The Friday Opportunity: Big Data Shows The Weekday With The Biggest Sales Potential

As once a sales pro and sales coach, I know what a difference having good data can have on sales results. Whenever I looked at things like the amount of deals added, or the number of sales activities completed, there was almost always something that jumped out as an area of improvement. For example that “Fred should make more calls”.

Now, having co-founded a sales management app, we wanted to see what the sales data suggests for everyone around the world. We anonymized and aggregated all the metadata that’s generated, when people mark sales activities completed and deals won or lost. And here’s what the computer says: don’t take the foot off the gas on Fridays.

And here’s why: Wednesday is the day of results. That’s when salespeople complete the biggest number of calls, emails and meetings (let’s call them activities). But actually the day with highest conversion in most countries is Friday, while it’s also the day when salespeople have the biggest drop in their level of activities. So when you find yourself or someone in your team thinking “Days just before or after the weekend are not good for selling, I’d better get myself a latte before making calls”, you’ll know it’s a mistake you shouldn’t make as it may cost you dearly in sales and commissions.

infographic best weekday to sell - the friday opportunity

Not all countries follow the same model, but almost everyone can improve

While the “Most activities on Wednesdays and best conversion on Fridays” rule stands overall globally, there are exceptions. Monday, which has the reputation for being a “bad” day for closing is the best converting day in some countries, such as Spain, Mexico and Netherlands.

Only 3 countries – Spain, France, Australia – had the day with most activities completed coinciding with the best converting day.

Our conclusion? If salespeople want to be smart, they should work hard on Fridays, but if they want to beat the market, they’re going to have to work hard every day. So as the gym-saying goes – never skip a day.

Happy closing!

Americans Aren’t The World’s Best Closers And What This Means For You

With customers in more than 150 countries, you really start wondering:

  “How different is sales work around the world?”

With some data and time on our hands, we started looking into it and went on a quest to find the best sales nation in the world.

What we discovered was that we can’t trust stereotypes. For example, Americans simply aren’t the world’s best closers. But that’s not the whole story – we realized that some numbers in isolation can be misleading.

We pulled anonymized meta-data generated by Pipedrive users all across the world about # of deals that were added and closed; # of activities that were initiated and marked complete, and so on – and put it in a really large database. We sliced up the data by country and removed all outliers. What we got was a clean view about the differences in conversion, length of the sales cycle, and levels of activity around the world.

Now come and see how people sell all around the world.

 

The world’s best closers are South Africans (but it’s not the whole story)

Conversion rate is one of the best indicators of sales skills. And if you only look at conversion rates, a clear winner emerges – South Africa. Runners up include Brazil, Chile, Denmark and Sweden – a surprising combo of fast growing emerging economies and the conservative Nordics.

Sales Conversion in different countries

Worst closers, based on conversion rate? Sales people in Switzerland, Poland, Canada, Russia and… the United States. That’s right, Americans who invented selling as we know it are at the bottom of the conversion list.

Could it be possible? The numbers don’t lie, but we realized that the conversion numbers don’t tell the whole story. To understand what was going on we decided to look whether similar trends would emerge under other metrics as well.

 

Brazilians get to “YES” quickest

Time is money, which is why we included the average time of closing as one of the proxies for identifying the best sales nation.

Sales Velocity in different countries

Brazilians get to hear “yes” quickest – i.e. they take the least time to close a deal. Runner up positions are taken up by South-Africa and Chile, who were in top 3 positions also in the conversion table. It’s mostly the developing world who follow the top 3, including Mexico, Russia, Colombia and India.

On the other end of the spectrum – countries that are slowest to close – we find mostly European countries with Australia and Canada thrown in the mix. And the Dutch – the great traders throughout history – are the slowest of the slow.

So far, all of our preconceived ideas about who’s great and who’s not seem to be wrong.

 

Salespeople in Spain have the magic touch

Finally, some sales managers argue that the best indicator of sales skills is efficiency. The more time you spend with one prospect, the less you have for others. So we looked at the average number of activities (calls, emails, meetings, etc.) per each won deal.

Number of sales activities per sale

A salesperson in Spain needs 3.8 activities per closing – whether they be calls, meetings or emails, with salespeople in Denmark, Netherlands, Estonia, Sweden and South Africa not too far away. On the other end of the scale, we found that a Russian salesman needs 6.11 activities per every closed deal, with Great Britain, Germany, Colombia and United States also all in need of relatively many touches to get to a YES.

Again, we find the hardcore salespeople of Great Britain and the US at the very end of the scale with little context to explain it. However, it’s possible that there is more competition for attention in developed nations so those sales cycles are expected to be more protracted; buyers have more options and have more sales teams competing for their attention.

 

What does all of this mean?

What we found was that… any sales success indicator in isolation is probably misleading.

It would be a mistake to declare South Africans, Brazilians or Spaniards the best at sales and call it a day. As you probably saw, interesting correlations emerged in the different rankings. Countries that were among the best in one dimension tended to fare well across other dimensions as well.

The countries that were quickest also converted highest (with the exception of Russia).

Overall we found a correlation:

Countries with high conversion rates close deals faster.

Low conversion tends to correlate with lots of activities per deal, and vice versa. Combining three variables, it becomes clear that countries with the highest conversion rates also enjoy the fastest sales cycles and fewest activities needed to complete each deal.

Sales Conversion vs Speed

Is this a signal of cultural differences, or is the mix of businesses using Pipedrive just very different from country to country (expensive vs. cheap items, enterprise vs B2C sales, and so on)?

Truth be told, it’s probably a bit of both. The correlations are not so clear that you could explain them simply with big differences in the business mix.

 

The big reveal – how tough is the life of salespeople around the world?

Salespeople in South Africa, Brazil and Chile seem to have it easiest – well.. at least for Pipedrive users there. USA, Canada, and to an extent the UK, Australia and France, have the toughest conditions – slow, low conversion, and lots of activities per deal.

How tough sales work is around the world

 

What this means – generally, for you, and for your team

And this reveals us what we’ve been looking for the entire postthere is no best sales nation. And there’s two sides to this.

The first is to do with the cultural and historical background and differences that have created this situation.

The second is perhaps more important. Admittedly for many of you this will be repeating the ABC, but for others it is something that will make a big-big difference in their day-to-day sales work.

  • For the 10% (and growing) of salespeople who sell globally – be aware of the sales culture of the country you’re selling to. When you’re selling to the people in US, it’s likely that you’re going to get more NOs and you’re going to have to do a lot of sales activities for the deals you are able to close than in some other countries. If you are one of the people who can adjust really well to different circumstances, try changing your rhythm a bit, and maybe you’ll be more successful.

  • Don’t judge your own work, nor the work of other salespeople by looking solely at the conversion rate. It differs, surprise-surprise, from industry to industry and from product line to product line. Though it’s general advice and been repeated over and over again, it keeps on staying relevant – look at sales with a more holistic view and you’ll have better chances to improve.

 

Three tips on how this can benefit you:

1. Try improving your conversion rate as much as you can. Usually, it starts from improving a critical stage-to-stage conversion a little. If you hit the ceiling, look elsewhere to other metrics.

2. Measure the length of your sales cycle. Compare it with others, compare it with the data presented here about your region. Try shortening this cycle, chat with people in your business who close faster. Find out how long they take to move from one step familiar to you to another. If there are people around you who are more successful and have longer cycles, study their work habits, slow down a bit, and see how this works for you.

3. Calculate your number of activities per an average deal that you win. Compare it with the best producers in your company. Are they doing more things with prospects? Are they doing less? Again, try adjusting your work flow, and monitor the results.

PS! The meta-data on the tens of thousands users researched is only representative of the population who are Pipedrive users – people and businesses that love using modern and well-designed web tools (as opposed to old-school companies that love having their software downloaded, and have lots and lots of different menu options and data entry opportunities and bad interface – but it might apply to them as well, who knows).

Nevertheless, it’s probably a useful point of reference anyway – we don’t know anyone else having done research like this.

Hiring Update: We’ve Got A Spare Seat for a Marketing Analyst

Marketing Analytics GraphsWe at Pipedrive make sales software that ambitious teams in more than 100 countries love to use. Every day hundreds (and soon thousands) of new people start using our software. We know how they have discovered us, what they want to accomplish and how they engage with the product, but we want to tie the different pieces together better. Which is why we’re looking for a kick-ass Marketing Analyst to join our team in Tallinn, Estonia.

Here’s the to-do list:

  • Manage processes and tools that provide insights into user engagement as well as behaviour(s) that drive business results.
  • Manage tracking for acquisition channels and programs to make sure we can measure the impact of each ad, button, link and piece of content.
  • Do one-off analyses, queries and deep dives that help make business decisions and drive marketing campaigns.
  • Support the team with product and web tracking setup and making sense of the results.
  • Help to set up regular reporting and KPI dashboards.

Experience and skills we’re looking for:

  • Excellent analytical skills and passion for data-driven decision making.
  • Proficiency with SQL, Excel and basic statistical tools.
  • Strong knowledge of Google Analytics and/or its alternatives.
  • Experience cleaning and manipulating large datasets.
  • Strong verbal presentation and written communication skills.
  • SaaS and B2B startup experience is a plus, as is using SaaS analytics tools.
  • Good at building constructive relationships with colleagues and being a mensch overall.
  • High tolerance of the word why?

What we have to offer:

  • Competitive base pay + stock options package.
  • No corporate BS.
  • Loads of room for career development as you grow with the company.

If this is something for you, please get in touch via jobs-admin@pipedrive.com. Send your resume (in English) or link to your LinkedIn profile and please add a few lines on why we should pay extra attention to your application.

How a CRM Helps a News Organization Manage Their Entire Workflow

Richland Source Online News headerChances are that we love sales more than 99% of people. That probably explains why we’re building a sales management software. However, our love for sales has brought us some great stories about novel ways the sales software is being used. One day we received an email saying how Pipedrive helped everyone in their company follow the same process, and always be up-to-date with & on top of everything that goes on in the organization.

And that’s how we discovered Richland Source – an online news organization based in Ohio. Their own comment on how they work is this: “Almost everything we write is local and thus sourced, written, edited, and published organically — no AP wire stuff here.” We found out they manage everything from sales to ad-production to invoicing from Pipedrive.

Having used Pipedrive for all these different reasons, they got inspired and decided to create an editorial pipeline, and start managing story production through the pipeline as well. Through some simple adaptations, Pipedrive has now become the common language for workflow management in the entire organization, giving the editors and reporters the much needed visibility into what’s happening, where people are stuck, and how to prioritize stories. We spoke to the publisher at Richland Source - Jay Allred - to find out the details.

What problem were you intending to solve when you first started using Pipedrive?

Initially, we were looking for a simple sales CRM that we could use to track the progress of our sales team. We wanted something cloud-based and affordable, because we were built using only cloud-based software apps and since we’re a startup; cost is always a consideration. Pipedrive fit our requirements perfectly and we started using it in sales.

The more we used it in sales, we realized that the deal was not really finished until the client’s advertising was running on Richland Source and the invoice was sent. So we added two stages, “Production” and “Invoicing” to our sales pipeline. That wrapped our graphics, production, and accounting folks into the workflow and gave end-to-end accountability. Everyone was on the same team and we were able to become increasingly paperless as a somewhat unintended consequence.

That experience opened our eyes to Pipedrive’s ability to be a workflow management tool. Our editorial team was struggling to manage dozens of story leads and their individual deadlines, so we pitched Pipedrive to them and they agreed to try it. Major improvement. Within a day or two we had set up a separate pipeline and started some beta users and in-house training sessions. Suddenly, everyone had visibility into where a story was and how fast it was moving through the process.

Now, every member of our organization – no matter what their role – is a user of Pipedrive and has ownership of a part of the customer service, sales, or editorial process.

What kind of a solution were you using prior to that?

In both cases (sales and editorial) it was a mish-mash of Google Docs, spreadsheets, and calendaring apps.

How did you come to the decision to start using Pipedrive and what changes have you seen after starting using Pipedrive?

Like I mentioned above, we wanted a high level of visibility across the organization, an intuitive and simple user experience, easy administration and management, and something that was cloud-native. With those requirements, the decision was easy.

Some of the changes are pretty predictable. Workflow is clearer, managers can see where their employees are and help them stay on track, “silos” of information quickly blew up as we transitioned the sales / story data to Pipedrive, and so on.

What’s more interesting are the unintended consequences.

  • We now have the shared contact database we always wanted. For example, when sales updates contact information for an electoral candidate, our reporters immediately have access to that updated contact info too.

  • Integration with Google Apps has put relevant documents at the fingertips of everyone in the org. Customer calls and wants to check on the status of a job in production, but the salesperson is out? No worries. Production checks the scanned insertion order attached to the deal, reports back to client, notes the activity in PD, and tasks the sales person with a follow up call. All within one application with no back and forth email needed.Magical, we say!

  • Having “non-sales” teams like editorial, accounting, and production as part of the Pipeline keeps the customer experience at the forefront. It’s not about just sales now, it is about the whole enchilada of customer experience.

Could you tell us a little bit more about your use of Pipedrive?

We are first and foremost an organization that tells the stories of our community. Time and speed are often very important, but so are generating story ideas and juggling longer-term projects with short-term news stories. The “Unassigned Lead” stage is where any employee can drop a story idea. We use it to essentially crowdsource leads. Our editors monitor this stage and then assign the lead to a reporter by changing ownership of the deal and moving it forward in the pipeline.

Richland Source Online Media Pipeline View

Richland Source Pipeline View

We have turned on deal rotting for this stage to make sure that editors are alerted when a lead has begun to get old.

After a story has been published, the last stage, “Promote (Reporter)” comes into play. We ask our reporters to reach out to their contact and other interested parties when a story that concerns them publishes. This is a critical customer service stage for editorial, as it helps them build credibility and reinforces our culture of follow-up and customer service. Pipedrive gives us the visibility and accountability to manage this process.

We are looking at using the the timeline feature to help keep reporters on track for deadlines in a very visual, intuitive way by using the “expected close date” or a custom field to hold the deadline.

Do you have any cool sales tips or tricks you’d like to share?

We’re hardly gurus here, but the trick for us has been to keep the customer’s experience with us at the forefront. Everybody gets it – sales is about buying and selling. Where sales gets icky is when salespeople use that fact as an excuse to get smarmy and manipulative. If you put the treatment of any client you are working with – prospect, active, or past – out front you automatically zap the urge to get smarmy, because classy and respectful can’t coexist with smarmy and manipulative

What’s the future for online news and Richland Source?

The disruption in the newspaper business has made us part of a much larger examination of how the news on individual communities gets reported. Google, Yahoo, and ESPN have the global stuff covered, but who reports on city council and the high school football teams? Community newspapers used to fill that role, but are increasingly being challenged by online-only variants like us that are lighter, quicker, and often willing to be more actively engaged in their community. We’re also working on a native app with our friends at Inmobly that will feature their video-caching technology, which we expect to roll out in Q1 2015.

Image courtesy: Richland Source

Pipedrive-Zapier Integration Updates

Pipedrive-Zapier integrations have received two tiny tweaks with far-reaching effects.

The first development makes it possible for you to trigger an automated Zap whenever a deal reaches a specific pipeline stage. Until now, you were only able to trigger automations with a new deal, or with a filter. Now, when you’ve closed a deal, marked it won, or just moved it into a “touched” stage, you have the possibility to trigger automated actions.

 


 

The second development happened inside Pipedrive. We now have the First and Last names on separate fields inside the deal info, which makes it easier to use Pipedrive data in customizing the communication sent out by other apps via Zapier. For example, it’s far easier to send out a personalized email in MailChimp with “Hi, Firstname” in the welcome line.

How TrekkSoft Doubled Signups Via Personalization At Scale and Clever Use of Software

TrekkSoft provide online booking and payment software for tour and activity providers in the travel industry. If you’ve encountered a super organized diving instructor in the Caribbean, or used your card to pay pay a ski instructor on the piste, chances are they were using Trekksoft.

trekksoft skydive

They have an incredibly intelligent setup for reaching their customers – they combine Pipedrive, Zapier and MailChimp for large scale personalized lead generation and qualification at scale. Since it’s really impressive, we had a chat with TrekkSoft’s Senior Integration Manager, Tom Iannone, and VP of Sales, Robert Lederer, to find out more.

Disclaimer: If you haven’t heard the word “automatic” enough today, you will now. TrekkSoft lives by that word.

What kind of a problem were you intending to solve when you first started configuring the Pipedrive-MailChimp-Zapier combo?

Our aim was to be more tailored as well as more effective in marketing – target campaigns based on geography and vertical (eg. diving instructors in Cancun or historical walks providers in San Francisco). This entailed a lot of manual work, copying data across spreadsheets and copying it into MailChimp.

We wanted to use the email automation features that MailChimp offers, but also keep the data up-to-date in Pipedrive. Our aim then was to increase efficiency, which we’ve definitely achieved.

What kind of results have you seen?

We’ve gone from sending out about 500 emails a week to about 4,000 a week to prospective new customers. We’ve been able to a quadruple our productivity, which has resulted in a higher rate of qualified leads and new sign-ups. All in all, we’ve about doubled the number of sign-ups since we’ve been pushing things through with the new custom integration and optimized it.

What’s the lead management and sales process at TrekkSoft like?

Primarily, we have two different pipelines.

First, we have our lead generation pipeline. Here we have three different stages, where deals move forward automatically, based on the prospect’s actions.

lead-generation-pipeline-trekksoft

Lead Generation Pipeline

All the leads we’ve gotten from various sources who haven’t been contacted yet are in the “Cold” stage. Once we email them, they get automatically moved to “Sent”. If they open that email, they will automatically be moved to “Opened” stage. Now if the prospect responds to our email or even clicks on an open email, we define it as interaction and move them automatically into our sales funnel into the “Marketing Qualified Leads” (MQL).

MQL means that the person is a little more qualified than “Opened”, because they’ve interacted in some way. From there on, once somebody actually goes to the website and registers for free account, a move to SQL – “Sales Qualified Lead” is triggered. There, our sales team will typically reach out by phone and organize a sales demo with the prospect. If that’s done, the next stage for the prospect would be to “Subscribed”, at which time they will need to get integrated with the software.

The move from “Sales Demo” to “Subscribed” also means that the support and integration teams take over from the sales team and schedule a training demo, which is when the customer onboarding begins. If the training demo is given, and the customer’s successfully integrated with our software, they’ll be moved into the “Integrated” stages. They will go to “Complete” if they integrate our software into all of their activities (eg. all of that company’s tours), and partial if not all.

one-week-funnel-trekksoft

How is the Zapier-MailChimp-Pipedrive custom integration set up?

We use Pipedrive as the database for all leads. We use filters in Pipedrive to create segments we want to reach out to (eg. we’d create a filter for all the skydivers in Cancun).

We then use Zapier to pull this filtered list into MailChimp, where we create a separate segment from it. We’re now able to send out highly tailored emails to this really specific segment.

The lists are also sent to MailChimp depending on the specific activities that are done by our sales reps. For example, we reach a potential customer and move them forward to another stage. That will trigger a name potentially being unsubscribed from our “Marketing List” and then subscribing from a list of, let’s say, “Tips and Tricks” or “Getting Started” list, depending on the activity in Pipedrive.

Example Zap: when a custom integration has been set up, an email is automatically sent

Example Zap: when a custom integration has been set up, an email is automatically sent

When we have deals moving from one pipeline to another, like in the case of moving from the Lead Generation pipeline to the Sales pipeline, we use a custom integration of MailChimp and Pipedrive API-s. To automatically change stages, we use Zapier. The API is mainly used to connect MailChimp and our internal databases.

What else can you do with this integration?

We’re also using Zapier to sync the data that we have in Pipedrive with MailChimp so that we can further refine our marketing campaigns – i.e. we clean up data. When we receive new information about our clients, in addition to that initially mined, our sales reps make the updates in Pipedrive. Then, it gets automatically synced over to MailChimp, which makes us able to build really targeted segments for better message targeting.

We are also using the Pipedrive-to-Google-Spreadsheets zap for high level reporting, and to store certain information.

So what’s next for TrekkSoft? Have you got any news to share?

We’ve released our mobile app and integrated card reader to take mobile payments from any iPhone or iOS or Android device anywhere – from docks to on the pistes. This is exciting and revolutionary in our industry in particular. Our customers can see all their upcoming bookings, they can re-book passengers, issue refunds and use probably 80-90% of functionality that a tour operator would need on a day-to-day basis from the mobile app. This is important, since our the customers we have are always out guiding a rafting trip or they are jumping out of airplanes or going out fishing or scuba diving, rather than sitting in their office.

iOS App Takes a Big Step In Improving Your Productivity

Activity Plan iOS

Our Pipedrive iOS app just received an overhaul with one key change that can improve your productivity significantly – we introduced smart activity scheduling.

Previously, you could pick a time-slot for an activity without exactly knowing whether you already had something in your agenda that day. Now, when you’re scheduling a new activity, the agenda for the selected day will be visible. This way you won’t have clashing activities anymore – you simply schedule smarter and avoid them.

On a different note, you can now go ahead and start editing custom fields. And if you already have or are planning to get iOS 8, then fear not – we’re ready for you.

And as always: if you don’t have it, then go and get it.

appstore

Update on “Poodle” SSL 3.0 vulnerability (and Shellshock)

Earlier today, Google reported a vulnerability in SSL 3.0 technology that allows the plaintext of secure connections to be calculated by a network attacker.

I just wanted to inform that we here at Pipedrive had dropped SSL 3.0 support quite some time ago earlier this year— specifically on security grounds. Thus, Google’s recently reported vulnerabilities do not concern Pipedrive. Furthermore, we recently introduced extended validation on all our primary application and website domain premises.

If you are concerned with our security in terms of SSL encryption, you can verify our SSL security reports about our primary application domains app.pipedrive.com and api.pipedrive.com by Qualys SSL Labs at any time.

Update: In addition to SSL 3.0 vulnerability, I wanted to share an update regarding another major security vulnerability reported a few weeks ago, called Shellshock, which allowed malicious code execution through Unix Bash shell, present on majority of servers. Pipedrive’s servers got patched against Shellshock a few weeks ago already — immediately after the patches for the Linux distribution that we use on our production servers got published.

How to Keep Customers Happy By Using the Pipedrive+Yesware Combo

Yesware-PipedrivePipedrive can be used for tons of different reasons. Not least, we’ve seen that Pipedrive can successfully be used for managing customer success and its communications like they do at Falcon Social. Now for us, customer success gets fired up and supercharged when we combine Pipedrive with Yesware – and boy does the combo make customer success communication easy.

My job as the Customer Success Manager here at Pipedrive is to make sure that our clients are happy. I proactively approach customers, introduce the different available Pipedrive features and solutions that could prove to be useful for them, and help them make the most of Pipedrive.

Much of this communication with customers takes place over email – in fact it’s one of my main tools, and I send out hundreds every week. To keep track of what works and what doesn’t (like which emails people open, and which ones they don’t), I use Yesware. And to have an overview of all open deals and details, I use Pipedrive.

This combo gets me super organized, and makes sure I get to keep our customers happy.

How Pipedrive and Yesware work together:

Since I work a lot from Gmail, Pipedrive’s drop-box feature sync information across Yesware and Pipedrive. Essentially, the forwarding feature connects my emails with specific contacts in Pipedrive. I simply forward my emails to Pipedrive by using a drop-box link in the Bcc line. If I have an open deal with the contact, the whole email thread will be visible under deal details.

Yesware Gmail compose window

Having customer details and the related deal history all in one place keeps everyone in my team on the same page, since we can always check the contact’s history before contacting them.

A brief overview of how the Yesware-Gmail-Pipedrive combo works together was given by our CEO in a recent blog post.

My favorite Yesware features are:

  • The opportunity to save template answers and emails, and categorize them appropriately for easy-access sometime later.
  • Tracking the customers’ email openings
  • The visual graph for the last 30-day email opening tracking report.
  • Reminder notifications, which help me to remember when I last sent an email to a customer, and when I should ping them next for a response.

To keep track of where I am with every customer, and help me manage customer success proactively, the second part to my combo is Pipedrive. Even though I don’t use Pipedrive for sales, the pipeline is great for managing customer success, since I can get a really good overview of who requires my urgent attention.

My favorite Pipedrive features are:

  • The pipeline view, which is my main working view gives me a bird’s-eye view of all processes.
  • Deal “rotting” feature, which highlights the deals that need my urgent attention, coloring them red. This indicates the deals I should work on first.

Customer Success Pipeline

One final tip for managing success

One final and really cool way I organize my work is using Zapier trigger actions within different pipelines in Pipedrive. For example, whenever someone from the sales team closes a deal (= wins a deal with specific criteria), a new deal gets automatically added to my Customer Success pipeline into the “Ready for approach” stage.

This nifty automation option saves me a lot of time, and helps me stay on top of everything.

That’s it – that’s how I manage customer success communications. If you like it, why not try it out with a 60-day trial using the promo code CS60. 

Should you work harder or smarter in sales?

High sales performance requires a dynamic combination of hard and smart work… Duh. Everyone knows that. Most, however don’t know what that proportion between the two should be. Why do you perform the way you do? Could you improve? If yes, then how? These questions keep popping up whenever I hear this subject discussed. Luckily, I have an answer for this – I know whether you should be working harder, smarter, or both.

Where do you start

There are 4 sales pipeline levers that add up to achieving better sales results. The principles behind those levers are simple, and they lead to a conclusion that is relevant for all salespeople. The more deals you’re able to drive through your pipeline (#), the bigger they are ($), the better the percentage of them you are able to close (%), and the less time it takes to get a customer (T)… the bigger your revenue and your profit.

The “secret” to how you should work lies with four pipeline levers set on a hard vs smart work matrix below. These pipeline levers can all be located in different places on the matrix. Some require more hard work, while others more smart.

The question here is which area should you focus on the most – where do you start?

hard work smart work chart

Start from hard work, then benchmark

  • The easiest step to sales success is hard work. So if you’re new to sales, always start by working harder – experience is the only way to get smart in sales.
  • If you already have experience and smarts then you probably have a decent conversion rate. Now, you need to figure out whether you need to go for bigger deals, or get through your deals faster (losing fast is key). If you don’t know which of the two to go for, start by benchmarking against your industry, peers or goals. If in doubt about your conversion, benchmark that as well.

When you go through each of the levers, take a look at whether you’re positioned in a similar spot to your benchmark. Your comparison points should be your team members, your industry and your goals – get their statistics and compare those to yours.

I will now go through all the areas one by one, and jump straight into what’s relevant for you.

More deals = hard work

The first lever you can pull is how many deals you put into the pipeline. A real estate sales manager once asked me for advice on what to do with the weakest salesperson in his team. This was my advice – get him to work harder. The simple truth was that if he was currently adding 2 new deals to his property deals pipeline every day, and the team average was 3 then already after 22 days the salesman was going to have 22 fewer deals than average. All else equal, and you already know who’s going to have a bonus check that’s 50% larger than the weak salesman – all thanks to 1 more deal prospected every single day.

Fix Sales Pipeline

There is, of course a drop of smart work involved, especially when it comes to list-making and how to get creative in coming up with prospect ideas. We’ve covered a couple of ways in our blog, and so has the best-selling author Geoffrey James who’s drawn up a few techniques in his article for Inc. Magazine.

Now, the really hard part about increasing the number of new deals is not the increase itself – it’s keeping up the standard. Once you’ve made the jump, you need to persevere and keep to the new number, no matter what. There are no hacks or secret tricks here, since this one’s mostly all about putting in hard work.

Measure the size of your deals – getting bigger deals is hard work mentally

Imagine a scenario where you’re told to go and ask your employer for a salary that is 10 times bigger than currently. So if you’re making 60,000 a year, imagine you have to go and ask for a salary of 600,000 a year. It seems and sounds crazy, but that’s exactly the feeling you get when you’re told to sell twice or three times as much to a customer as you’re currently doing.

billboard sell

Going after bigger deals requires a shift in your mindset – reaching the understanding that achieving double or triple the sales is even possible is hard work. And it requires, as Hercule Poirot would put it, “exercising your grey cells”. Once you start believing that larger deals are reachable, you can start putting in the smart work – answering the how. Whether it’s upselling, cross-selling, approaching bigger clients or just asking for more money for your product – it only becomes achievable after the shift in your mindset/you’ve realized you can.

Improve the way in which you present the value of your solution, so that your prospects understand what they gain by buying from you. After that, you’ll be able to increase the size of your deals, and close bigger deals.

Neil Patel – the co-founder of Crazy Egg and KissMetrics (i.e. a man who knows a fair bit about closing big deals) wrote a guide containing 5 helpful tips focusing on how part of closing big deals, which is definitely worth a read.

Get your deals flowing faster – hard work with a touch of smart

Getting a deal through your sales pipeline quicker is quite a challenge. It’s even more complicated when you have a lot of deals in your pipeline and they are really big.

It would make a hell of a difference when you close $10,000 worth of deals in 20 days, rather than in 30 days. You’d be able to put through 50% more deals in the same time as the guy with a sales cycle of 30 days.

The objection you often hear is that you shouldn’t rush clients, because you’ll seem aggressive. While I agree that you shouldn’t be aggressive, I do think you should be to-the-point and apply gentle and helpful pressure. It’s important to have the mindset that it’s OK to speed things up. People hate to be sold, but love to buy – Help them pleasantly understand whether they gain value from your solution or not.

Knowing the buying process of your customers will help apply the gentle pressure, as well as get you concrete answers quicker. You either need to keep the deals moving forward or declare them lost, otherwise the opportunity cost – the time you’re not focusing on deals you could actually win – can get very large.

Bullet Train Velocity

Checklist:

  • Have you discovered the prospect’s needs?
  • If yes, have you proposed a solution?
  • If yes, stop waiting and get a response (but be nice).

Higher conversion = smart work

Conversion is what exhibits how smart you do your sales work. This applies both to the overall close rate and stage-to-stage conversion rate.

Imagine a situation where you and Ted both close the same number of deals per month, say 6. Now if Ted’s close rate is 12% and and yours is 8%, it means that you have to approach 75 prospects instead of Ted’s 50. This means that you’re doing a lot more work than Ted – simple. To understand if you work hard or smart is to understand at which stage you lose your prospects.

working smarter.jpg

To do this, you need to measure your stage-to-stage conversions. Discovering the differences between you and Ted will uncover areas of improvement. A smart thing to take into account is that you will always lose some deals. In the case above of closing 8%, you anyways lose 92%. It’s better to make sure you lose them early.

So here are the two things you can do to improve your conversion:

  1. Measure your stage-to-stage conversions and compare with colleagues. Learn how those with better metrics achieve their results. In most cases, the successful salespeople lose early and fast – they don’t spend time generating proposals and holding negotiations with deals which eventually end up as “lost” or that have rather small value. Qualification is key.

  2. Read about the ways to convert better – sales literature is extensive and there’s always something good out there to be read.

Improving your conversions and making sure you lose unqualified deals at the right time (read: early on) will make you far more efficient than now, and save you a lot of energy.

Work hard, work smart, profit

Get your four levers in shape and you’ll see an increase in your revenue and profit. It’s as simple (or tough) as that. But the important thing is that it’s achievable for any salesperson willing to put in the work.

As always, leave the comments below or get in touch via twitter.

Image courtesy: Pipedrive and Flickr Creative Commons