At Symmetrics Group, we regularly meet highly successful sales professionals and have developed a "Top Performer" series that highlights what the best and brightest people do to thrive in their respective fields. Our Top Performers book profiles 15 people with proven records of sales success in order to uncover “success DNA” that separates them from the pack. Not surprisingly, we found some common DNA – or success markers -- across these Top Performers, one of which is the knack for knowing their “sales math” inside-out, top-down, backwards, and forwards.
Before launching into the math, we want to emphasize the importance of stepping back, regardless of your tenure, and assessing your own sales skill-set (your own sales DNA). What key skills do you feel still leave room for improvement? I have yet to meet the water-walker who requires NO help in any of their skill areas.
Some skill areas to consider are: Communication (written and verbal), listening, questioning, meeting prep, early phase selling/discovery, prospecting, presenting, solution design, managing sales objections, closing, relationship management, identifying decision makers, navigating layers of decision makers, account planning, business planning and opportunity identification.
We know this is a long list, but depending upon the complexity of your sales world, more or less of these skills may be applicable. It does illuminate the complex nature of the sales skill set and why this occupation is not for everyone, especially the faint-hearted.
Meet Johnny Van
Johnny Van is a legendary automotive sales professional in Buffalo, NY. His sales track-record is breathtaking and 100% referral based from his family of connections like me who can’t imagine buying a car from anyone else in Western NY. Johnny is a friend of my family – his family includes all of us who have ever purchased a car from him. I can’t make that up. Johnny has not taken a “cold lead” in so long he told us he could not even try to remember. I bought a 1986 forest green Ford Mustang from Johnny in 1989 and that was my genetic ticket to enter his family.
There is one success marker that Johnny Van and other top sales professionals all have in their DNA. They know the score and never lose sight of what it takes to succeed – mathematically. Unsuccessful sales professionals make their decisions on what to do next on “perceived exertion.” Meaning, if they feel they have worked hard in a given time period, they may choose to dial it down and not make the decision to dial it up or down based on math. This is a big mistake.
Know the Math -- Your Sales Math!
Johnny can tell you his closing percentages from May of 1989, if you want to know. He will tell you how many people he saw (opportunities), how many cars he sold (closing percentage) and how many new family member introductions he made (referrals). The car I bought from Johnny was a real gem in many ways, but the best part is it delivered me to Atlanta in 1990 and got me started in sales. Think things don’t happen for a reason? I bought a car from a legend and it took 20+ years to have it come full circle as I write this blog.
Your math is just that – your math. Sales professionals have to play the game with a scoreboard regardless of what they sell or how they sell it. Johnny does not play golf because it takes time away from his math. His hobby is his sales math and beating his own score month after month. Here are some common measures that appear in sales math:
- New prospects
- Prospecting attempts
- Prospect to meeting rate
- Sales meetings (face to face or telephone)
- New opportunities identified (quantified)
- Proposals submitted
- Average days in sales (sales opportunity aging)
- Closed business and closing percentage (win rate)
- New revenue from existing customers
- Customer retention percentage
Success is just math. People who hide from the math statistically succeed less than those who know the score. People hide for numerous reasons, but the brutal truth is that they know the score, it is bad, and they are in denial or banking on unicorns and the tooth fairy to deliver a great opportunity to save the month, week, quarter, or year. Get a new hobby – your sales math!
No Shortcuts to Success
This may sound like motivational literature or wall art for sales rooms, but it’s true. Johnny works harder than people just entering the business, and he has been in it for 40 years now. I am not making this up – he makes 10,000+ “happy birthday” calls a year to his family of people who have bought cars from him. He listens and wants to know how your life is and will know more about your real family when he calls than you do. Why? Because he listens well and is genuinely interested while working his tail off. If he works 6 days a week, that leaves 313 business days and 32 calls per day. But, we know 10,000 birthdays do not distribute evenly across the year in such a pretty fashion. Some days may have less and some days may have more. Yep, he makes these calls while selling more cars than anyone in Western NY. Hard work just never goes out of style.
Professional sales requires more work than most other professions but it almost always has higher earning potential than other roles in companies. Many sales managers watch their sales professionals make more than they do. You have to be willing to work really hard. Put the word MORE before all of these things in order to get a taste:
- Customer knowledge
- Product expertise
- Industry knowledge
- Opportunity identification
MORE New prospects
- Proposal writing
- Customer care and service
- Attention to your sales math
- Time in front of clients
MORE Time away from the family
- Late nights responding to clients after a long flight
- Understanding the customer
- Knowledge of the market and competition
- Collaborating with your sales leader
- Time thinking strategically how to win a big deal
Great sales professionals are never satisfied and know they are the boss of their own pay raise – daily! Johnny made me call him at 10:00 pm for the first interview we did. Why? Because he won’t do things like this when he could be selling a car or making a birthday call. He works his tail off – 40 years later.
Working Hard v. Working Smart
Please do not tell us – “I will work smart and not hard.” It is just not true. People who succeed do BOTH. They work smart and hard, and every time we investigate further, we see evidence of both elements. Luckily, unfocused and lazy never turn up in success DNA. Maybe once, but natural selection is the driving force in success DNA, too – survival of the fittest. If you disagree, just ride your unicorn off into the sunset and let me know how the tooth fairy is while you are at it.
Start your 2017 knowing your sales math and work hard. Watch how many things get better. You will understand where to focus your efforts and identify the skills you need to develop farther in the process. Next time, we will look closely at the key skills needed to read between the lines of the sales math and meet another top performer with great success DNA.