It all started because I was being blindsided by sales.
Before I started full-time freelance writing for financial and real estate businesses, I worked in financial sales. I’d get no sales for a while and then suddenly a flood of sales would come in. It was hard to predict the factors that led to my (occasional) success.
I wondered: What if I could actually predict my sales before I made them?
What if I could make a sale faster? And more effortless?
And, what if I could make these sales faster and more effortless over and over and over again with each new lead?
In this blog post, I’m going to show you the simple and surprising way to increase your sales. It’s simple because it only takes about 2 minutes before you make your sales presentation; and it’s surprising because it really is so easy (and almost obvious) to do.
THE 2 MINUTE SALES INCREASING EXERCISE
The best way I’ve found to increase sales is this: Just before I make a sales presentation, I try to guess the probability that I will actually be able to sell this product to this client.
Sounds weird, right? After all, what’s the advantage of guessing? And, why would you continue if you thought the probability of selling was low?
But it works. After just one month of estimating my probability of success before making the presentation, I found a huge increase in the number of sales I closed.
Here’s why it’s so effective:
- At first, your guessing is just that — guessing. It’s almost arbitrary. But after a while, you start to become more accurate. You start to know when a sales presentation is going to end with a sale or without one. It’s like shooting a basketball from the foul line. You know the moment it leaves your fingers whether you’re going to sink the throw… you don’t actually have to wait for it to arc over into the hoop.
- Soon, you start discover the underlying elements that make up the success of a sale. You discover that a sale is not an unquantifiable relationship but as a series of elements which, when put together, usually turn into a sale. These “success elements” help you to determine the probability that you will succeed. You’ll assign a percentage to these success elements so that you can estimate your probability of a closed sale before you even open your mouth to present.
- Then, you begin to shape your sales efforts around optimizing those elements (either by better qualifying your leads more effectively or by making changes in your own marketing and selling efforts).
- You know ahead of time whether or not a sale is going to be successful.
- When a sale doesn’t seem to be the likely outcome of your sales presentation then you can change gears by changing the purpose of the presentation… from sales to additional fact-finding (for example).
- When a sale does seem to the likely outcome of your sales presentation, you can move forward confidently.
- Ultimately, the result is MORE SALES.
AN EXAMPLE OF PROBABILITY ESTIMATING IN MY OWN BUSINESS
When I first started estimating my success probability, I was just guessing. I listed 4 elements that I thought were important and I assigned them a 25% probability percentage each. I soon found that I was presenting to people and was expecting a 25%, 50%, or 75% likelihood of success (never the elusive 100%!).
I saw this and realized the futility of pitching to someone when I only had a 25% probability of success. So I immediately stopped presenting to them. That bumped up my closing rate dramatically because I was now only presenting to people who were either 50% or 75% likely to buy from me. (In other words, I started qualifying my leads much more effectively based on something quantifiable).
The next thing I observed is that even though I was presenting to people who were either 50% or 75% likely to buy from me, I only ever closed the deals on the 75%ers. Never the 50%ers…. However, upon further reflection, I realized that many of the 50% probability prospects could easily be turned into 75% probability prospects.
Here’s what I did next: I looked at my successes even further and found that there weren’t only 4 success elements. (That was just my initial unrefined foray into probability estimating).
After further research, I found that there were many more success elements. I eventually found 12 success elements that consistently proved out to be the biggest factors. Among them were:
- The amount of time between someone needing my services and me finding out about it and showing up to help them (the sooner the better).
- The quality of the client’s credit rating.
- Whether or not they initiated contact or I did.
- How specific they were in telling me their needs.
- (… and eight other elements).
Today, I only make sales presentations to prospects when the success elements are at least 60%.
And, as I review my successes, I see that I consistently only get clients who are at a 75% probability. (However, I continue presenting to the 60% people because it helps me to maintain a baseline for what my success elements are and it forces me to look at the 60%ers and see if there’s a way that I can increase their probability).
Disclaimer: Just in case it’s not clear; I don’t close every sale even when the probabilities are high. Many other factors (such as changes in the prospect’s life or personality conflict or my misreading of the probabilities) play a part in whether a sale is closed. These are only probabilities.
Enough about me…
HERE’S HOW TO ESTIMATE YOUR SALES SUCCESS
First, start guessing: The best thing you can do is just start guessing. Just guess about the outcome before every presentation. Write it down then go present. Your initial efforts will feel arbitrary and uninformed.
Then, after each presentation, review your written guess and ask yourself if your outcome was accurate or not.
Second, figure out what makes a successful sale: Think about all of the elements that go into successful sales. List as many as you can. A few examples might be:
- The length of time the prospect knew you
- The amount and type of interaction you had with the prospect
- Whether the prospect contacted you initially or whether you contacted them (i.e. cold call)
- The amount of money the prospect was willing to spend
- The types of objections the prospect had
- The speed in which you responded to questions and issues
- The alignment between your goals and your prospect’s goals
The more you can list, the better.
List elements that you think could be success elements. List the elements that you know are true. List the elements that clients have told you were the reasons they hired you. List the objections that prospects have (because solving these are probably success elements). List the things you’ve said or done when you saw a change in a prospect’s face or demeanor and you knew that you had closed the sale. List the elements that your sales manager or agency says are important. Go ask a successful professional and list what they say, too.
Be aware that some of the items you list will seem to be completely in your control and some of them will be completely out of your control. List them all anyway.
Third, refine your list: Now look at your sales successes. Decide which elements were present in your successful sales and were not present in your unsuccessful sales. The success elements that were almost always present in your successful sales and almost never present in your unsuccessful ones should make the final cut.
But don’t forget to keep it reasonable. If you have 100 success elements, it might be a little much to deal with and this 2 minute exercise becomes an unwieldy 15 minute exercise. Cut it down if possible. Combine success elements if possible. Find the most important. I’m very happy with 12 success elements and I think I could comfortably handle up to 20 elements but I wouldn’t want to pay attention to many more than that.
Fourth, assign percentages: Now assign a percentage to those elements. For starters, just divide them equally so if you have 10 elements, assign each a 10% probability… but over time, you might refine this number because some elements will be worth more than others. I’ll talk more about this near the end of this post.
Fifth, build your sales funnel’s marketing and selling efforts around those success elements: Every time you build a relationship with a client, make sure those elements are all in place before you present. When they are in place, you are highly likely to close the sale. If they aren’t in place, decide whether or not they ever will be in place and work toward ensuring those elements are in place by spending more time with the prospects.
Sixth, keep guessing! Keep guessing. With every single sales presentation, guess the probability of your success based on the success elements you’ve listed. Write it down. Then check afterward.
REFINING YOUR ESTIMATION
- For successful sales of a high percentage, note where you were correct (which success elements were present and which ones weren’t). If you consistently find that a particular success element isn’t present then it is not as important as you initially thought.
- For successful sales of a low percentage, figure out why you closed the sale even though you didn’t think you would. Are there other success elements present that you have not accounted for?
- For unsuccessful sales of a high percentage, note which success elements were present and which ones weren’t. Revisit your probabilities if you consistently see a success element not present; chances are, it is having more of an impact on your selling efforts than you thought.
- For unsuccessful sales of a low percentage, revisit what you can do to improve the probabilities. Look at the success elements that you have some control over and consider how you could have improved them in this case. And even the success elements over which you have no control, figure out how you could have qualified the lead more effectively so that they wouldn’t come to you in the first place until more success elements are in place.
Now you have a useful tool that you can spend 2 minutes doing before every sales presentation to significantly increase your ability to turn prospects into clients!