Most Revealing Sales Stats

Here’s the meat on a mailshot promoting a September seminar sponsored by a mindmap software house. The figures are credited to a CSO Insights survey on 2009 performance.

The percentage of salespeople making quota dropped from 58.8% to 51.5% last year. Despite this drop, 85% of surveyed firms indicated they were raising quotas again this year. In addition, less than 50% of forecast deals are resulting in a win. What’s needed to turn this alarming trend around?

Whilst you can’t help but wish well any endeavour to improve sales performance, nagging away at me is the thought that they’ve chosen the wrong figures with which to bait.

I know plenty of relatively large sales teams. How many people in them make their number? It surely is no shock that only half of all sellers hit quota. In any case, how relevant is this as a barometer? How often is the desired sales topline conjured with little regard to corporate transparency, merely adding say twenty percent to what the bean counters demand?

Likewise, is it really news that 85% raise targets? The surprise is rather that this figure isn’t 100%. What on earth are the other 15% doing? Perhaps they simply forgot to answer this qu. Maybe there are sales operations you know that have cut quotas out there, but I’ve never come across one. Keeping the level constant, yes, especially over recent years. But reduce? Oh no.

And the final push. Only half of all forecasted deals come home. Well, that says more about forecast categories and politics than any meaningful guide to sales success. It’s hard to imagine a survey landing on anything other than the prominent centre of a bell curve for such query.

I think alternative factors would make for a more compelling case.

The obvious one is with commissions. How many sales people saw their bonuses fall? I suspect this one would really hit home.

Then there’s indicators that should more closely reveal economic patterns. Total pipeline value falls, sales cycle lengthening and key account or new business shrinkage all spring to mind and are also fairly straightforward to capture.

If you use figures, not only should you make sure they stand scrutiny, but also test that they are the right sets to use in the first place.

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