Discover why chasing higher activity in sales often misses the mark and learn the strategic approach that truly elevates your team’s success.
When someone suggests sales is a numbers game, you can be certain the person is confused about how selling works. If all that was necessary was more activity, every salesperson would easily hit their targets.
Sales leaders have one of two beliefs about sales. One group believes succeeding is the result of intentions, planning, and being effective enough to win enough deals. The second group believes sales is a lottery, and more tickets result in more win deals. This second belief is a major reason why salespeople fail to reach their goals, even though they have more than prescribed coverage.
The First Misunderstanding
There is nothing wrong with requiring your team to have two times their quota, but as the requirement grows ever larger, your team will find every contact with a heartbeat and an email address. If someone is willing to accept a meeting and works at a company name that seems legitimate enough to be real, they will be entered into your CRM as an opportunity.
As the quality of your supposed opportunities declines, you are not creating greater coverage and certainty, but low-probability deals. Weak opportunities do nothing to help you achieve your goals. In fact, having a pipeline full of unlikely deals can harm your sales results, leading to the second misunderstanding.
The Second Misunderstanding
Let’s explore how B2B sales work. You want your team to pursue the opportunities they create, but they have only so much time. Is it better for them to spend time on the high-probability clients that will provide net new revenue, or to spend time chasing low-probability non-opportunities?
No sales manager can disagree with the idea that there are twin priorities: creating and pursuing opportunities with the highest probability of being won. Have you looked at the time it takes to create opportunities, especially in the era we will come to describe as the Apocalypse of Cold Outreach? The activity numbers continue to grow larger, while win rates and quota attainment decline.
The Third Misunderstanding
You should be skeptical of numbers you see about win rates. They only make sense when you consider the large numbers of deals in the pipeline, which are often there merely for pipeline coverage. Let’s explore sales math.
A salesperson has created 10 high-probability opportunities. Because the salesperson’s manager is of the belief that B2B is a lottery, the salesperson is required to add 20 additional opportunities. Now, let’s see how the salesperson did at the end of the period.
The salesperson won six of the high-probability deals and two of the low-probability, low-revenue deals. That’s 60 percent of their high-probability deals and 10 percent of the low-probability deals, which combined create too little revenue to make a difference.
The salesperson’s win rate overall is 26.67 percent, which is low. With that win rate, you might now believe your salesperson needs 4X to hit their goals. But what if you were to remove the low-probability deals that the salesperson didn’t win that were only there for coverage? Were you to look at only the high-probability deals, the salesperson’s win rate is 60%, an excellent win rate and double the 26.67 percent.
Why wouldn’t you require this salesperson to have 8 more high-probability opportunities instead of 20 low-probability opportunities? Take the 10 high-probability deals and add 6 more and multiply it by 0.6 (the win rate) and you have 13.6 wins. The truth is that this salesperson could hit their quota by winning the original 10 deals.
When win rates are based on bloated pipelines, they are certain to underestimate the true win rates your team and salespeople are capable of. Understanding this may help you better manage your pipeline and improve your sales results.
The Fourth Misunderstanding
Let me ask you a question: Do you want your team to qualify its prospective clients? How much time do you spend examining the deals that flood into your pipeline to ensure the deal is worth the salesperson’s time and effort? Most of what shows up are fool’s errands.
There may be a reason to ask a sales rep to create many opportunities because they are new and need to learn how to create value for their prospective clients. But outside of circumstances you can’t control, you should use real numbers to determine how much coverage one needs.
The Fifth Misunderstanding
The fifth misunderstanding is that it is safer to increase your coverage instead of increasing your sales force’s effectiveness. In reality, the opposite is true. All the low-probability deals you lose don’t help you reach your goal, so they should undermine your certainty in the numbers game.
When your salesperson has been selling for nine years, you want them to have developed in such a way that their win rates have increased every year. What you would not want is someone with the same win rate year after year.
Redefining the Sales Numbers Game: Why More Isn’t Always Better for Sales Managers
We need to redefine the sales numbers game. If this approach worked in B2B sales, many sales managers would have an easier time hitting their sales goals and other sales objectives. It is also true that your sales force has limited time to reach their goals, and it takes more time than most think to create and pursue deals that don’t deserve the time or energy.
You would do well to look at individual win rates and coverage, instead of treating effective and ineffective salespeople the same. Focusing on real win rates will improve your ability to help your team reach their goals. But what is even more important is to increase your sales team’s effectiveness. Yes, it is more difficult than adding additional opportunities, but it is also the most important initiative for every sales leader.
If you take nothing more away from this article, please calculate your team’s real win rates. What you learn here can help you succeed in sales management and recognize what each salesperson needs to increase their win rates over time.