It is often said that sales is a “numbers game.” Although this is true on one level, it does not clarify how to improve one’s sales performance. We must dig deeper.
The numbers game is described simply: you just need to see more people. In most cases, this is accurate; very few sales professionals see enough prospects. The challenge with this view is that it can be very discouraging. If one’s closing percentage is too low, it could take an impossible number of contacts to reach an acceptable level of production. To tell a salesperson, “Just go see more people!” tends to discourage more sales people than encourage. This is demonstrated by the number of sales people who fail to see enough prospects. The better solution is to promote the mathematical formula of success expecting that, if we understand the formula, we will gain the perspective that allows us to move forward.
(Skill x Action) x Urgency = Results
This formula gives us more perspective on how to improve our results. When our skills of closing or ability to connect with the right prospects are lacking, no amount of effort will make us successful. Equally true is the fact that no amount of skill will make up for lack of action. The two work together to create the results we want and the way to maximize them is to create urgency. Now let’s take a closer look at each of these items.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines skill as, “the ability to use one’s knowledge effectively and readily in execution or performance.” Sales skills are like any other skill; they can be developed by purposeful effort. As the musician can improve his/her ability to play difficult arrangements or the golfer can improve his/her ability to putt, the sales professional can improve ability in each of the sales skills. Interestingly, the musician or golfer, when he doesn’t get the results he wants, knows instinctively that he needs to improve his skill level and will, therefore, practice intensely to develop the needed skill.
The sales person, however, will often come to a different conclusion if his strategy didn’t work. Once he has come to this conclusion, he moves on to the next strategy, rather than developing the skill he needs to make the first strategy work. This leads to a continuous search for the right strategy rather than the development of the correct skill set. Though that a good strategy is important, I believe it is impossible to measure the effectiveness of a strategy until it is executed with an acceptable level of skill. We tend to move from one strategy to the next so quickly we never develop the needed skill.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines act as, “the doing of a thing.” The acts of selling are the steps we take to reach our desired result. The better these steps are planned and the more often they are done, will increase our results within the limitations of our skill. The most common actions that a salesman needs to take are: 1. Prospecting, 2. Relationship Building, and 3. Presenting and Closing.
The result of the two variables Skill and Action, are multiplied by the state that we are in at the time we are executing them. According to John Kotter, the author of A Sense of Urgency, we all operate in one of three mental states: 1. Complacency, 2. False Urgency, or 3. Urgency. Mr. Kotter maintains that complacency exists when we feel that we have it figured out and, thus, don’t have a lot to learn or change. This feeling traditionally comes when companies or people have experienced success and can lead to the possibility of losing their competitive advantage.
False Urgency is the state of fear that bad things are going to happen and we act out of panic or depression when in this state. While complacency comes from experiencing success, false urgency comes from a person or company experiencing loses. True urgency comes when a company or individual sees opportunities that excite them, it is in this positive and optimistic state that we multiply our skills and actions, creating results that seem to be greater than the effort put in.
The greatest change in results comes when we maximize our skill development and actions by the positive energy of true urgency. Thus, the greatest change we can effect is through the elimination of complacency and false urgency and the creation of true urgency. When we do this the results we create are both larger and quicker than we expect.