For Increased Sales, Ditch The Nets. Pick Up A Harpoon

The net effect from misplaced focus is that results suffer as the team begins to focus on being “busier” and doesn’t make accomplishing great results the target. ( Stock image )

To catch the big fish, you have to have the right tools and the right approach. How often have you challenged your team or yourself to do more or sell more by focusing on productivity factors like setting more appointments or completing more customer calls per day and so forth? Yet have you ever looked at your results and known in your gut that you could be selling much more in revenue or could be getting much more valuable work accomplished?

Too often I have seen leadership get too focused on ginning up productivity. The net effect from that misplaced focus is that results suffer as the team begins to focus on being “busier” and doesn’t make accomplishing great results the target. 

In less than 90 days, I have seen many companies dramatically increase their sales funnels—and ultimately revenues—by shifting the focus from quantity to quality of selling efforts.

One story had to do with a third-generation product company. Compensation was tied to number of sales calls almost as much as it was to sales results. The salespeople had developed ingenious ways to fill their calendars with a number of “sales” calls that were of little value but helped them to earn extra bonuses.

We made three small changes. First, we directed the sales team to no longer focus on making calls to prospects that could not amount to more than $50,000 and to redirect those opportunities to inside sales.

Second, we told them to dedicate the time they would have spent with those small customers to six- and seven-figure prospects.

Third, we shifted the productivity bonuses toward each sales rep identifying a healthy qualified list of those larger “whale” prospects. And there were bonuses for verifying and clarifying opportunities that were identified by those whale targets. We developed a checklist for the whale targets to use in prioritizing opportunity and improvement areas.

If the sales rep had more than 20 qualified leads and saw even just one or two of them every week and had the checklist filled out by the prospects, then not only did sales compensation increase by more than 40% but the growth rate for the company was also many times what it ever had been.

The fact is that most any company could fire some percentage of its worst customers, prospects and practices; redirect that time and energy toward growing or acquiring its largest of ideal customers; and have great results.

I recommend that you complete a quick analysis of how much time your sales team spends on average with your largest account potentials and your smallest account potentials. Some line of demarcation will segment your targets into three or four echelons of value. Make and communicate your decision of what to stop doing and where exactly to redirect that time and energy.

This practice has its roots in Peter Drucker’s principle known as the Five Most Important Questions for Every Business. His second question is who is your customer, and the fourth is what are your results? I would just add the qualifier, who is your ideal customer?

I’ve seen where 95% of the results come from 5% of the customers and only 5% of the sales team’s activity is with those 5% of customers.

In one company, we were able to double sales in 18 months. This was achieved by simply firing the bottom 10% of customers and doubling the time spent with those top 5% of customers and prospects. 

After you and your team start to get the taste of big-game hunting, you will find that your better reps will begin to have a gleam in their eyes that is more akin to Captain Ahab going after Moby Dick than a fisherman baiting a No. 12 hook with a worm. 

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