How to Get Traction and Avoid Chasing Leads One by One

By Rick McPartlin

When it comes to sales, you’ve got two choices: Chase leads and get “stuck in the mud” — or get “traction” to close deals.

Too many salespeople work too hard trying to pull their feet out of deep, heavy, sticky mud all day long while carrying the revenue load for the company on their back. Remember, leads are not qualified prospects — and only qualified prospects become DEALs. So why do salespeople chase leads, and why do CEOs design companies that require lead chasing?

When salespeople either volunteer or are forced into chasing one lead at a time, they are mudders. Cold calling, hanging out at the Chamber, joining leads groups — these are all forms of being stuck in the mud.

Think of those very successful companies that have earned our admiration, like IBM, Apple, Southwest Airlines, your favorite clothing store, restaurant or house of worship. Do they run down every lead, or do they have a program, a process, an approach that gives them traction with the right opportunities?

A salesperson with traction is one who moves rapidly from one qualified prospect to the next with the intent of bringing the prospect great value in return for a relationship based on mutual support.

The definition of selling is “moving a DEAL forward,” and the salesperson’s job is to “move a DEAL forward when no one else in the company can do it better or cheaper.” Only a qualified prospect has a DEAL to work, not a suspect.

You pay salespeople and invest in the sales process to move DEALs forward — PERIOD. When the salesperson is doing anything other than moving a DEAL forward, they are doing someone else’s job and are stuck in the mud.

They are in the mud because they are chasing suspects and doing things that are not their job. The sales team is the only one with the responsibility to close a DEAL even when they aren’t given the time or focus to do it right. Every company has limited resources, and salespeople are your most expensive class of human resource. To have salespeople doing anything other than selling is throwing money away.

Less than 20 percent of a salesperson’s time (five hours per week) is moving DEALs forward. Fewer still (less than 5 percent) sell at least 10 hours per week. As a result, for mid-sized companies, the “Cost Per Sales Hour” is in the area of $3,400 per hour, and for large companies, it can easily be two or three times that. And that’s why they’re stuck — they’re doing things they really weren’t hired to do.

Over time, some salespeople get to like doing other people’s jobs, and the other people let them. When sales is the primary source of leads, marketing is happy to focus on literature no one reads, trade shows that create their own sucking effect, and bad websites. Salespeople are also seen doing customer service, training, engineering, collections, etc. That is a lot of mud.

So how does the sales team get traction?

First, know the difference between the function of marketing and the function of selling. Historically, marketing has been assumed to be an expense. Marketing was not something that predictably grew the company, and all of the marketing benefits were considered soft. Yet the cash that paid for marketing was hard, so salespeople performed the marketing function as part of “selling.”

Today, with the web, social media, digital marketing, traditional marketing and CRM (customer relationship management software), you can track just about every dollar invested and measure the impact on sales.

Marketing is a high-traction way to fill the pipeline so sales can SELL more deals. Hold the marketing function accountable for the RIGHT number, the RIGHT suspects passed to sales and at the RIGHT time. You CAN measure that, and if you can measure it, you can improve it.

Second, hire REAL salespeople, not “jack of all trades, master of none” types who pretend to sell and occasionally do. Hire salespeople who can qualify the right suspects, turn them into qualified prospects, manage the selling process and get to a go-no-go decision in a measurable period of time — with a high percent of GO!

Accountability for sales results is the third factor required for traction. Time to close is one of the four metrics that every sales organization should use. The other three are percent of qualified DEALs won (in that period of time), dollars per transaction and profit for the DEAL after taking into account cost of goods and service.

Once marketing works and sales teams are accountable, they need to get traction or get out. Today, being stuck in the mud seems to be just fine with most companies … but history tells us those stuck in the mud are found thousands of years later as fossils.

Don’t run an organization of future fossils. Get a team with traction!

Rick McPartlin is the CEO of The Revenue Game and is a revenue generation consultant and Vistage speaker. McPartlin was a Vistage member development chair from 2002 to 2009.
Originally published: Dec 7, 2011

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