It is important for sales leaders to understand that, when pursuing a deal, the contest isn’t between their company and their competitor’s company. Nor is the contest between their solution and their competition’s product or service. Instead, it’s a contest between the salespeople trying to win the client’s business. A salesperson with greater sales effectiveness will beat a salesperson with a lower level of effectiveness. Failing to understand this is one reason why sales organizations lose deals to their rivals.
Sales leaders hire salespeople with experience, believing they know how to sell effectively. Only after they hire the salesperson do they discover the person’s effectiveness. Most sales organizations treat training as something they provide at their annual kickoff meeting or when their human resources department needs them to check a box about professional development. However, most sales organizations would have an easier time reaching their goals by increasing their team’s sales effectiveness—and training is the best way to achieve that.
How to Measure Sales Effectiveness
The easiest way to measure an individual’s sales effectiveness is by looking at their win rate. All things being equal, the salesperson with a high win rate is more effective than one with a lower win rate. By “all things being equal,” I mean the salespeople you are comparing work for the same company, call on similar clients, face the same competitors, and sell the same thing. The only remaining variable is the individual salesperson.
“The sales leader who insists that their salespeople have a pipeline that is five times their goal does so because they recognize their sales force lacks the effectiveness needed to hit their targets.”
One of the primary challenges of sales leadership is the variability in sales effectiveness across salespeople. Some salespeople are highly effective, while others are not nearly so. The sales leader who insists that their salespeople have a pipeline that is five times their goal does so because they recognize their sales force lacks the effectiveness needed to hit their targets. For these sales leaders, it seems easier to demand more deals than to help their team get better at winning. They accept the variability of sales effectiveness, doing nothing to improve it so their team is more certain to reach their goals. Instead of better results, these sales leaders’ pipelines full of records are not real deals, and they get poor results that stem from their unwillingness to improve their team.
The Elements of Sales Effectiveness
When we look at the variability of sales effectiveness, there are several elements that provide more than a hint as to why some salespeople win at a rate higher than their peers. One of the first things you will notice about highly effective salespeople is that their clients feel the sales conversation was valuable. An indicator is that the client likely says something like, “That was worth the time” or “That was helpful.”
When salespeople are saddled with a legacy approach or lack the knowledge to create value inside the sales conversation, their contacts seek another conversation with a salesperson from a different company. Recently, several highly effective salespeople have shared that they have improved their results by secretly eliminating the legacy approach. To increase their effectiveness, they have dropped the “Why us” spiel and the many slides they are supposed to use to open the first meeting.
“…but they will be disappointed to find that the more effective salespeople win a greater number of their opportunities—regardless of what approach is prescribed.”
Despite how critical it is to their results, few sales leaders recognize the importance of creating value in the sales conversation. The salesperson who wins a deal has created a preference to buy from them. Sales leaders may attempt to reduce variability by insisting that each salesperson follow the same process, but they will be disappointed to find that the more effective salespeople win a greater number of their opportunities—regardless of what approach is prescribed.
To be fair, some salespeople have a natural advantage others lack. You can call it charisma, personality, likability, or some combination of these factors. You are unlikely to have a full sales force made up of people with these innate advantages, so must look elsewhere for ways to increase your team’s sales effectiveness.
Sales Effectiveness and Nature of Being One-Up
You can level out the variability of individual performance by focusing on the central concept from Elite Sales Strategies: A Guide to Being One-Up, Creating Value, and Becoming Truly Consultative: being One-Up. A salesperson is One-Up when they have greater knowledge and experience than their clients. A One-Up salesperson can use this information disparity to serve their clients by helping them with the decisions they need to make and ensuring their success.
To create greater value in the sales conversation, your sales force will need to have strong business acumen and a deep understanding of why their clients struggle to produce the results they want. Effective salespeople also need to know how to help their clients understand what has changed outside their window, and what impact it has on their results. By removing and replacing the client’s long-held beliefs, the salesperson initiates a paradigm shift that creates new potential and helps the client break from the past. These important outcomes can be taught, trained, and developed.
The Value of Sales Effectiveness
The salesperson who wins 20 percent of their deals would need only half as many deals if they could increase their effectiveness to 40 percent. The salesperson that wins at 40 percent and improves to 50 percent makes it easier and more certain you, as a leader, will reach your goals.
The most important initiative sales leaders should pursue is sales effectiveness. It should be an ongoing and perennial focus. Companies who repeat the same year do so because they haven’t improved in this one area.
Moving into 2023, the best thing you can do for your team is to improve their effectiveness. The only way you reach your goals is for each individual to hit their targets. The reason the best improve is because they teach, train, coach, and develop their teams.