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Quantity Or Quality

by David Brock on July 26th, 2011

For those of you that follow me, you may think, “Here’s Dave ranting about quality again.”  Not so fast—-the answer quantity or quality may not be that obvious.  In reality both quantity and quality are important in sales.  Developing and sharply executing the highest quality sales strategies, having very high win rates is meaningless if you aren’t chasing enough opportunities to achieve your goals.

Quantity is important, we have to be identifying and competing in a sufficient number of opportunities to achieve our goals.  We have to be prospecting at a level that enables us to qualify enough opportunities.  There’s that weird relationship between quantity and quality.  The better your sales process, the more effective you are in executing it, the higher your close rates, the higher your average deal value, the shorter your sales cycle all mean that you have to qualify fewer opportunities to achieve your goals.

Improving effectiveness and efficiency reduce the quantity side of the equation — it doesn’t eliminate it.  We still have to have a sufficient quantity of opportunities (albeit fewer, the more effective we are) to achieve our goals.

We have to be pragmatic as well.  Sometimes time to results, risk of achieving the results requires a focus first on quantity, then on quality.  In a post several days ago, I cited an example–I’ve actually seen variations of this example in many companies we’ve worked with.

(The Quality Argument)  We were called in by management to help improve the effectiveness and results produced by the sales people.  After a number of interviews, assessments, and a lot of analysis we determined win rates were too low.  We could focus on improving the win rates (there were a number of things we saw that impacted win rate.).  We believed in the first phase of the project we could improve win rates by 10-15%—a pretty significant increase for this company.

(The Quantity Argument)  However, in assessing the difference in the way high performers worked, with the rest of the sales people, we noticed some interesting things.  Their win rates weren’t much higher than their peers (though they still could have been improved quite a bit).  In terms of “effectiveness,” there weren’t profound differences between the high performers and others.   The major thing we saw different is they were working on more than two times as many opportunities as most of their peers—meaning they were producing nearly twice the amount of business as their peers.

Some migtht say, well why don’t you fix both at the same time.  In theory it’s not unreasonable, in reality the magnitude of executing both changes simultaneously was enormous.  We opted for the quantity solution first, figuring if we did nothing to improve how they sold, but if we simply could double the number of opportunities they competed for–coming closer to what the top performers were doing, we could potentially double results.  (Doubling the number of opportunities was not easily said–we needed to make sure the quality of opportunities was aligned with what the top performers were identifying, not just doubled).

That was just the first step.  Once we got the sales team more active, then we went the next step, we focused on quality—we worked on the effectiveness initiatives, among other things, dramatically increasing win rates of the team.  In just over a year, we had managed to produce a run rate close to twice what it had been before.  We drove quantity first and then quality.

In managing a sales force, driving the highest levels of performance, productivity, and growth, we must simultaneously work on both quantity and quality.  They are inseparable.

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  1. Another great example of the tunnel vision threatens sales effectiveness. In the rush to do better, it’s hard to make time to reflect on what’s really going wrong. Sales is a thinking game – whether it’s quality or quantity that is the issue, or even if there is no issues currently, making time to think about improvement is always a wise choice.

    Don F Perkins

    • Don, thanks for the comment. It’s critical to understand what we need to do before taking action.

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