There’s a commonly held view that sales is a numbers game and success depends upon how hard Reps try. Most sales organizations measure day-to-day sales performance by counting activity. How many: calls were made, meetings were conducted, proposals were issued, etc. In this equation, more effort should = more success. It often doesn’t.
This approach assumes a connection between effort and results. Unless connections are validated, there’s no guarantee that, by doing more of what they’re now doing, sellers will get better results. Predictable improvement requires knowingly executing better sales practices. The critical change is to make sales efforts count, rather than just counting sales efforts.
The key to doing so is counting the cause and effect connection between sales practices and buyer actions. An example: we find that buyers respond best to Bus Dev practices that are respectful of their time, well timed, and issue-focused. This requires messages and contact attempts that are brief, raise issues buyers care most about, and leave the uninterested alone. It creates buyer experiences that are exceptional. To the interested, it’s helpful. To the uninterested, it’s still potentially value-creating and designed not to be annoying.
Superior buyer experiences are hard to create because:
- product-centric training is typically a large part of on-boarding new sales hires
- firms rarely measure, from a buyer’s perspective, what sales practices work best
For instance, new sales hires often first learn about product features and benefits. Should anyone be surprised new hires lead with related product info? New hires don’t learn why their product capabilities might matter to prospects. Leading with product causes immediate disconnects with buyers and contributes to long on-boarding cycles for new sales hires. It takes a long time for new hires to discover that product-led conversations are a detour from the path to sales success.
Creating exceptional buyer experiences gets easier with Return-on-Effort metrics. However, it’s not sufficient. Combining such metrics with coaching makes a bigger difference. It’s the sales equivalent of having a Fitbit showing effort invested plus a personal trainer that shows how to improve the effectiveness of efforts. With better data and related coaching, Reps learn healthier sales practices. They discover how to produce better results by quickly seeing the benefits of better practices. At their core, those better practices create better buyer experiences.
One example: with its new hires, one of our clients used messages we created for them to earn initial conversations with over 20% of their new leads. When following up on those initial conversations with verbose, complex, product-focused messaging, response rates plummeted to 8%. They knew certain tactics weren’t working. With metrics and coaching, they discovered patterns from their own practices that explained why. They made changes to their messaging and within 3 weeks achieved a 7% lift in buyer response rates.
There’s nothing in Return-on-Effort metrics + coaching that’s revolutionized their sales practices. However, it has:
1. Proven that metrics matter. Best practices get practiced more often when metrics make clearer, for all to see, how certain practices affect certain results.
2. Shown that Reps can improve their performance when they approach lead generation with curiosity about what works best and a willingness to try new tactics.
3. Confirmed that comfort is an enemy of progress. A good week is one in which Reps get outside their comfort zones and try tactics they would never have thought to try and couldn’t have created on their own. Often those are tactics that create better buyer experiences.
4. Affirmed the value of ‘nudges’ over edicts. With proof of better buyer reactions, Reps make small changes in their practices that get better results, fast. It’s habit shifting, informed by practice with personalized metrics that clarify what’s working. Reps and managers start to see how small changes can lead to significant improvements.
For instance, this past week a new hire gained access to a key title in a billion dollar company. It was a title he’d never called on before within a size of company he’d never approached before. It’s a bit of progress, encouraged with coaching, and verified with metrics on the buyer actions triggered by sales practices.
It’s a form of progress that makes sales efforts count.
As a footnote on the above, McKinsey points out that, in retailing, firms that create helpful customer experiences increase conversions from browsing to buying by 1.5-2 times. A big thanks to my colleague, John Holland, with whom I’ve had the pleasure of learning much of the above. The learning continues.