Let’s face it: selling is complicated. Think about it for a moment. What does it take for your business to sell successfully? By “sell successfully” I mean that your business is able to sell enough of whatever it is that you provide to meet your organization’s goals and objectives. The list of those objectives, were you to list them all, would be overwhelming. Among many things, it might include: excellent product/service, successful salespeople, effective training, outstanding customer service, effective advertising, good PR, positive word of mouth, a supportive economy, knowledge of what your competitors are doing, and on and on.
When looked at from this perspective, it is no wonder that so few companies take a scientific approach to selling – there is just too much to monitor. It is also no wonder that companies are having a more difficult time than ever achieving and sustaining the growth rates they desire, let alone achieving margin growth. For most companies (and for most salespeople), selling has become too complicated.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Sure, there is a lot that goes into successful selling, but the reality is that there are very few things (in many cases only one thing) that really determine whether or not a profitable sale will take place. These activities, gates or issues are what we collectively refer to as What Causes Sales. If you are like most organizations we work with, you are looking for ways to streamline your organization and simplify things.
THE FOCUS BELONGS ON WHAT CAUSES SALES
Make a list of everything you or your company does that leads to sales. Go ahead, get a piece of paper and start writing down everything that comes to mind. No, don’t read further until you’ve done this. Completing this exercise will save you hundreds of hours of time and frustration; failing to complete this list will cost you hundreds of hours of time and dollars.
Do you have your list completed? Now, go through that list and cross out anything that does not directly cause a sale to be completed. This should dramatically reduce the list of options you are considering. Now go through this list and determine the one item that has the most direct cause-effect relationship with completing a sale.
IMPORTANT NOTE: DO NOT CONFUSE PROXIMITY WITH CAUSALITY
For years, salespeople have made the mistake of over-focusing on “closing skills” as the most important determinant of sales success. Because asking for the sale comes just before getting the sale, they confuse proximity with cause. The ask is not the same as the creation of a significant need, as an example of a cause that produces sales. In pursuit of discovering what causes sales, sales professionals measure how many times they had to ask for the sale to be successful. I know a sales trainer who says that if a salesperson hasn’t asked for the sale at least eight times (I repeat, at least eight times), the salesperson has no right to expect a sale. Don’t make this mistake.
WHAT GETS MEASURED GETS DONE
There is an old rule that says what you measure, gets done. If you choose to measure the number of meetings your salespeople have, they will begin having more meetings. This is good if more meetings are the cause of increased sales, but it is useless if it is not the cause. If you measure proposals going out, more proposals will go out. If you measure referrals attained, your people will get more referrals. If you measure calls coming in, more calls will come in. The key is to make sure that what you are measuring is actually the cause of sales for your company.
Finding that one thing that causes sales is typically very difficult, especially for entrepreneurs and executives who are so used to watching a myriad of factors. As a matter of fact, this concept seems so simple to some people that they find it difficult to trust the concept.
As you isolate the causes of your sales (preferably one, but no more than three) and you begin monitoring and measuring those issues, you will have found the most leverageable activity in managing your pipeline. The key – again – is to make sure that you are measuring what actually causes sales.