedules – we will label the latter face-to-face opportunities. Of these opportunities, some will result in sales. For most people, the sale doesn’t take place on the first call, so you may want to keep track of the number of visits required to close the sale.
The resulting numbers from one day of prospecting might look like this: 30 attempts – you dialed the phone and/or walked in 30 times; 23 contacts – you spoke to 23 people; 15 conversations – you spoke with 15 decision makers; 5 appointments – you got an appointment with five decision makers; 4 face-to-faces – of your five decision makers, four kept their appointment; 2 sales – two of the decision makers bought. At £600 average commission per sales, you earned total revenue of £1,200 from your day’s prospecting activities, or £40 per attempt, even though you didn’t get through each time.
Let’s look at your numbers in reverse. In order to make two sales, you had to get face-to-face with four people. To do so, you had to schedule five appointments from the group of 15 with whom you had conversations. In order to talk to these 15 people, you had to dial the phone and/or walk into an office 30 times. You had to deal with no answers, hang-ups, answering machines and rude secretaries. However, as part of this process, every attempt, every call, every hang-up, every turn-down, every “I’m not interested,” every “Look, I’m busy, call me in 6 months,” every “Leave your number, I’ll call you back,” is worth money to you!
Once you understand the numbers – your formula for success – you can use them to your advantage. Let’s suppose you want to increase your income by £3,000 over the next quarter. With an average commission of £600 per sale, you need five additional sales. The numbers indicate you need to schedule 13 additional appointments during the next 13 weeks. The numbers also indicate you need to make 75 additional attempts. If you prospect each week, then you need to make six additional attempts during each of the 13 weeks. Only six additional attempts – certainly a manageable task.
By monitoring your “numbers” on an ongoing basis, you will know how you are doing. Additionally, you can identify which of your selling activities need improvement and be able to accurately predict the impact of that improvement.
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