The One Question Most Salespeople Can’t Answer


What is the one question that most salespeople can’t answer? Before I get to this, let me tell you the one question every salesperson can answer. How many did you sell last month? I am sure if you stopped reading right now and asked yourself, or your team this question you would get 100 percent of them to respond.

Now let’s get to the question so many cannot answer.

Let me set the stage. I travel to work with clients across the globe regarding marketing and process. When inspecting marketing efforts, we eventually end up looking at how salespeople are handling the opportunities marketing creates.

Over the last few visits, I began to ask the second question to each of the salespeople and so far, no one has been able to answer. Once I explained why it was important and showed the leaders of the team how to enforce this understanding, guess what happened?

Sales increased.

So, what is the second part of the initial "How many did you sell last month?" question?

Here it is: “How many opportunities did you present to in order to sell this number?”

Not one salesperson could tell me. A few threw out some number but without any confidence at all. So, I explained my rationale. Rating performance only based on the end result does not help the business or dealership become efficient.

If someone sells 20 units, is this a good performance? Well if they pitched 35 people, then I would say yes. If they pitched 75 people, then maybe not. Let’s say you score 25 points in a basketball game, but took 60 shots, I am not sure this is a good strategy for the team’s success.

I work with a good number of automotive dealerships, and I see many sales tally boards only ranked by the end result: Total sales. While this is one metric, efficiency should be the hallmark of a team’s strategy.

For most dealerships and other retail businesses, they have some customers who set appointments and others just walk in. Each of these types of customers should have different closing percent assigned to them. If we know customers without an appointment close at 33 percent or 1 out of 3, then how does your team stack up? The same goes for appointments. If we feel the team should close at 50 percent, then how does the team and each salesperson stack up?

I suggested to each of my clients they should their team based on efficiency metrics instead of just end sales. So, in this example, I would rank the salespeople by the closing percent of walk-in customers and customers with appointments. I would draw a line at what the team average is and then I would also draw a line at where the team goal is. For example, is I thought the team should close at 33 percent for walk-in customers and the team finished at 25 percent, I would draw a line at 25 percent and then one at 33 percent.

I would celebrate those over the 33 percent goal. I would show those above the room but under goal, they are so close to hitting goal. Those under the team average, I would let them know you would be giving them additional training to help them get to the room average first, then to the team goal.

By posting these results each month, the team sees what is expected. They see efficiency is celebrated, not just end numbers. Also, the team sees leaders as being there to help them improve. If next month the team performance improves, then celebrate it. Even if someone is still under the team but improved their performance, celebrate it and continue to work with this individual to improve performance.

Metrics drive success and allow those who lead the team to know where their team needs help. It seems so simple but as leaders, the metrics we stress as important will be met by our team.

Make sure they are the right ones which align with your business efforts. Selling is important, but at what cost? If we do not respect the efficiency of our efforts with every opportunity we encounter then we are not maximizing our potential.