Note: Upon her indictment on federal money laundering charges and her arrest February 8, 2022, Inc. dismissed Heather Morgan as a contributing columnist. As is our practice, we do not unpublish editorial content, and rather have added this note for full transparency.

You can't run your business without sales metrics, but measuring the wrong numbers or misinterpreting these numbers can be just as bad as not having any metrics at all.

For example, you might be getting thousands of visitors to your website per day, but no sales from that web traffic. Or you might have tens of thousands of followers on Twitter, but that doesn't mean anything if none of those contacts lead to meaningful sales conversations.

When it comes to sales emails, just looking at metrics like "number of emails delivered," "email open rates," and "response rates" might reassure you, but they don't actually show real results. In fact, they can even be misleading.

Here's three sales metrics you should be watching if you want to know how your sales team is really performing.

Sales Metric #1: Quality of contact data

I can't tell you how many times I've seen people waste their sales efforts on bad contact data. You can have the best email templates and sales strategy, but still get no results if you have incorrect or outdated contact information for your prospective customers.

For example, we've seen clients become distressed after Google blacklists them when they blast out thousands of emails with a high bounce rate of 20%. It's hard to keep perfectly accurate contact data because information is constantly decaying as people change jobs, emails, and even first or last names.

However, if you let your email bounce rate get above 10%, you're almost guaranteed to have problems with email deliverability, especially as you send more emails over time. You might get undelivered emails as a consequence in the beginning, leading to a lower open and response rate, but over time you might even get your email server's IP blacklisted.

Likewise, you don't want to waste your sales team's time with emailing and calling people with the wrong information.

Sales Metric #2: Positive email response rate

It's exciting to get lots of responses to your sales emails, but just looking at "response rate" as a number will count a lot of "false positives." For example, many email analytics tools will automatically count any response, including "OOO" (out of office reminders), and other misleading auto-responders, as well as negative responses.

This becomes especially problematic when people are sending multiple emails across a sales email campaign, since there are more chances for responses that aren't actually positive. It's really important to keep track of positive response rates as well as negative, or unsubscribe requests, since the latter are likely to be associated with spam complaints.

With regards to positive response rates, you can also analyze your emails for specific keywords that appear to be recurring across similar sales emails. In general, you should pay special attention to positive responses that lead to fruitful sales conversations, and ideally close deals.

Sales Metric #3: Quality of sales conversations

One of our clients was complaining that our sales emails were getting them lots of responses, but they weren't having enough quality sales conversations that they could actually close. At first, I thought that our emails might not contain enough "disqualifiers." This means that the emails were actually so compelling that too many people were responding, even if these people weren't really qualified to buy from them.

After digging into their analytics and speaking with one of their salespeople, I figured out what was really happening. The sales emails were fine, and they were in fact targeting the right people, but their salespeople's responses didn't match our emails.

While our emails were thoughtful and more casual, the salespeople would aggressively try to get the prospective customer on the phone as soon as someone responded to their email. Sometimes buyers would ask follow-up questions in response to the salesperson's email, and the salesperson would ignore it, and just send them a link to their calendar.

Keeping track of the quality of your sales conversation past the initial contact can help you proactively spot "leakage" in your sales pipeline that would otherwise lead to lost revenue.

Which sales metrics is most important to the health of your company and why? I'd love to hear from you.

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