[Note - this article was written in August of 2001 so while the first paragraph is outdated, it still sets the stage for the sales part of the article which begins with the third paragraph.]
The CDC is back focusing on COVID case numbers. Earlier this summer, Massachusetts was reporting fewer than 100 new cases each day but more 1,000 new cases per day have been reported for the past two weeks. That particular metric supports the narrative that the Delta variant is spreading but it does not tell the real story that allows us to assess our risk.
For the real story to materialize, we should know how many of those 1,000 cases occurred in vaccinated people, how many vaccinated people with COVID have symptoms, and how many of those cases required hospitalization. Case numbers support that there is new spread, but a detailed breakdown would help us to understand our reality.
The exact same thing is happening with the sales numbers reported by most companies.
Suppose a company reports that its win rate is 24%. Does that tell you anything other than they suck? It doesn't tell us how badly they suck, why they suck, how long they've sucked, who sucks, or whether there is any hope for them to stop sucking. And even if their win rate is double the 24%, the same questions apply. Let me explain.
How badly they suck depends entirely on the stage in the sales process from which the conversion is being measured. Win rates are not calculated consistently so a 24% win rate could mean five different things:
- Proposals to closed - if they are only closing 24% of their proposals they are demonstrating the highest possible degree of suck.
- Qualified to closed - if they are closing 24% of their qualified opportunities they suck at qualifying!
- Prospects to closed - if they are closing 24% of the opportunities that move past a first meeting, that could be an acceptable rate.
- Suspects to closed - if they are closing 24% of the prospects they get first meetings with that is something to brag about.
- Leads to closed - if they are closing 24% of their leads they are freaking awesome!
Every company handles this conversion differently but in my opinion, proposals to closed provides incomplete information because we don't know how many companies they were competing against. Prospects to closed, suspects to closed and leads to closed are inferior because we don't yet know if the opportunities are thoroughly qualified. Therefore, only qualified to closed provides the intelligence to determine how badly they suck.
Knowing why they suck requires that a sales process includes all of the required milestones and the milestones have also been integrated into their CRM. We need to know how many qualified opportunities failed to meet all of the company's criteria/milestones be be fully qualified. If you want to know which milestones should be included, watch this ten-minute video on the most popular sales processes and methodologies.
In order to know how long they've sucked, look at win rates over time using the exact same criteria that is being used today for comparison. What was the win rate last quarter, and each quarter before that? Are we trending up or down or is it the same as it was earlier in the timeline?
Who sucks? Unless your reporting includes win rates by salesperson, you won't have the ability to see how you arrived at 24%. You probably have someone who is closing closer to 50% and there is probably someone closing closer to 10%. Why is that? What are they each doing that is so different?
Is there any hope that they can improve? This is the most important question of all. The other metrics we were discussing report lagging data and won't be of much help. Improvement must be forward looking and the best forward looking metrics have nothing to do with win rate and everything to do with the pipeline. Is it larger than last quarter, prior quarters and prior years? Do the opportunities in the pipeline have a larger value than over the same period of time last year? Is the quality of opportunities in the pipeline higher than it was over the same period of time last year? 24% of 200 opportunities is better than 24% of 100 opportunities. 24% of $2 million is better than 24% of $1 million. And if the quality is better that would suggest that the win rate will be better than 24%. That is one way to answer the hope question.
The other way to measure hope is to conduct an OMG (Objective Management Group) evaluation of your sales team. OMG's evaluation is unique in that it will very clearly show why salespeople aren't selling more, the specific sales competencies where the gaps are, who could be selling more, how much more, the required coaching and training to get them there, how long it will take to get them there, and so much more. Most companies feel that the money spent on an OMG Sales Force Evaluation is the best money they ever invested in sales.
You can get a sample of an OMG Sales Team Evaluation here (checkmark next to sales force eval).
You can see data on the 21 Sales Core Competencies here.
You can learn more about a sales team evaluation here.
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