Sit in on any weekly sales meeting or pipeline review and you will hear the same question over and over: “What are you closing?” Nothing wrong with that question, especially if everyone is closing the right deals at sufficient levels. But given the fact that less than 60% of B2B reps hit quota, the above is not a safe assumption.
The real focus should be on the open, not the close. While I am not suggesting that the “What are you gonna close?” question should be dropped, I do think that it always needs to have a companion questions: “What are you gonna open?” Add to that if your close ratio is 4 to 1, you should ask the “gonna open” four times for every time you ask “gonna close” question.
While many will attribute their missing to a number of factors, it really comes down to two simple things. They either can’t sell, meaning they have more than enough engaged prospects, they just can’t close them; or they can sell just fine, but do not have enough prospects to take through the process. The former is easy to deal with, fire them, do fast, then hire slow, make sure the next sales person you hire can both sell and prospect.
If the issue is the latter which is more often the case, then the solution is creating a culture of prospecting. I regularly get reps telling “get me in front of the right prospect, and I can close them”, and it is usually the case, meaning they can’t prospect. Fortunately this is something you can fix, and continuously improve.
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While many in sales like looking at the close, as we have discussed before, the close itself is a Lagging Indicator. Winning in sales is about managing and improving Leading Indicators, meaning activities that are executed early in the sales that determine the outcome, rather than dealing with the outcome after the fact.
The first step is knowing your conversion rates from one stage of the sale to the next. With that you will not only be in a position to plan and control your selling, but understand how many prospects you need to succeed, with that number in hand you are in control. Let’s look at a simple example, if you have a 4 to 1 handshake to close ratio, and you need 4 sales a month, it is clear that you need 16 prospects a month to interact with. It doesn’t matter how you get them, let’s not get side tracked. You can use referrals, cold calling, social selling, or smoke signals, the fact remains you need to shake 16 hands to meet your quota. If you get 16 or more, you are in control, you have options.
Any less than that, you are in trouble, you either need to instantly improve the way you sell to make your close better than 4 to 1, or begin praying to a better sales god. If you only engage with 12 prospects, you will be reluctant to get rid of prospects who do not qualify, or resort to concessions, or any number of desperate measure to try and scratch out your quota; continuously increasing the pressure on yourself in the process.
While selling and sales tools continue to evolve, the math does not, the choice is yours, while improving selling is a good option, improving how you sell and close as well as how you open will give you more options and more success.