Making sales isn't just about the delivery

Mindy Crary helps you to identify the weakest link in your sales system.
Mindy Crary

Mindy Crary, MBA, CFP®, personal finance expert, author and CEO of Creative Money

To me, one of the most fascinating things about sales is that the process, the system you use to sell just about anything — from online coaching to used cars — is basically the same.

People wrongly believe that sales is all about the delivery: the way you speak, the words you use, “the sell.”

But in my experience, that’s rarely the reason people aren’t making as many sales as they’d like.

When you break down selling things into its component steps, the most common reasons that you’re not getting the results you need usually have very little to do with persuading someone to buy your product or service. More often, it’s about refining your sales system.

Gary’s system success story

Gary Indiana (name changed to protect the innocent) was a new financial adviser I trained at the beginning of my career. Gary was kind of a big guy; he looked a little like Mr. Clean. He wasn’t the sharpest dresser, although he never looked unprofessional. And he was a bit socially awkward — to the point that other new advisers would comment, “Oh, I just don’t see how Gary’s going to make it. He just doesn’t have the right personality to be an adviser.”

When you break down selling things into its component steps, the most common reasons that you’re not getting the results you need usually have very little to do with persuading someone to buy your product or service.

But Gary’s success didn’t depend on his looks, his outfit, or even his social skills. It was all about honing his system for success.

Luckily, as Gary’s trainer, I knew I didn’t need to focus on what brand of suit he was wearing. Instead, I asked for five pieces of data every single week. They were:

  • Leads: How many leads do you have to contact?
  • Talk Tos: Of those leads, how many did you actually reach?
  • Schedule: Of those you spoke to, how many did you schedule for a meeting?
  • Hold: How many meetings did you hold this week?
  • Sales: How many meetings converted to clients?

From this data, I would create ratios based on a rolling 12 weeks of numbers to get the most accurate picture. For example, one week he might schedule 6 meetings but not hold any. We needed a larger pool of data to get accurate ratios.

Here’s where Gary was with his ratios after a few months:

  • Talk To Ratio – 25%. If Gary had 150 leads, he typically managed to talk to 37 of those leads.
  • Schedule Ratio – 40%. When Gary talked to 37 people, he usually scheduled 15 of those people for meetings.
  • Hold Ratio – 20%. When Gary scheduled 15 meetings, 3 of those meetings would show (the rest were no-shows, cancellations or reschedules).
  • Sales Ratio – 33%. Of the meetings Gary held, he managed to convert one in three to a client.

Notice that none of these ratios is over 50%; as a beginning advisor, Gary wasn’t necessarily super effective in any area — but that’s okay.  Even his percentages weren’t that vital to his success in the beginning.

We decided to focus on the Hold ratio first, because it was the lowest ratio with the most room for improvement (20%). We reviewed his system in that area, and we discovered that:

  1. He wasn’t sending any initial correspondence to confirm the appointment right after he booked it and
  2. He wasn’t calling a few days prior to the appointment to confirm the meeting (even though we encouraged both of the practices in training).

The reason these tasks had dropped off Gary’s radar was simply because he was overwhelmed with the workload.

And guess what? By seeing more people each week, his sales skills automatically got better.

So very simply, we just had somebody else in the office take over Gary’s confirmation process. After every meeting scheduled, he wrote the meeting date and time on the lead sheet and handed it off to one of our office support people.

Those two very simple tasks increase his hold ratio to 50 percent within a month.

Just by increasing his appointment hold ratio—and not fixing anything else—Gary went from seeing 3 people per week to 7.5 (although obviously you can’t see half a person). By still converting at 33%, he was now converting 2-3 people per week.

And guess what? By seeing more people each week, his sales skills automatically got better. Gary got really excited about these results; because the shift went from thinking he had to “get more salesy,” to achieving a more effective process overall.

Successful ratios for online businesses

Online businesses might have different goals than straight one-to-one sales, but the ratios can still help if you just think about them a little differently:

  • Leads = Traffic: How many people are coming to your site, essentially expressing interest in your product or service?
  • Talk To’s = Email Opt-ins: Of that traffic, how many provided an email address?
  • Schedule = Clicks This is where the deviation between online sales and one-to-one sales really starts; if you’re hoping to get one client, then you would still want to schedule them for a consult. If you’re hoping to get people to engage in an online product or service you would need to set up a way to track their interest and clicks to your sales page (perhaps from an email you send).
  • Hold = Time Spent Again, a hold ratio is important for one-to-one sales; in the online product/service world, you would want to look at your Google Analytics and see how long people are spending on your sales page and what the bounce rate is.
  • Sales = Sales Regardless of the type of product, sales are sales! If you can see the traffic on your sales page and know how many products/packages you sold, then you will be able to track your ratio—keeping in mind most online ratios are much smaller than one-to-one sales ratios. You can set up a conversion goal in Google Analytics if you don’t want to track it manually.

The easiest way to start selling more in your business is to identify your weakest link and strengthen it. Collecting your own data is a relatively simple process.

Where is your weakest link?

For Mr. Gary, we focused on organization and follow-up to improve his effectiveness. For most online businesses I coach around sales, the most common reasons they don’t convert more sales are:

  • Not enough leads – bottom line, you need to constantly be adding leads to your prospect bucket.
  • Personalization – even when you sell a product online, customers don’t want to feel anonymous. How can you refine your process to make them feel more seen?
  • Selling too early – too often, in one-to-one sales, greener salespeople forget to allow the prospect to explain in their own words what they need before offering them a solution.
  • Unclear offer – with online businesses, sometimes the lack of clarity over their primary offer makes the sales process convoluted. If you could just sell one thing, what would that be?
  • Forgetting to follow up – most people’s sales conversion ratio will go up 10-20% just by checking back with prospects who they have already spoken to or emailed.

The easiest way to start selling more in your business is to identify your weakest link and strengthen it. Collecting your own data is a relatively simple process. Start tracking your traffic, opt-in conversion rate (# of opt-ins divided by total traffic), clicks inside your sales emails and sales pages, and overall conversion rate.  

Once you have some data to play with, see what you think your weakest link is, and then brainstorm ways to improve it.  

Remember: Sales isn’t necessarily about how you or your business look or act — it’s about refining the steps in your system so that they are as efficient and effective as they can be.

Create Your Own Sales System

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ABOUT MINDY CRARY

If you want to work on your sales process, check out Mindy’s excellent (and FREE) ebook Create Your Own Sales System. Mindy Crary, MBA, CFP® is a QPS Strategist and a personal finance expert who helps both you AND your money succeed. From growing your wealth to the actual person behind it, Mindy bridges the gap between the energetic, spiritual and practical with a creative twist.

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