“Hips Don’t Lie” so says Colombian singer-songwriter Shakira; and in sales numbers don’t lie, either. Indeed, ‘sales is a game of numbers’ isn’t a cliché-it’s a fact. And numbers don’t lie. In fact, I remember a senior human resource manager, while preparing appraisals for the different departments in her organization, wished that she could make all the of them as clear cut as those of her sales people. Indeed, it is difficult to argue with sales targets of 40 funded accounts per month. Or 20 million shillings in new business every quarter. Or 5 pair of shoes a week. Even an astute lawyer would struggle to make these sales figures (statistics) ambiguous.
Sales is a numbers game
Is sales just a numbers game? Yes! And sales numbers don’t lie. The numbers game doesn’t start with selling; it starts with the recruitment. The introduction to sales is usually exciting. “You make as much as you want” and “You work your own hours” are exciting to hear. And yet, it is perfectly normal to interview 10 potential sales people and recruit none. Depending on your industry, it is not earth shattering to start with 10 salespeople and end the year with one. Good sales people are few and far between. Perhaps this would explain why that, arguably, the highest turnover in most institutions is to be found in the sales department. This could manifest itself through very interesting ways.
Being a field job, here is someone who is “advertising” himself with every presentation he makes; halfway through one, a potential employer, seeing a live presentation of what he’d want, decides to cut his recruitment losses and simply poach the fellow. Another way in which this could occur is by natural attrition. This latter method is the more common one.
The green horn sales person, oozing vim and vigour unleashes himself to the world. The intense heat and several rejections later, his self esteem suffers a debilitating blow; the energy starts waning and soon enough he is looking for the exit signs. Then of course there is the attrition based on performance-or rather the lack of it. When even 10% of 20 million in new business is not being realized three quarters later, yet the rest of the team is on 110%, it’s a no-brainer what follows. Such is the history of sales and any sales essay worth its salt would have numbers as all about sales.
Sales numbers meaning don’t lie
In the profession itself, every step of the sales cycle is an exercise in the numbers game. While prospecting, all contacts (leads) that come the salesperson’s way are suspects he must sift through and generate prospects. Meaning, not all of them need, and can buy, his product. And so in the process, 30 suspects may leave 6 prospects. This is one of the laws in sales prospecting. Every prospect is a suspect until qualified otherwise.
Even with the right prospect in hand, not all will give you an appointment. And so the from the 6, 4 may agree to see you and your numbers dwindle even further. It doesn’t end there. Not every prospect you come across can or will buy from you. Even if you have exactly what they want, they may just not like you! And so the game of numbers continues and from the 4 you present to, only 1 buys. From the 30 you started with ONE buys. Few people can live with such dim conversions; but then again, successful salespeople are a chosen few. The numbers game is not a 90 minute football match; as this column has asserted before, sales is not a destination, it’s a process. All is not lost simply because from 30, one bought. Absolutely not! Prospecting is a numbers game after all. And these sales prospecting metrics serve a critical purpose to sales success.
How to use sales numbers
The progressive salesperson strives to play the game of numbers to his advantage. The progressive salesperson keeps a database and submits (truthful) reports. He records and analysis the numbers with a view to narrowing the margin of how many prospects to make a sale. That is those he converts from suspects to prospects and those from prospects to buyers, and those from buyer to repeat buyers and so on. And this brings another challenge- to win in the game of numbers keeping, tracking and analyzing records is an integral part of the success. As a renowned CEO is wont to saying, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it?!” That’s a great sales numbers game quote. Part of managing this process is knowing that sales, not being a destination, today’s suspect may be tomorrow’s prospect and today’s miss could be tomorrow’s close.
Numbers don’t lie. The effective sales manager instinctively knows this about the recruitment process and is always on the lookout to replenish his pool. The progressive salesperson also knows that sales is a game of numbers and regularly manages his conversions by measuring them.
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