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What I Learned from Watching Too Much Football

What I Learned from Watching Too Much Football

The day after the Wisconsin Badgers had barely beaten the Oregon Ducks, the pundits proclaimed that one of the problems was tailback Michael Bennett's extraordinary performance. Bennett, you see, had run for 290 yards. Unfortunately, three of his runs had been for 52, 72 and 80 yards. For the first time in many games, Wisconsin had less time of possession than its opponent. Coach Barry Alvarez likes ball control. Bennett, a world-class sprinter, was piling up too many yards at a time, thus giving the opposition more time to score.

Football coaches obsess about time of possession, first-down yardage and touchdown-to-interception ratios. Look at the sports pages on Monday, and you'll see box scores that detail yards rushing, yards passing, fumbles and a host of other team and individual statistics.

Measure the Sales Game Within the Game

What's the lesson for salespeople? You need to measure more than the score. In sales, the score is your monthly or quarterly billing. It's what you sold. But why you sold is just as important. A football coach can't coach the score. He has to focus on improving performance next week. If special teams gave up 250 yards in punt returns, that tells the coach where to spend additional practice time.

Chances are you are not going to be a professional football player. However, if you want to be a professional salesperson, you can measure the game within the game. You can maintain your own box score. An easy way to do that would be to keep track of 10 prospects as they go through your sales process.

You can measure ratios like prospects identified to decision-makers identified. Since you can't call on a company, you must convert the business name into a contact name. Then you can measure contacts identified to contacts you send something to. I like the idea of sending a prospect an article about his or her industry instead of a brochure on your company. This is called seeding the prospect. You can then dial the prospects you've seeded and see how many you actually contact. You can measure the percentage of prospects reached to interviews booked and so on.

Sales Closing Ratio Isn't Everything

Your closing ratio doesn't tell the whole story. One time a salesperson told me that he had a 75 percent closing ratio. "How did you measure that?" I asked.

"Simple: I made four presentations and closed three sales."

"How many prospects did you start with?"

"Twenty. Why?"

"Because you actually closed 15 percent of all the prospects you put into process."

"I never thought of it that way," said the salesperson.

Unless you measure your advancing ratios, you'll never know what's working and what part of your sales process needs work. Many sales managers call me and say their salespeople have closing problems, when in reality, these salespeople never get into a position where closing a sale is appropriate. In reality, they have a prospecting problem or an opening problem. They are not getting enough appointments to begin with, and therefore, they aren't doing enough fact-finding meetings. That's why they are not writing as many presentations as more successful salespeople are writing.

The FBI uses a top 10 list to help them focus their resources on the worst criminals. I suggest you use a list of your own to focus your sales energies on your best prospects. Always have 10 prospects in process, so if you close one, add another to replace it. You can also count how many new business moves you make in a week.

Like a football coach, you'll know exactly what's going on in your sales career and what to do about it. The numbers don't lie. Don't fool yourself into thinking you can be a pro without measuring the game within the game.

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