Article by Bill Fonvielle
The act of exchanging goods or services for something of value (AKA a sale) is as old as time itself. And yet, who could argue that the art of the sale is changing at a dizzying rate? Organisations are transforming the way they sell to try and keep pace with the demands of their clients, who likewise are changing the way they buy. But as the old saying goes: the more things change, the more they stay the same.
One thing that has remained a constant is the basic elements of any sale; a provider, a salesperson or entity (which might also be the provider) and a willing customer. Another is the lack of a consistent, precise, and simple method to measure sales effectiveness, whether flesh and blood salespeople or digital processes.
Problems with Current Popular Sales Metrics
A particular problem is the “Chinese Menu Conundrum.” There are literally a hundred or more widely used sales metrics. Fortunately, Hubspot identified 13 categories of sales metrics, each of which is loaded with specific metrics.
- Sales KPIs
- Activity sales metrics
- Pipeline sales metrics
- Lead generation sales metrics
- Sales outreach metrics
- Primary conversion sales metrics
- Channel sales metrics
- Sales productivity metrics
- Rep hiring and onboarding metrics
- Sales process, tool, and training adoption metrics
- Leading indicators
- Lagging indicators
- SaaS metrics
What’s a poor sales leader to do when confronted with such voluminous lists? Perhaps choose one from Column A, three from Column B and two more from Column C. This could easily be a gateway to information overload, leading to the dreaded analysis paralysis.
How about following the sage advice of industry leaders? RingLead interviewed industry sales leaders, asking them “what is the one sales metric that you wish more companies would track?”
Here are a few of the answers:
- How often they are the first vendor into an opportunity – aka first in.
- Percentage of Reps at or above 90% of quota.
- Conversion of proposal to close.
- Profit margin against delivered projects or products.
- Velocity of conversion through the funnel stages…
The vast quantity of metrics is aimed inwardly on monitoring the provider and the sales team as they progress customers through their buying journey. However, there is one problem with both of these lists of metrics and categories: the customer is missing!
Since the rise of the internet, power has shifted to the customer as they access increasing levels of information and demand a more responsive, seamless and convenient Customer Experience. If a supplier fails to provide a consistently good sales experience, that supplier is leaving money on the table. It is now business critical to be totally customer driven at every touchpoint of the customer journey.
The sales experience is a consequence of all the supplier’s interactions with customers, and yet the customers’ experience of that sales relationship (particularly B2B) has somehow been glossed over in favour of implementing sophisticated CRMs, pipeline metrics and an abundance of training on the latest predefined sales models or skills. Technavio even forecasts that the global sales training market will surpass USD 7.2 billion by 2022, 13% over 2018.
We are not saying that good pipeline management and skills are not essential, but the complexity has built an internal focus that unwittingly distances an organisation from that fundamental relationship between a seller and a customer. When all is said and done, the simplest and fastest way to remove the guesswork from winning with your customers is to use the CX approach: find out, from your customer, what is most important to them and then deliver to it.
Incorporating Customer Expectations into the Sales Experience
Going back to the metrics menu above, some of those indicators may tell you that you have pipeline bottlenecks or problems with customer turnover, but they tell you precious little about how to fix it.
Imagine, instead, that you know all the process elements and behaviours that make up an ideal customer Sales Experience for your business. These are the explicit and implicit expectations that are constantly running in the back of your customers’ minds and influence their behaviour as they interact with you and your company.
Knowing these expectations and how well you perform against them is your recipe for success.
Sound too good to be true? Well, for a select few companies, this is becoming the reality.
Understanding Customers Expectations
Our clients find it useful to understand expectations of the Sales Experience, and separately, expectations of the sales representatives.
The process begins by learning from customers their expectations of an ideal Sales Experience and/or the expectations of an ideal sales representative from suppliers in a given industry or market. This exercise usually uncovers up to 50 or so distinct expectations for a given industry group.
Refining these can boil the collection to two dozen or fewer expectations that are widely held by customers. Taken together, this set represents the elements of the ideal experience.
Armed with this valuable information you can focus on proactively creating the ideal experience, thereby minimising unnecessary problems, empowering your sales team and building layers of competitive advantage.
Measuring Your Performance Against Those Expectations
With the key expectations in hand, creating a performance survey around them is the next step. The results we generate shows the gap between ideal performance and customers’ perceptions of your performance for each expectation. Wherever possible, we also measure the customers’ perception of your competitor’s performance for each expectation, allowing our clients to see exactly where they stand within the competitive landscape.
Since the performance data comes directly from customers and includes expectations provided by them, the results are hard to argue with.
Clients have found this information invaluable for accurately adjusting their sales tactics in a way that has immediate impact on their customer relationships and sales results. Why? Because the customers have effectively pointed them to the exact areas that will make the biggest difference!
One of the repeating themes that emerges is that many of our clients and their sales teams are initially convinced their customers are obsessed with product and price. However, our research, confirmed by others, shows that as much as 70% of customer churn is driven by bad customer experiences. Price and product quality only account for about 15% each.
Additionally, the sales force expectations and performance gaps have provided pinpoint accuracy on the skills gaps that require training, averting many an expensive sheep-dip training initiative, whilst also providing a profile of the ideal salesperson for recruitment purposes.
Customer Expectations can and should be the foundation for your sales metrics. They put the customer at the heart of it and allow you to build a system of sales metrics that is consistent, precise, and simple.
Your use of any metrics from the long list at the front of this article will allow you to monitor the success of the strategies you put in place.
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