Most of our businesses have just embarked on a new set of goals. But do we know if we are on track to achieve them? I went to a BNI conference a year ago where I truly got the message that businesses need to know their ‘closing’ ratio – the proportion of inbound contacts that actually turn into sales. [ Edited to add. It was the Referrals for Life Day, in Santa Rosa, CA. The speaker who got me thinking about all this was Sarah Owen, of the Referral Institute, UK]
My inner-statistician and outer-control-freak bellied up to the computer with barely concealed glee. ‘We’ opened a spreadsheet and data-dived for what we could find of my sales pipeline, drawing on those trusted resources – the in-box, to-do list, my calendar, saved voicemails and annotated business cards.
Over a year of use the spreadsheet has shaken down into a daily ‘go to’:
– Close ratio: The proportion (numbers or value) of deals that actually close
– # Contacts needed each month to reach sales goals
– Where contacts come from
– How busy the next couple months are likely to be
– Overly healthy pipeline? Knuckle down and bring in more subs!
– Light on incoming work? Need to get out to do a bit more networking.
– There are also classic pipeline management columns.
The image above shows one month of data, with a close ratio of 52% (9,600/18,400) , but I can run analysis across a whole year.
So what were the benefits?
1. Close Ratio:
– About 30% of my contacts are ‘leads’ who do not qualify as true prospects. Either my services are not right for them, or they do not have the time or budget. Most of these identify themselves on the first call. If I take 3 – 6 calls like this each month, that is fine by me – I can often refer them on to another business.
– Over a year, my close ratio is about 50%. So I ‘lose’ about 20% of my contacts during the sales process. This is NOT fine by me – I think more of these sales would close if I present or managed the process better.
– If my close ratio is 50% and my sales target is $10K of business each month (“Just sayin’…” that is NOT the actual number!) then I would need an average pipeline of $20K each month.
This was my bonus discovery. Having a year of data for this really tells me which of my marketing is worth while. These were the sources that identified themselves:
– BNI: Referrals from my current BNI membership and activity
– Clients: Referrals from my current clients
– Friends: People with no business overlap who refer business to me.
– Local Networking: Other than BNI (Chamber of Commerce, local Web forums etc)
– SEO: People who found me through search
– Social Media: Prospects who contacted me because of my Social Media presence.
3. Pipeline Management
Those other columns that I do not discuss her contain the steps it takes as a contact moves from lead or referral to prospect to proposal to client.