You can be great at working with people, but unless you match that ability with being able to work skillfully with your numbers, you will not succeed in sales.
And what are your numbers? The ones that rule your sales pipeline.
First, there’s Opportunity Velocity: knowing how many leads are in your pipeline and how fast they move through it. Second, there’s Opportunity Conversion: knowing how many opportunities you close in a defined period of time. Together they define your Leading Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): the numbers that tell you whether you have a healthy pipeline and a healthy business.
Look at all that data: those are your numbers. They belong to you. You need to see them that way. So get busy summoning your inner sales geek—the one that loves numbers. It’s a must-have skill. Here’s why…
Goals are meaningless without also having a path to get there.
Managing your sales pipeline properly is the only way to connect sales targets to sales success. Lacking an understanding of the math that goes into that pipeline is akin to saying you want to pay off your mortgage, but not knowing how much you have to pay, how often and for how long. Goals need a path to victory. And the sales numbers blaze that trail for you, but only if you go looking for them.
Ignorance blinds, knowledge reveals.
Your sales numbers are your record: they open your eyes to what really happened out on the field. You must do this, because sellers—if left to estimate on their own—notoriously overestimate the number of deals they close. I once asked a sales manager about his group’s closing rate was told it was 30%. Then the CFO walked into the room with their sales pipeline data and showed us that it was only 10%! No wonder the company was consistently 20% behind. It’s impossible to improve if you don’t pay attention to your stats. Imagine you are part of a professional sports team and none of you ever re-watches the tapes of previous plays to learn what worked, what didn’t and why. You’d be stuck forever in the basement of your league!
Improvements start by knowing what needs to be fixed.
If you ignore your sales pipeline numbers, your closing ratios will worsen. Why? Because without having a clear understanding of what’s not working in your selling process, you’re going to repeat your mistakes and drive away your best prospects. And, if you don’t fix those problems, you fall behind quickly. Just as troublesome, sellers who are behind will panic. That puts unnecessary pressure on their prospects to buy, scaring them away and making the problem much worse.
Unless you’re armed with facts, we are all prone to trying to fix the wrong problems. Sellers who aren’t hitting their targets are quick to conclude they have a closing problem. But do they really? In my work with sellers who struggle with this, 95% of the time it’s a pipeline problem. Their pipeline isn’t big enough, not filled with ideal buyers, it’s stagnant, and without understanding of the risks. Your numbers tell you what’s not working. But only if you pay attention. Otherwise, you’ll never hit your targets.
Stop running away from your numbers.
Reframe your thinking if you believe numbers are boring and someone else’s job. Understanding how you sell is your job. The numbers tell the story. Always.
That inner sales geek—the one that’s in all of us—is there to help you meet and accelerate past your goals. It gives you certainty and predictive powers in ways that people skills can never match. Selling isn’t just an art: there’s a science to it, too. Your mastery of the numbers that power your sales is precisely what determines how consistently you will hit your targets with precision and confidence.
Next time, let’s look at case studies that show you how to analyze your numbers and create a plan.