I had an accidental sales person come to me a few days ago for a ‘pick me up’ coaching session.

He said to me ‘I must be doing something wrong. No one seems to want to buy.’

When I asked about his activity levels and how many deals had fallen through he told me in the last month he had done three proposals from cold calls, two of which were actually for the same prospect.

I relayed to him what a top cold calling trainer had told me about closure rates from cold calls some time ago. He had said that the best he could personally achieve was an average closure rate of 1 in 3 from a cold call. The conversation had been about the false expectations of people that are used to generating leads from networking and start to supplement them with cold calling or tele-marketing.

If we are used to getting quality leads from networking then it is easy to assume that you are good at closing business. ‘Put me in front of a prospect and I can close them every time’ is a typical comment. These people do not realize that an introduction from a trusted contact makes things so much easier. They have already been pre-sold by their contact. Sure, they need to do a good job in fleshing out the opportunity and coming up with a credible solution but the relationship and trust levels will normally be much stronger much quicker than from a cold call. When the same people start following up on leads generated from cold calling they get concerned when their closure rates are not as high.

Anyway, this guy had fallen into the generalization trap. He had taken 3 examples and assumed that he was doing something wrong. When I looked at the detail there were some minor tweaks to things like his proposals and the questions he was asking…but essentially it all seemed ok. When he started to ramp up the activity he soon began to start closing some sales and things all seemed so much better. As I normally say ‘A healthy sales pipeline cures a lot of problems!’.

So the learning from this example is that we should start tracking our activity levels by different sources of lead. Once we have established a reliable pattern based on a reasonable sample size then we can start looking at where we can best improve. Even if your average closure rate is one in three, you could actually lose six deals in a row followed by winning three deals in a row. Its only by tracking that you start to understand your averages over time and the amount of work you need to do. If the sample size is not reliable then we should first focus on increasing the activity.

Selling is an activity game. Always remember, people with above average activity and below average selling skills can still outsell someone who has lots of skills but does very little.