While part of making sales is indeed a numbers game, measuring quantity should really be about making sure your machine functions--in other words confirming that you have enough leads to feed your pipeline. Diagnosing slow sales, however, is best done by digging into the dirty details of individual interactions. It may sound time-consuming and counterintuitive, I know. After all, quickly sketching out the big picture by getting an overall idea of what's going on, checking call volume, appointment setting, etc,  seems like it will uncover the source of the sales sag.  But the reality is, I can get far better insight into my sales by monitoring the sale at the micro-level. These 3 examples illustrate exactly why.

  

Is the customer getting the right reception? No matter what guidelines we give, what systems we set up, or what marketing mechanisms we put in place, every sale comes down to an interaction rather than a transaction.  When I went to buy a Christmas tree this week, I saw one as we arrived that looked full and perfect, at first glance. As I circled it, I realized it was crooked because it had been badly inserted into its non-removable stand. The woman who was waiting on me suggested I could put it near a wall. This was not a selling point--it was sloppy sales. She should have offered to unfurl several others, or drawn my attention to one in particular that she thought was a good substitute. She didn't, and I left empty-handed to buy elsewhere. Now imagine how many customers had the same experience and left. The problem clearly wasn't the number or customers coming in--it was the way in which they were being received. Had a manager taught her to ask some questions about the kind of tree the client wanted or even just to take her customer on a tour of the lot, graciously opening up any tree she noticed the customer appraising, the store's sales would have been noticeably better--and metrics would have nothing to do with it.

Are the customer's needs being met? As business owners, we can make sure that our products are all in stock, that our locations are well-staffed, that our offer is competitive, but when all that is in place, the last checkpoint before the sale is made is the customer feeling like she has been heard and her needs have been addressed. When that doesn't happen, sales slip out the door and don't come back. About a month after a bright and airy new coffee shop opened near my house, I stopped in because it looked inviting. I ordered a breakfast tea with milk. Then, despite having asked whether I wanted the milk hot or cold, the girl behind the counter absentmindedly gave it to me black. I chose not to waste time trying to get it fixed, because the line was long and the waiting consumers looked exasperated already. I never went back.  And judging by the fact that the cafe is now empty most of the time, I guess the rest of the crowd did the same. If a manager or owner tried to figure out why sales had suddenly taken a dip in this cafe using metrics, they might note that less cups of coffee were being served, or measure how many upsell suggestions the barista was making, and they would never uncover the real problem of inattention to customer requests. 

Does the salesperson know how to listen for opportunity? A salesperson, whether good or bad, is all about getting across the finish line. When she speaks with a customer, she either enters the conversation with an idea of what she wants to point out, or latches onto the first thing a customer says and from either of those points, tries to close.  While it's certainly good to be moving toward the close, it's the details where the additional opportunities can be found. When I heard one of my reps on a recent call ask the customer what kind of piercing prep the shop uses, and then suggest ours, I was happy to hear the customer decide to give it a try.  When the customer then lamented "at least I know their piercing will be done right, even if they don't take care of it after they leave my shop", my sales rep commiserated with the customer, but then proceeded to get payment details and close out the order--without also suggesting our aftercare products!   Again, the metrics were there. The rep spoke with the right number of customers, helped them make purchases that at face value were on track, but when all was said and done, the opportunity to help the customer grow his business was lost, and that affects both his revenues and my company's.

When your pipeline is full but your revenues aren't what they should be, metrics won't save you, but a quality check will. Make monitoring a ritual, and you'll see your sales lag turn to luster.

 

Published on: Dec 26, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.