Every sales manager is trying to predict the future. Having accurate sales projections through the entire sales funnel is the best way to know if the sales team is on track, but many organizations aren't tracking what they need to in order to be accurate. Visibility into the activities and events happening throghout the funnel allows for action to be taken well before missing revenue or bookings targets. A leading indicator is a measurable metric that can be used to predict future sales success, making it the best way for any sales manager to keep their team on track.
Common Leading Indicators:
- Good Conversations
- Qualified Leads
Every organization has a unique set of leading indicators that should be tracked. Finding the right metrics can be challenging, but this blog covers the three most common leading indicators our sales consulting firm encounters.
The leading indicator contacts refers to the number times the sales team reaches out to leads. Contacts can be made in person, by phone, by email, etc. The most commonly recorded "contact" metric measured by inside sales teams is the "Number of Dials". Nearly every time an inside sales team is making fewer dials than a previous period, they will make fewer sales. This information is really helpful for the inside sales manager to know, because they will have a full sales cycle of notice that they will miss the number. Other common metrics measured in regard to activity-based contacts include number of emails, number of letters, number of voicemails, number of call-backs, etc.
Every organization will have to determine what constitutes a good conversation based on the industry or product. With that understanding, there are some best practices that are I find deliver results. Our sales consulting firm preaches that a good conversation is any interaction that actively drives the sale forward. Any meeting with a decision maker is considered a conversation because your sales team had better not squander any time with the decision maker without advancing the sale. Over the phone, a conversation lasting more than 45 seconds or so is generally considered a conversation because that should be enough time to have a meaningful interaction beyond rescheduling a call. 45 seconds on the phone during an initial call is enough time to get through an elevator pitch, and see if the contact is interested in hearing more. To count an email as a conversation, there needs to be a positive response from your prospect (a call or email back). Many emails get ignored, or go straight to the spam folder, and should not be counted as moving the sale forward. Once the parameters are set for what constitutes a good conversation, it is easy to find out how many good conversations it will take to close one deal, and better predict your future sales.
Most organizations have their own way of qualifying contacts, but many are a variation of BANT. If you need help qualifying contacts, please refer to our article “Intro to BANT.” Once the contact is qualified for Budget, Authority, Need, and Time, they are considered qualified. Knowing the number of BANT qualified leads independent from regular contacts or leads will give the sales manager can get an accurate prediction of weather sales go up or down. For example, if a manager buys 5,000 leads from a lead list, those will not drive as much business as even 500 leads that inside sales has talked to, and qualified. Your visibility into close ratios for qualified leads is much higher, allowing you to better predict how much business will close.
Measure Against the Sales Funnel
The sales manager can use all of these leading indicators, and pair the information with the sales funnel to get an accurate forecast of how many deals will close, and when. Careful monitoring can give the sales manager a heads up with enough time to maneuver if certain sales metrics are low going into a review. For instance, if the number of contacts is low for a period of time, it means that there is likely a drop in closed sales coming. It is the Sales manager’s job to make sure that the leading indicators are monitored so that proactive measures can be taken.
If your organization is having forecasting issues or inconsistent sales numbers, it may be time for an outside look. A experienced sales consultant can provide an expert outside perspective that allows your company to reach its full potential and smooth out volatility of sales results.