Being a good salesperson, or good at selling, is difficult to quantify. More of an art than a science, sales plays a critical role in almost all businesses, and yet businesses rarely use data to determine what makes a good sales team.
That’s why every year at Pipedrive we analyse anonymised metadata from 70,000 SMEs and hundreds of thousands of salespeople around the world. We undertake this annual exercise not simply to highlight the best sales teams, but to ascertain exactly why they are so successful.
Although it’s difficult to generalise across sectors and territories, our data found that higher performing sales teams saw a typical conversion rate of 37 per cent, closing deals on average in 36.5 days. In comparison, the average conversion rate of low performers is 4.95 per cent, taking 56.62 days to close a deal.
See also: A sales funnel is your strategy for sales success – Forget sales pipelines, a "sales funnel" is what you need to develop a winning business strategy, according to Julia Payne, owner of consultancy firm Incisive Edge.
Drilling into the data we also found some fascinating commonalities across the top performing teams, no matter what industry or country they work in. We have distilled the findings in to three actionable pieces of advice.
1) Focus on the right actions
One of the greatest attributes a salesperson can have is tenacity, but they are often guilty of trying to do too much. Arguably the most crucial revelation from our data was that simplification is absolutely paramount, no matter what the industry or the geography.
Keep your pipeline lean – don’t go after every prospect that walks through the door and focus on activities that work. And remember, knowing what doesn’t work is equally as important as knowing what does. By shaking off those stages, or activities, that never get results, you can better focus your time into the most effective layers of your process.
This may sound obvious, but taking a scattergun approach to sales will rarely give you the results you need. It will actually just end up consuming all your time, affecting your processing, analysis and execution of prospects that may be on the edge of conversion.
In fact, we found that that companies with low conversion rates actually conducted 30% more activities than high performing ones. These high performing teams are doing more by doing less.
The lesson is simple then: don’t just work harder, work smarter.
2) It’s time to get mobile!
When we took a closer look at the highest performing sales teams we found that they used mobile to manage their sales pipelines far more than their lower ranked peers; in fact, above average performers typically increased their mobile activity by 33 per cent. This could be because top performers never ‘switch off, but we think the reason is more nuanced.
Success in sales can often come down to the fundamentals of accurate record and note taking. Recording each and every touch-point with a prospect means you are fully prepared for the next interaction with them. Moving them through your CRM sales pipeline the moment you finish speaking/interacting with them means they’re served the right messaging at the right time, helping push them towards conversion.
The heavy mobile use of top performers suggests they’re keeping records on the move, editing their CRM, and updating colleagues the moment they get out of the meeting. They’re using cloud CRM technology to make sure crucial info on a prospect is never lost in a pile of notebooks.
And don’t stop there; today, we have a plethora of digital tools at our disposal, from CRM platforms to messaging software. Find your preferred weapons of choice, and leverage them to push leads down the pipeline quickly and efficiently.
3) Top performers aren’t afraid to break up with prospects
Our research showed that knowing when to ‘break up’ with a prospect is crucial. Sales teams need to get to a ‘no’ quicker, enabling them to move on and focus on the right opportunities, significantly improving conversion rates. High-performing organisations that focus on prioritisation generally add half as many prospects to their pipeline, but win at least twice as many.
Our data shows there is no universal formula for how much time you should spend pursuing a lead. The most important thing is understanding the prospect. How qualified are they? Have they responded before? Are they willing to answer the hard questions? Knowledge and intuition are powerful things, but when that fails email tracking is a useful way to use data to gauge interest.
If your prospect is reading your emails, they may be worth a little more time. If you have a 0 per cent open rate and no response, take the hint and say goodbye.
Laurence Bret Stern is chief revenue officer at Pipedrive