• May 26, 2015

Salespeople, Want to Work Smarter? Know These 3 Numbers

Salespeople, Want to Work Smarter? Know These 3 Numbers

If I had to guess, I would say not many college students who major in math, go into sales. Of the 6.8M sales professionals on LinkedIn within the US, only 0.04% own up to studying math. (I can’t really comment on the salespeople not on LinkedIn.)

You might even go further and say that the skills that salespeople typically possess – relationship building, listening and understanding people’s emotional states – are somewhat opposite to the analytic more Vulcan-like math majors.

The good news is, you don’t need to learn differential equations to increase your sales odds. (You could start to increase your win rates by just using Spiro’s sales automation CRM).

In my last position before starting Spiro, I was managing the US P&L for Cloud Sherpas, and had a number of sales teams reporting to me. When one of our sales leaders went out on an 8 week maternity leave, I also managed her 7 sales reps directly. Two of the 7 were not doing well, so I was worried they weren’t going to hit their number and drag the whole team down.

Salespeople, Three Numbers to Check

Even though I studied philosophy, I know my way around a spreadsheet. I pulled some data from Salesforce to figure out what was going on with these reps. The data I focused on was:

  • Average deal size
  • Win rate
  • Opportunities created per week

(The data in the following example is not real, but indicative of the challenges.)

What I learned was that these sales reps had an average sale of about $20,000. With a $2M quota, they needed 100 deals just to meet their quota, never mind crushing it and becoming legendary salespeople. They knew how to work smarter.

Sales Reality Check!

Since they were winning about 45% of their proposals, the result was that each of them would need to deliver 222 proposals to win 100. That’s almost one per day for the entire year, including Christmas, the 4th of July and Memorial Day! We didn’t even bother calculating the number of leads that was required to achieve this. We needed to work smarter.

These reps were shocked when they saw the numbers in black and white in front of them.

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Finding a Solution

The nice thing about seeing these numbers on one page, is the solution seems obvious to everyone. Assuming we’d increase our win-rate didn’t seem like the right answer… and it certainly wasn’t something the sales guys were interested in betting their commission checks on.
The real answer was to sell bigger deals and to ruthlessly stop focusing on the small ones. Sure, they seemed easy to close, but they simply weren’t worth the effort. Together we agreed to only focus on opportunities worth $40,000 or higher, with a goal to increase the average to $50,000.

This brought the number of proposals per week required to just over 1.5, which was much more manageable.

Taking Numbers-Based Action

Now that we knew we needed to get those 1.5 proposals out per week, we had a clear metric to shoot for. Every Monday – and often Sunday night — these sales guys focused on driving prospects to proposals, and building the pipeline so they’d have future proposals to create.

Now we knew what we needed to do! We had a framework for our weekly approach.

The Results

By the time their manager had returned from her maternity leave, the team had a different story to tell. With the clarity that understanding the numbers brought to the situation, the two sales reps had turned their results around, and were reaching their quota! It was simply a change of understanding through looking at the numbers, making sense of it and taking focused action.

So it’s true that while sales reps don’t need to major in math or be able to memorize massive equations to be successful, they can gain great insight by understanding the metrics that directly apply to them. This allows you to work smarter on what matters, and not harder on what doesn’t.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Texas A&M University-Commerce Marketing Communications Photography.

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