More on Sales Luck

Good Salespeople Are Luckier seems to have hit a soft spot in some people’s emotional armour.  It is not really about luck but rather about how people manage randomness.  Some people adopt more productive options.

How do we measure sales success?  There are choices but most of the time it is merely revenue.  Commissions.  That one is the easiest.  Value to customer is a good one too but much harder to measure.  Most salespeople compare commissions and that is where the idea of luck comes in.

As discussed, production is a function of two variables.  Probability of making a sale on any contact and the number of contacts.  What the “unlucky” salespeople seem to have overlooked is that the probability on first contact is quite low.  The probability on 8th contact is much higher and on 16th contact is higher still.  “Lucky” sales people seem to know that instinctively.

Years ago, MDRT claimed that over a wide study, the median number of contacts before a sale resulted was six.  How many salespeople quit before six, and six is just the halfway point.  Maybe ten is reasonable in some markets.

A sale on first contact is an aberration, but it happens.  The world is not fair, because sometimes things happen that should not.  People remember exceptions better than routine, so they start looking for sale on first contact as unexceptional.  Wrong road.

You need not be “selling” all the time, even though you are.  Contact means any communication.  Met on the street.  Had a coffee.  Talked at a children’s concert.  Went to a ball game.  Played golf.  Met in your office and discussed your services.  Shared an article.  There is no shortage of ways.  The point is that people tend to deal with the familiar.  Build familiarity and the sales will follow.

I recall a friend who many years ago placed a huge insurance policy where the present value of the renewals, never mind the initial commission, exceeded $1,000,000.  First contact?  No!  It was more like the 30th sale and likely after the 5,000th contact.  A thirty year relationship.  Could someone else have sold that policy?  Almost certainly not.

You can manufacture luck.  One sale every six contacts is the norm.  Special skills will make it slightly better.  More complex markets will make it slightly more.  You cannot control the ratio of sales to contacts but you can control how many contacts there are.

Two sales a week implies twelve contacts a week.  I knew an MDRT Top of the Table producer who tracked contacts and paid little attention to the sales ratios that are usually tracked.  He seldom had fewer than forty per week.  His average case was large so it tended to meetings with accountants, lawyers, partners, tax people, underwriters and so on with reports back to the client when the client was not present.  He made a very fine living with a contact to sale ratio of about 12 to 1.

Good salespeople know they will not sell everyone.  Good salespeople know they will sell more of the people they keep in touch with.  Sales is a numbers game.  More prospects.  More contacts with them.  More sales.

Success is inevitable.


Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is now with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.

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