Selling by numbers is a great idea – especially for those of us that don’t love sales. But a formula approach – like the paint-by-numbers activities we used to do as children – is not exactly what we’re talking about. Instead, selling by numbers is a way of reverse-engineering your goals into the actions you need to take. Sounds technical, but it’s really not 🙂
For many of us, sales (or signups or bookings or whatever we want to call it) is our number one priority. After all, the crux of any business is all about getting sales – so for most of us, sales should be our main focus. But even when we know this, it’s so easy to let the weeks and months slip by without making progress towards our sales goals! I understand. Especially, if you don’t consider yourself to be a natural salesperson.
The Meaningless Sales Target
If you’re working to a business plan, you’ve probably set yourself a sales target. It’s meaningless for two reasons. Firstly, because you probably plucked it from the air – based on the amount you’d like to make, or a percentage increase on last year. That part of ‘meaninglessness’ is ok. All sales targets are pretty much like that!
The problem lies in the fact that the target alone doesn’t tell you how to go about achieving it. It’s just a number – probably 12 months out from now. What do you do with it? Are you on track? It’s really hard to tell.
The Selling By Numbers Method
Instead of having just a big end-goal to aim towards, here’s a method that breaks down your sales target and makes it real. Here’s exactly how to do it…
1) Define Your Sales Process
First, you need to define your sales process. This won’t be perfect but think about the steps it usually takes to bring sales in the door. If you’re just starting out, take a guess. It’s probably something like this;
- Identify lead (eg a website enquiry, a prospect you’ve found through targeting, someone that walks through your door)
- Book discovery call (alternatively, this could be a site visit, webinar, series of emails, or conversation)
- Send proposal (likewise, this could be a product trial, face-to-face meeting, or something else)
- Customer approval & purchase
Your particular sales process might be different to this, but the important thing is to spell out what you know. Accept that there will be nuances and some cases that don’t fit, but try to outline the process that most often occurs (or most often leads to a sale).
2) Estimate Your Conversions
Next you need to estimate your conversion rates between each of the steps. What proportion of the proposals you send result in sales? What percentage of your discovery calls lead to proposals?
Again, don’t let imperfect information be a barrier here. If you’ve got real data use that, but if you don’t, just take an educated guess (err on the conservative side!).
3) Work Backwards
Starting with your annual sales target, you then take these conversion rates to work out the volume of top-level sales actions that you need to do.
For instance, let’s say you’re just starting out an your annual sales target is $100,000 and your average sale value is $500.
- Dividing this out, you need 200 sales for the year
- If your conversion rate on proposals is 40%, you need to send 500 proposals
- If your conversion rate on discovery calls is 25%, you need to do 2000 discovery calls
- And if your conversion rate on leads is also 25%, you need to find 8000 leads
These numbers become our annual sales activity targets.
At this stage, it starts to sound a bit depressing. But of course, your conversion rates might be a lot better than these examples (but also, they might not!). Don’t worry, the next section makes it more manageable!
Figure Out Your Weekly Goals
Using the sales by numbers approach, the next step is to break our annual sales activity targets into weekly targets. (You can use daily targets but I prefer to leave some flexibility in the week to have certain days allocated to other things.)
So, using the example above, if there are 50 working weeks in the year;
- We need to identify 160 leads per week (8000/50)
- We need to make 40 discovery calls
- And we need to send 16 proposals
And that’s when we realize the kind of sales activity levels we need in order to meet our sales goals!
Track Your Weekly Inputs
Once you’ve used the sales by numbers technique to understand the volume of sales activities required, you need to set up a simple way of tracking these activities. Yes, you should still track and pay attention to your actual sales, but the more important numbers are the volume of activities that you perform. Some weeks will inevitably lead to higher sales and some to lower sales but on average, these activities will get you the results you need.
As you go through your week, keep a journal or a scrap of paper by your desk and check off each of the activities you perform. Then, at the end of the week, see if you’ve met your activity goal.
Get used to celebrating your efforts and detach yourself from the outcomes. The inputs are really all you can control and if you keep at it, the numbers will come.
Using the selling by numbers approach, you’re likely to smash your targets! And if you’re thinking you’re lacking sales skills and are not a natural salesperson, check out our sales tips for non sales people here.