Successful selling requires a number of things happening in concert. You need an excellent offering, strong 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 more. It is no wonder 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 tougher time achieving and sustaining the growth rates they desire, let alone achieving margin growth. Selling has become too complicated.
It shouldn’t 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 just one thing) that really determine whether or not a profitable sale will take place. These activities are what I refer to as What Causes Sales.
Want to begin to figure out what causes your sales? Then make a list of everything you and your company do 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 lost time and frustration; failing to complete it will cost you thousands of dollars and many lost hours. The choice is obviously yours.
When you have your list completed, go through it and cross out anything that is not a direct cause of a sale to be completed. This should reduce the list of options you are considering substantially. At my company, target companies answering the question, "What are your biggest barriers to growth," is what causes sales.
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, proximity in time was confused with cause. This misunderstanding led to many bad ideas and lots of book sales. 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.
ANOTHER IMPORTANT NOTE: WHAT GETS MEASURED GETS DONE
There is an old business axiom that says, “what’s measured, 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 useless, or worse, if they aren’t. If you measure proposals going out, more proposals will go out. If you measure referrals, 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 the one thing that causes sales is typically very difficult, especially for entrepreneurs and executives who are so used to monitoring 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. But as you isolate the causes of your sales (preferably one, but no more than three) and begin tracking and measuring those issues, the activities that provide the most leverage in managing your pipeline will start to emerge and become clear. The key – again – is to make sure that you are measuring what actually causes sales. If you or your team needs help working through this exercise, send me an email with your questions and I’ll get back to you right away.
Until next time, Doug