Measuring Success: In Search Of The Ultimate Sales Metric
There are metrics used to track sales from almost every angle, except one. That is the quality of the ‘sales experience’ for the buyer and the extent to which the seller ‘helps the buyer to buy’ – otherwise called buyer-seller alignment. This insight is aimed at addressing that gap.
The Search Begins
We were asked recently if we could help identify a metric that could be used to measure the quality of the ‘sales experience’ for the buyer. Such a metric would also gauge alignment with the buyer’s process. It would be used by sales manager to evaluate, manage and incentive-ize salespeople.
Ironically the task was made more, rather than less difficult by the fact that only one metric was required. We had just written an insight highlighting the top 10 metrics in respect of opportunity management, so settling on just one was going to be difficult.
Maybe we could get the list of 10 down to a short list of 3, at least as a first step to identifying that ultimate ‘killer’ metric. That is relatively easy, as it turns out, because we normally ask 3 questions to gauge seller-buyer alignment.
Creating The Short-List
We look at the buying decision in 3D and ask questions that relate to the How (buying process), Why (buying rationale) and Who (buying team) of the decision, as follows:
1. HOW? ‘We have a full knowledge of the buyer’s buying process (including steps, information requirements and internal approvals).’
2. WHY? ‘We are engaging with the buyer in building a compelling business case/justification for the purchase (including key metrics and payback, etc.)’
3. WHO? ‘We know all the decision makers and are engaging at the most senior levels with all those on the buying team.’
So, in search of a single metric, two of the above would have to go. That is also not a major challenge however.
Our research tells us that the logic or justification of the decision (that is the WHY), is the most important aspect of modern buying.
Looking For A ‘Why’ – Related Metric
In most cases the WHY? is more important than the How of buying process, or the Who of buying team. Quite simply without it the purchase is unlikely to get sanctioned.
So, our metric to measure the seller’s positive impact on, or interaction and alignment with; the buyer’s process should focus on that most important dimension – the buying logic, or justification for the purchase.
In short we are looking for a metric that relates to:
‘…engaging with the buyer in building a compelling business case/justification for the purchase (including key metrics and payback, etc.)…’
Why A ‘Why’-Related Metric?
Now you might ask ‘how does that measure the buying experience?’ Well, addressing the extent to which the seller is involved in building the WHY justification for the decision is a proxy for quality of the buyer’s sales sales experience for the following reasons:
1. It Helps Get Purchases Sanctioned
In many cases helping the buyer to justify the decision is the most significant contribution a sales person can make.
The ability of the salesperson to build a compelling justification or rationale for the decision is not only a key determinant of winning the sale, but also a measure of the extent to which the salesperson can help the buyer to make the decision and then to get it sanctioned internally.
That often includes securing budget, bringing stakeholders on board and beating off competition from other purchases or projects.
2. The Buyer May Be Struggling To Justify
In many organizations buyers are challenged in doing the maths that are required to justify the decision in the face of external scrutiny by either procurement, or finance.
The buyer may be struggling to present a robust costs-benefits analysis, or to calculate the return on investment. Maybe the customer has under-estimated the total cost of ownership, maybe he is struggling to quantified the benefits, or doesn’t understand the difference between hard and soft savings.
Any or all of these situations present the seller with a unique opportunity to come to the buyer’s aide.
3. It’s Essential To Communicating Value
The salesperson cannot communicate value, without talking numbers. In dealing with the hard-nosed economic buyer, numbers go to the core of value. Sellers need to calculate value the same way buyers do. That means going beyond traditional features and benefits messages. It means getting to the very basis of the value for the buyer.
4. It Distinguishes The Trusted Advisor
Inputting to the buyer business case, or justification for the purchase requires a new level of access and engagement. It is not something that most salespeople get to do. Indeed, the willingness to share numbers is a new measure of the level of intimacy between buyer and seller.
It is also a test of sellers consultative sales skills and ultimately a measure of the degree to which salesperson is seen as expert and trusted advisor. The seller who gets to input to the buyer’s business is having conversations that other sellers are not having, with people that other sellers don’t get to meet. Those are the most powerful of all sales conversations.
So hopefully we have convinced you that a metric to measure alignment with and positive impact on the buyer’s decision making process should focus on building the ‘Why’ justification or rationale for the decision. But, where does that leave us? In particular, how to arrive at a specific metric that captures such information? Let’s examine that on the next page.
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