Sales and marketing are data/numbers driven, at least they should be and sometimes we pretend they are. But too often, sales people and managers don’t really understand the data/numbers.
Some of you are probably thinking, “Dave you are really off base here, of course we understand them, we know we have to make our numbers!”
Too often, however, we aren’t looking at the right data/numbers or we aren’t looking at them in the right way.
Conversations sometimes go like this:
Me: “What do you have to do to make your $5M goal?”
Salesperson: “I got to sell a lot of stuff!”
Me: “What does that mean, how many deals to you have to work?”
Salesperson: “Enough to make my number! Aren’t you paying attention Dave?”
Or I may be talking to managers:
Me: “I see you’ve set daily call goals of 50 calls per person. How did you come up with that number?”
Manager: “It seems like an aggressive goal. I’ve always believed sales people need to be on the phone calling!”
Me: “How do you know it’s enough or maybe it’s too many?”
Manager: “Good point, I’m going to make it 100 per day…..”
And round and round we go………
In order to achieve our goals, we need to understand the “numbers” that underlie our business fundamentals. We need to make sure we are tracking the right numbers. For example, to make our quotas, how many deals do we have to be working? What’s the average value of those deals? What’s the sales cycle? What’s our win rate? How many high quality leads to we have to be qualifying? What is a quality lead?
Every activity we undertake in selling must produce an outcome, those outcomes, when linked together produce the ultimate outcome—an order. We need to understand those critical outcomes at each stage of the process. We need to understand the relationships between each of those steps and the desired outcomes: X leads produce Y qualified high quality opportunities which produce Z closed orders totaling revenue of A………
Simple, we all know this. Some of us even apply this logic to establishing these goals and tracking performance. Unfortunately, too many don’t.
Sure, they’ll give me numbers, but they don’t understand what the numbers mean and what it takes to produce the right numbers.
To understand our numbers, we have to get deep into what they mean–because it’s understanding those that drive results.
For example, I may know the magic number to produce a healthy pipeline is “50 MQLs a week.” But what does that mean? But what’s a quality MQL (Or any other number you choose)? What are the qualities, characteristics of those, so that I know I’m counting the right things. It’s actually quite easy to build a pipeline of 100 opportunities. I might fool myself into thinking, “hitting my goals is a slam-dunk.” At the end of the month/quarter/year, I find I haven’t hit my goals—but I have enough opportunities, what gives?
Knowing our numbers is the critical first step. But stopping there just enables you to prove that math works. To really understand the numbers we have to get under them, understanding what they mean and what creates them
If we don’t understand our numbers and what they mean, we have no hope of managing performance.
Sales isn’t easy! If it was, it could be totally automated and our customers and companies wouldn’t need sales people. We continue to see those parts of selling carved away, with more effective and efficient channels being leveraged—as they should be!
We don’t create value in those areas, we only create cost—for our customers and our companies.
While everyone, from the entry level sales person to top sales executives, readily acknowledge the complexities and challenges our customers face and the complexity and challenges we face on engaging them, what I continue to see is people and organizations pursuing the easy and simplistic.
People rush like lemmings to the latest new-new thing. Whether it’s social selling, the latest greatest technology, the 12 new ways of getting customers to open emails, the 15 new ways to close the order, the latest science behind high volume and high velocity, or the ease with which we can inundate/broadcast via the web.
It seems to be human nature to opt for easy/quick, or to address symptoms rather than doing the hard work of really understanding, learning, identifying the most critical issues and changing.
In many ways, too often, the latest techniques/tools/technologies promoted by self proclaimed gurus, experts, technology vendors are a little like a “sugar high.”
We all know that spike of energy we get when we down a soft drink or take a bite of candy. It rushes to our blood streams, we get a surge of energy and go forward. Inevitably, that rush dissipates. Then we seek another sugar high, and another, and another.
We learn these sugar high’s don’t have a sustained impact. We learn, in fact, over time they actually do more damage than they do good.
Seeking the easy and simplistic in sales is like seeking a sugar high. It may produce a short term bump in the results we produce. But quickly, we find it’s seldom sustainable. As the “high” diminishes, we seek another and another. We see short term impacts (bloggers blog, speakers speak, pundits pundit, vendors make case studies), but it’s seldom sustainable.
The concept permeates our vocabularies, as we continually search for “quick hits.”
And over time, we often find these approaches do more damage than they do good.
We lose our ability or willingness to do the hard work, we don’t do the research, we don’t prepare, we don’t really engage our customers in understanding their goals and problems, we don’t challenge them to think differently, we don’t help them learn, we don’t know how to create and co-create value. We lose our ability to think critically, to adapt, to change.
We double down on what we have always done, even if these things no longer produce results. It’s far easier to do those things, than to figure out what’s changed, how we need to change, and actually change.
And the results show it! Both in terms of the declining percent of sales people and organizations making plan, the feedback/avoidance we see from customer, and any number of measures.
At the risk of over using my “sugar high” analogy, we know how hard it is to break the sugar addiction. But we also know the results of adopting a healthier life style–what it does for our health, energy, ability to engage, and ability to create.
The same thing happens when we stop focusing on the easy, quick answers, when we start looking at fundamentals, addressing the tough issues in substantive way, committing to a “sales healthy” (perhaps customer healthy) approach to producing results and sustaining performance.
We see others who have done this, those that are recognized leaders and have the ability to sustain that leadership. Ironically, it is the consistent top performers that never take the shortcuts, never succumb to the fads and fashions, but do the hard work that produces results year after year. Yes they do adopt new methods, approaches and tools, but it’s grounded in the basics that drive success, not as a quick fix.
Easy and simplistic don’t work over time. They are damaging. It’s time we stop wasting time on these and do the hard work of producing sustained results. It’s time we start pushing back on those that focus only on the easy, they aren’t helping us, they may be harming us.
Just commit to doing the work!