How Many Prospects Do You Really Need?

Formula for Success

Develop Your Formula For Success

How Many Prospects do You Really Have?

There is no magic to prospecting, just some real hard work, some simple tactics and gambits, and a realization that the only way to win is volume.  That is volume of calls, volume of appointments, and volume of proposals.  Without that, you will not have a volume of sales.

Sales professionals who have done this long enough know that your best effort, even when well directed will still result in a certain amount of rejection and wasted time.  The key to dealing with the rejection is to make enough calls that the rejections don’t bother you and the feelings of wasted time are eclipsed by the successes that you generate.

As was discussed in Black Sales Journal, 9 Prospecting Tips For The Black Sales Professional (2/10/2011), this is the most necessary of your activities, even if you are having a banner year.

The Definition of a Prospect

A prospect is a potential customer that you are attempting to take to the next stage of the buying relationship.  Once they buy, they can remain a prospect, even though they are a customer for one of your products or services.  This definition will keep it simple for this discussion.

How Many Prospects Do You Really Have?

You must take an honest accounting.   How many of your prospects truly have an opportunity to move to the next level?  If there is doubt as to their potential, then they fall a “grade”.

If you don’t use a system already to grade your prospects, then consider this one:

Divide your prospects into 4 groups -

Grade A – High Probability, based on your relationship with the buyer, a match between buyer needs and your product.  Spend adequate time to test these prospects.

Grade B – Better than Average Probability, based on access to the decision maker, buyer needs and your product.  Spend adequate time on these as well.

Grade C – Average Probability, good match of product features and benefits.  These deserve time to develop, and should be reduced to Ds if they do not allow contact or show promise.

Grade D – Lower than Average Probability, based on difficulty with buyer access.

Kiss the Grade Ds Goodbye

Your distribution of “prospects” in the grades is important.  That is why you must be very honest with yourself.  Honest with yourself in a way that you are not honest when discussing your sales funnel with your manager.  This brutal honesty is required because you cannot succeed if you do not have the requisite number of prospects.

The first thing I suggest you do is to trade off your D accounts!  If you cannot trade them to another sales professional, then I would suggest you shelve them, as they will only hurt you if you spend time or other resources on them.  D accounts may be a D because of no chance of a relationship, or because of some evidence of preference or prejudice.  Whatever it is, if it is rated a “D”, I would suggest you don’t touch it.

How Many Prospects Do You Need? – Know Your Ratios!

This depends on your goals, and the kind of sales that you are involved in.  To an even greater extent, that is dependent on you, and your sales abilities and effectiveness.  If you are still learning and honing your skills, you possibly will need more than someone who is a consummate veteran.

Review your sales records, and calculate your sales ratios.

Know these items:

  • How many telephone calls you require to get an appointment on average?
  • How many appointments it takes to get a proposal?
  • How many proposals it takes to get an order?

You can get this from your records if you have been selling for a while.  It will help you construct your ratios.  Your ratios are important because they reflect your selling styles and abilities.  It makes for a good exercise.

If you are successful in getting an appointment 1 out of 5 phone calls on average, you know a valuable variable.  If you also know that it takes you 2 appointments on average get 1 proposal, you know another key variable.  The combination of these builds a large part of the equation.   Now if you determine that you get the order 1 out of 5 proposals for a hit ratio on proposals of 20%, you know some good information.

In the example above, you will note that:

Successful Sales –       1

Proposals –                   5

Appointments –           10

Calls Required –          50

Your Ratios are YOUR Ratios!

You must know and respect your ratios.  They will not be exact, yet the longer that you are involved in sales, the ratios will begin to have their own rolling history.  You need to believe them as they only respect the historical, yet you also can change them.

If you annual sales goal for new customers is $250,000 and the average sales of the product your company sells is $50,000, you need 5 (average) sales to reach goal.

Your ratios would require the following amounts of activity:

Calls Required -            250

Appointments –              50            (1 in 5 phone calls yields an appointment)

Proposals –                     25            (2 appointments gets 1 proposals)

Sales –                               5             (20% of the proposals end in sales)

Meets goal                   $250,000 in new customer sales

So if you take your goals, and include YOUR ratios, as opposed to the company ratios, you will get a clearer picture of what you need to do.  Remember, as a Black sales professional, your product as well as your receptiveness by the buyer affect your ratios.  There is still racial preference and racial prejudice that will weave its way into the equation.  Be prepared for it, and stock your prospect base in preparation for it. We are talking about averages so be careful.  You may need more or less.  This will serve as a starting point.

A Couple of Tips

Before I close I will drop a couple of tips regarding the impact of your activities.  In any sales job, no matter what they are called, there are activity standards (such as prospecting and quoting), and there are production standards (such as number of sales and dollars of sales.)

If you are successful in getting the production standard, you will probably have a job for the next round, yet if you fail in getting your activity standard, and also fall short of your production standard, you are probably in trouble.  Be aware of your goals for both activity and results.  If you are successful in getting your activity through prospecting, and incorporate your ratios, you have a chance to reach your results

Good luck and good prospecting.

1 Comment

  1. This is great information and the key to success in sales. Being honest with yourself about what you truly have in your funnel is tough, but you’ll feel better once you are and you’ll know what areas you’ll need to improve on to make quota. Nice tips to keep it all in perspective!