Focusing on the Wrong End of the Sale!

I find that many companies I work with are looking at the wrong end of the sale. The first place they look is at the sales line on their income statement. There they conclude that it should have been bigger. Next, they break that down to find out which salesperson is not pulling their weight. They look at closing ratios, number of opportunities, and probability of closing those deals for some sign of a turn-around. They then start concluding that perhaps they need bigger deals or to shorten the length of sales cycle. They throw training at how to handle sales calls, make better pitches, and how to use better closing techniques.

While these are all logical solutions, we have found that many companies are trying to solve the wrong problems. There are three areas that require serious focus in most organizations, and when those are addressed, growth rates will soar.

The first measure to monitor is the percentage of your people in sales that consistently meet quota (yes, you need to have a quota). Until that figure is over 95%, they (bottom line, you) are not doing well enough. When you have reached that milestone, consistently raise your quotas to where you are well above the competition in terms of expectations, but not beyond what is realistically achievable. You must, after all, be able to deliver and properly service what you sell.

There needs to be more focus on becoming best in the world at finding, selecting, ramping up, and keeping top performing salespeople. If you are not good at this, you’d better hire someone into your organization or a consultant that can help you master this skill. Without great people you will continue to lose and miss many of the sales you deserve. Research says that on average, companies are losing up to 70% of their possible revenue because they have the wrong people working for them. Compound this over time and ask yourself if it is worth your time and investment to figure this out.

Second, a company needs to focus on how many new opportunities and leads are generated by its salespeople on a daily and weekly basis. This is the part of the sales cycle that most salespeople enjoy the least and will avoid if they are not held accountable. They can even make it look like they’re doing it if you are not careful. For example, if they can make 50 to 100 calls a day, how many of those calls are to the same people over and over again? How many of those calls are mishandled? How many of those calls are not done with the right energy? How many are not directed to the right level in the organization? How many calls are the salespeople making to new prospects? How many are they making to leads generated by the company? What percentage of those calls are getting caught by the prospect’s “gatekeeper”?  The more opportunities you have coming in the front door, the more deals you will having coming out the other end. It is simple math. Measure the entries to the front door, and you should not have to worry about the back door.

Third, be strategic about marketing. Companies throw away marketing dollars because they do not think about where their clients look to determine who to call. It is not always the Internet first. For example, I was speaking with David Janssen, CEO of Miner Corporation ( He hired Bob Flecken as his Director of Service Sales and Marketing. Bob quickly figured out that when a piece of equipment broke down, prospects typically looked on their equipment to see who to call. So they identified all the prospects in their target market and asked permission to put fresh stickers on their equipment. This was presented to the target companies as a free benefit because sticker numbers could fade with light and age. What Bob’s team did when he went into these prospects was to put stickers on all their equipment, including those sold by the competitors. This investment on the front end to get stickers on the equipment has caused a surge in new leads for the company.

What you can see from all three points is that none of these ideas are things that people would find fun to do. They are not easy to do. Who would want to spend most of their time doing these activities? How gratifying will it be to know that you got 100 stickers placed today? However, they are the most important, and those that put the time in will have the best results. Putting more emphasis on getting people to focus on the less sexy, harder-to-do, and less gratifying front-end work will cause your growth rate to soar.

Howard Shore is a business growth expert who works with companies and people that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To learn more about him or his firm please contact Howard Shore at 305.722.7213 or