The data shows that salespeople are not doing well. A search for something like “quota attainment” reveals that a large part of the sales population is missing their target. Sales cycles are growing longer, while more opportunities stall as clients disengage. New—and young—salespeople are leaving their sales roles sooner than ever. Every week, we hear from sales leaders and sales managers who complain about how their teams are unable to get a second meeting, an indication something is amiss.
Whether you are a sales leader, a sales manager, or a salesperson, your number-one priority must be improving your effectiveness. There are quite a few outcomes a salesperson has to deliver to create and win new opportunities. Different salespeople will have high effectiveness levels achieving some of these outcomes, while others will have challenges with those same outcomes.
Although no job description for a B2B salesperson would look quite like the following list. This is a partial list of outcomes a salesperson should be required to produce:
- Scheduling a first meeting
- Converting the first meeting into a second meeting
- Proving they are credible and capable of helping the client improve their results
- Using business acumen to create value for the client in the sales conversation
- Gaining commitments and controlling the process
- Providing counsel, advice, and recommendations
- Helping the client recognize the need to change and commit to pursuing better results
- Explaining the root cause of the client's poor result
- Acquiring the necessary stakeholders and building consensus
- Resolving the client's concerns
- Developing the plan for changes that would improve the client's results
- Leading the client
- Negotiating contracts
- Ensuring the client makes the right investment
- Deliver their quota
One salesperson may be exceptionally good at booking first meetings, only to struggle to acquire a second meeting. A salesperson who is credible and One-Up—one who has knowledge and experience the client doesn't possess—easily acquires a second meeting. Any of the outcomes on this list can be incredibly difficult to produce, and there is massive variability from one salesperson to the next, as well as one sales organization to the next.
Metrics for Sales Effectiveness
Long-time readers know that we break sales down into two major outcomes. The first outcome we describe as opportunity creation. The second outcome we call opportunity capture. Every outcome on the list above except for one falls into one of these two categories. The exception is delivering their quota, which is the cumulative result of effectiveness in all other outcomes.
But how can you determine how effective a salesperson is when it comes to these outcomes? These are the only metrics you’ll ever need to measure sales effectiveness:
- Win rate: The easiest way to assess a salesperson's effectiveness is to look at their win rate. Win rate relates to the opportunity-capture category of outcomes. The greater the win rate, the more effective the salesperson is likely to be (at least in their current role). The lower the win rate, the more likely it is that the salesperson lacks effectiveness (at least in their current role).
- Quota attainment: Quota attainment complements win rate because it relates to opportunity creation. For example, it's possible for a salesperson to have an 82% win rate and still miss their goals. Quota attainment requires the salesperson to create enough opportunities to hit their targets.
If you could only choose one metric to track, quota attainment would be the best choice. The win rate is worth including because it often varies substantially from salesperson to salesperson, team to team. If win rates are too low, you are not going to hit your goals. It means you are wasting the opportunities you and your team create.
Has Your Effectiveness Improved?
If you are a sales leader or sales manager, here is a question: Has your team increased their win rate and quota attainment? Assessing your progress or backslide will provide you with insights about what you might need to change to improve the sales force's effectiveness, individually and collectively.
Those who are not keeping pace with changes in the environment will continue to fall behind. The legacy approaches have already lost their effectiveness and fail to give decision makers and their stakeholders what they need from a salesperson.
Most individuals treat sales as a job. This is a huge mistake because sales is a craft. It's a set of skills that can be learned, improved, and mastered over time. Treating sales as a job prevents greater effectiveness because it causes the salesperson to simply go through the motions. Those who wish to improve their effectiveness have little trouble finding the resources they need to improve over time.
Effectiveness and Incremental Transformational Change
The craft of selling is very much like woodworking or painting, both of which require mastering a set of tools. In sales, the tool of our craft is a set of conversations that result in the listed outcomes that don't show up on any sales job description.
The only way to improve your sales results is to master the conversations that create and win new deals, new logos, and net new revenue. To do this, you need to be able to produce the outcomes in our earlier list. Training and coaching may enable effectiveness. More important are the behavioral changes the salesperson must make to increase their effectiveness and improve the outcomes that they haven't yet mastered.
Effectiveness requires incremental, transformational change. It isn't an overnight process, even though some of the outcomes that improve it can be acquired in a month or a quarter. In most sales organizations, an increase in overall effectiveness can be acquired in a couple of years, but only if sales leaders, sales managers, and salespeople commit to focusing on their craft.
You should not worry about how long it will take you to improve your effectiveness; you should continually work to improve your results and your effectiveness. This is a forever project. As far as I have been to discern, no human being or organization has reached their full potential.
The best decision is to make effectiveness your number-one, ongoing initiative. Nothing will improve your results more than improving your sales effectiveness.