When I was ten years old I failed a math test. Actually, I always failed math tests, but what made this instance unique was that I had actually studied. I went to my teacher and explained. “I have no idea how I did so badly on this test. I studied for twenty hours. I must have read chapter eight, ten times.” The teacher shook her head and said. “The test was over chapter nine.”
In life, it is not how hard we work that makes us success, but rather, how much time we spend, engaged in those activities that bring us closer to our desired result, which make us successful.
We all agree that hard work is necessary for success in sales but consistency and focus are also important. You could work 100 hours per week and earn nothing if you are working at the wrong tasks. Many salespeople who are failing will draw a line in the sand and say, “After this, I am not going home. I won’t see my family. I will work a million hours per week, and not stop till I’ve made it.” They become a stranger to their family, get fat, and give up all the things that make life living. But, in the end they don’t make anymore money than before. These people will eventually quit the sales profession, and walk away shaking their heads. “What does it take to make it?” They wonder.
The reason these salespeople can’t get their careers going, and the reason other salespeople can’t seem to make it to the next level, is because they don’t know what to do to make more money.
The key to increasing your sales revenues is to take stock of all of your activity. Increase those activities which generate income, and decrease or eliminate those that do not. People who fail in the business will often find that they just haven’t put in the hours. But for otherwise successful salespeople, who are trying to take it to the next level, the problem is normally that they need to reapportion the hours they work. Time is like money, you need to spend it wisely. Once you have a good program in place, once you are working smarter, you may even find that you can work less hours, but still increase your income.
To find the areas where you need to improve, you need to analyze your sales activity. To do this, of course you must first keep an active record of your activity. There is an entire science devoted to the documentation and tracking of sales activity. But briefly, keep a written record of the following items.
1. Calls: Calls made, people reached, appointments made (or sales made if you sell on the phone).
2. Appointments made, appointments kept
3. Deals closed
4. Deals that stick (sometimes we close the deal but the client cancels the sale or, in the case of insurance, or credit products, the company may cancel the sale because the customer is deemed unqualified.)
5. Commissions earned
Obviously if your prospecting method includes sending direct mail, networking, knocking on doors, you would track these activities in the same way as you track phone calls.
Your tracking should be done as accurately as possible. Obviously it should be done in writing, with activity recorded on a per day basis. You should also calculate monthly, quarterly, and annual totals. Keep calling sheets next to you while you are on the phone and write down the result of each call as you go. Many salespeople use symbols such an X for hang up, or P for pitched, or an N for no answer. Carry a notebook and record the outcome of each face to face meeting.
RECORD EVERYTHING! Acts of God, natural disasters, wars, pestilence, out of body experiences and space aliens can often interfere with your sales. Record them. No matter how unusual the event which decreased your activity in a given time period, you must record it. You will also have lucky streaks and windfalls, which pump your numbers up. In the end it will all average out. And remember, you should base all of your decisions on your average day, week, month or year, not your best or worst.
Once you have calculated your activity averages for a period of a week, a month, or longer, then we can apply a basic analysis to see where you need to apply more energy.
a. If your total call volume is low, you simply need to make more calls.
b. If your call volume is high, but your “decision makers reached” is low, then making more calls won’t help. Maybe you need to improve your phone technique, if you are not getting past the gatekeepers. Or, you may need to change the day or time of day that you are calling this particular market segment. For example, if you sell to restaurants, don’t call during meal time. If you are selling to stockbrokers, don’t call while the market is open. Doctors are often swamped on Mondays, so shift your calling to Tuesday. Retailers get their deliveries in the early morning, so this might not be the best time to call them.
a. If your appointments made is low, but your “decision makers reached” is high, then you need to improve your phone technique.
b. If your appointments made is high, but your appointments kept is low, then you need to make sure you are closing the appointment on the phone. Make sure the prospect knows you are coming in for an appointment, not just stopping by to drop off literature. Make sure he or she knows that your time is valuable, and this appointment is just like any other business appointment and it needs to be kept.
c. Many sales people are taught “never take no for an answer.” They are taught to hang on and hang on, fighting for the appointment, no matter how many times the customer says “no.” The danger with this strategy is that the customer may say “yes” to an appointment just to get you off the phone, but in reality, he or she has no interest in seeing you, and the appointment will not stick.
3. If your appointments kept is high, but your closes are low, you need to work on closing technique.
4. If your deals closed is high, but your cancellations are high you need to do one of two things. If the customers are being rejected by your firm, then you need to do a better job of prescreening or pre-qualifying the customer. We all want to make sales. But it is a waste of time to close an unqualified customer. If you see that the client is poor, or will be overburdened with payments, obviously, your credit department will kill the sale. If the sales aren’t sticking because the clients are canceling, then you need to improve your closing skills. Make sure the deal is really closed before you leave. Create a sense of need and urgency in the client, so he wouldn’t even dream of canceling. Also, don’t “hit them over the head to make the sale.” Once again, we don’t want to take no for an answer, but if the customer is only buying to get rid of us, they will cancel the sale as soon as we leave the office. REMEMBER, all buyers go through buyer’s remorse. Your job, as a sales therapist, is to prevent the syndrome from setting in and to help the client through it when it hits. If not, you will lose the sale.
5. Commissions earned: If all of your other activity numbers are high, but your average commission is low, this means that you need to increase the size of your sale. If you are selling high involvement, high price products like cars or houses, you may want to focus on a higher income prospect base, and sell them the higher priced products. If you are selling low involvement, low priced products, then you will need to become a master of rehash, this means once you have closed for one item, say a shirt, then try to sell the customer the matching pants. After the pants, you will want to go the shoes, the tie, the jewelry, and finally, the second outfit. You keep rehashing until the client cannot or will not buy anything else.
The Steps to achieving success through sales activity analysis
1. Track your activity
2. Analyze your activity
3. Increase your activity in those areas that need it.
You may find that by improving your phone technique, you can make more appointments with less phone calls made, and so you can work less hours per week. If you improve your closing ratio, you can go on less appointments. If you increase you appointments kept, you can decrease your time consuming wild goose chases, where the client stands you up. And if you increase your average commissions, you may be able to decrease the number of sales made, and still make more money.
In sales it isn’t about how hard you worked to get there. It is only about getting there. Focus your energy on making the most money with the least wasted energy.