One Sales Acceleration Metric You Need to Monitor

Rather than doing a cliffhanger I’ll tell you straight away it’s Batting Average.  Huh?  Read on…

I was talking with my good friend Chad Burmeister about the ‘outbound on demand’ model he pioneered at ConnectAndSell.  It’s built on the concept of using ConnectAndSell (CAS) to have multiple agents dial the phone on behalf of the sales rep.  When an agent gets a connect to a decision maker (non-gatekeeper), the hot connect goes to the sales rep in nearly real time.  It solves a big problem for sales teams – the amount of time it takes to get people on the phone.  ConnectLeader offers a similar service.

Chad thinks in terms of the number of dials.  He told me a story about how one of his reps stopped using CAS for a month and her dials plummeted from a typical 20,000 to 1,000.  This had a huge negative impact on pipeline because this rep was pretty good on the phone.  She mastered having unscheduled conversations that the prospect wasn’t expecting.  Which caused me to ask Chad:

“If given an equal amount of ConnectAndSell, how many completed meetings will a rep produce at the end of the month?”

Chad’s answer: “Sometimes 80 and sometimes 8.  It just depends on how good the rep is on the phone.”  Of course the 80 vs. 8 depends on several factors beyond rep conversation skills like the list or lead source, cold outbound vs. warm lead follow up, which product the reps are calling about, etc.  Still rep conversation quality makes up the biggest improvement in outcome.

80 vs. 8 is a huge difference.  And it’s right in line with what I’ve observed in over 100 companies.  When sales reps are given a sales acceleration technology like CAS, there is frequently a big ‘Conversation Quality Gap’ between top reps and bottom reps.  Which leads to the one key sales metric that I see only some companies regularly monitoring:

How many unscheduled conversations does it take one of your reps to get one held meeting?

  • By ‘unscheduled conversations’ I mean an outbound cold call or lead follow up call that is unscheduled and unexpected by the prospect.
  • By ‘one held meeting’ I mean the rep converts the unscheduled call to a scheduled call, web, or in person meeting which then occurs.  This is important because some reps are really good at scheduling meetings which then fall off and never occur.

You can measure this ‘Conversation Average’ this way:

Conversation average equation: Held meetings divided by unscheduled conversations multiplied by 100

This average is just like batting average in baseball.

  • Every time one of your reps has an unscheduled conversation it’s just like a batter going up to the plate in baseball.
  • Every one of their conversations converts to a held meeting is like the batter getting a hit.

 By measuring the batting average of the reps, sales leaders have an idea of how effective the reps’ conversations are with prospects.

 Now here’s where sales differs with baseball.  In baseball if a player consistently has a batting average under .200, that player is typically sent to the minor leagues.  But if a player has a .300 average over their career, they go to the hall of fame.  Only 1 hit for every 10 at-bats separates total obscurity from total fame.  That’s not a very big gap.

But for most sales leaders the ‘Conversation Quality Gap’ between top and bottom reps is huge.  For Chad that gap is 10X different (80 vs. 8).  What the heck are the top people doing on their calls that’s so different than the bottom people?  Sales leaders need to study what happens on these calls to improve the overall team batting average.

This is the reason sales leaders need to start measuring the batting averages of their reps before loading them up with more and more sales acceleration technology.  Only once you understand the batting averages can you determine the middle 60% of reps where you should dig in and provide call coaching.  Otherwise you run the risk of what the CEO of ConnectAndSell, Chris Beall, calls ‘amplify suck.’  I love this term.  Why would you give a rep with a bad Conversation Average more hours of CAS?  First help them improve their Conversation Average, then get them more acceleration.

Sales performance bell curve

How you benchmark your Conversation Average depends on the factors mentioned earlier.  This table will guide you:

Conversation Average Benchmarks

CAS Lead Follow Up CAS Outbound Cold Calls Vorsight Account-Based Outbound
Best in Class 40% 18% 40%
Average 20% 2.5% 25%
Bottom 2% .05% 10%

*Results vary by company/industry.

The .05% is a particularly fascinating story.  This was a team of reps who were pure outbound cold calling about an undifferentiated product.  It took them 200 unscheduled conversations to get one held meeting.  Unbelievable, but it did happen.  Chris Beall and Chad Burmeister have the data to prove it.  You should feel happy with Conversation Averages over 33%.  This means the rep has about 3 unscheduled conversations to get 1 held meeting.  To achieve this level your reps need to get good at talking to people who weren’t expecting to hear from them.

Chad sees a future day when a rep will have a baseball card issued about them.  Imagine when hiring a new sales rep if you could flip over her baseball card to see her critical stats.  One key metric would be the Conversation Average.

Do you currently measure the Conversation Averages of your sales reps and aggregate team?  Do you measure Conversation Averages based on meetings scheduled or meetings occurred?  Is it different when cold calling vs. following up on leads?  How about by product?  Other factors?  What do you see as a good Conversation Average %?