Quantify III: The Problem with Panaceas

Two posts over the last two days have generated some interesting comments and feedback. The first was a post titled Quantify Yourself. This post explained that sales is not a numbers game and suggested that you quantify your own personal sales metrics as way to understanding what you might need to improve to improve your sales results.

I stand by my assertion: sales is not a numbers game. It is far too difficult, far too complex, and far too important an activity for it to be treated as a simple game of numbers (at least in the world of B2B sales where I reside). The comments that were critical of my quantification post fell into one of two categories.

Group One: Activity is Everything

The first category of criticism were those who read my original post as suggesting that less activity leads to greater sales. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have never implied that less is more, because I don’t believe it. I will defend the idea that less is not more, but more is not more either. Better is always more.

As is my wont, I wrote a longer response to the original post titled Quantify Yourself II: The Return of Activity over Effectiveness. Alan Timothy made some great points about activity on another forum, and he was kind enough to post them here. Alan’s company, i-snapshot.com, has data that prove out that where activity is the problem, increasing activity does improve results.

Group Two: Quality is Everything

The second category of criticism were those who read the original post and came to the opposite conclusion, namely, that I was suggesting that one needs to simply increase their activity to improve their sales results. This group felt as though I was discounting the complexity of B2B sales, suggesting that more multimillion dollar deals could be made by simply making more calls.

No where in my original post did I suggest that a salesperson should do more of anything (other than tracking their metrics and spending time figuring out how to improve them).

Four Points

In writing about Quantification, these four points are worth reiterating and discussing.

1. Quantification is necessary: My original post made no mention of what metrics must be tracked. In fact, I closed it with a question asking which metrics others believed were important to track. One anti-quantification commenter suggested that quantification wasn’t important and qualification was the critical factor. And then he provided me with a long list of key performance indicators to prove that quantification was unnecessary. I am still smiling.

Regardless of whether you sell a low cost, low complexity good or service or whether you sell a highly complex, multimillion dollar service, quantifying your efforts and your results is a necessary component of improving! Period.

2. Sales Improvement is More than Activity Improvement: Sales is a hard job, and it is getting harder. This is especially true in complex, high dollar B2B sales. Activity may be one component where a sales improvement may be made. Sometimes activity improvement needs to be made. But making an improvement there isn’t good enough. It is just the easiest metric to plug into a spreadsheet to make next years revenue forecast go up.

Stop it.

That isn’t the right place to stop when improving the salesforce or sales results, regardless of what you sell. In the first post, I suggested you should no how many attempts it takes you to schedule an appointment. The suggestion wasn’t that you make more calls; it was that you figure out what it would take for you to get better, more effective at making calls. The second metric was one about moving from one stage of your sales process to the next. That is another effectiveness metric, and one I would suggest may be more valuable over time than simply making more calls.

The reason these metrics are so valuable is because they make you ask better questions? What could I do to be more effective on the phone? Why do I have far fewer deals in stage three than in stage two? What does it mean that deals stall here. What do I need to change? What are my options? And the list goes on and on . . .

3. The Problem with Panaceas: The problem with panaceas (a cure-all)  is that you are treating all problems with the same medicine. This is a fairy tale. If you have an activity problem, you fix it with an activity solution. If you have an effectiveness problem, you fix it with an effectiveness solution. Sales problems are too complex to be treated with panaceas.

Activity may be a problem. But much of the time the real problem is an effectiveness problem that presents itself as the symptom we call low activity.

4. The Salesperson’s Responsibility: If you read this blog, you more than likely work in sales in some capacity. If you are here, then you are more than likely a thoughtful, intelligent salesperson who spends time working on their skills. You are the target audience of my blog and my posts.

The point of my Quantify Yourself post was to point out how beneficial understanding your metrics and improving them are to your results and your success in sales. Ultimately, no one is more responsible for our success than we are. It is your job to be passionately engaged with your own improvement plan.

For more on increasing your sales effectiveness, subscribe to the RSS Feed for The Sales Blog and my Email Newsletter. Follow me on Twitter, connect to me on LinkedIn, or friend me on Facebook. If I can help you or your sales organization, check out my coaching and consulting firm, B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy, email me, or call me at (614) 212-4279.

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