Math of sales success

Steve Jobs made Apple arguably the most successful company in history and achieved this by doing absolutely every better. Jobs argued that success came by focusing on and delivering perfection on details that everyone ignored – like the type font and the feel of the buttons. No detail was too small for improvement! By leveraging one strength against another Jobs built something vastly superior!

Great technology x great marketing x very high margins x huge sales figures = record-breaking profit!

Steve Jobs and Apple did not capture a share of the market – they created a market – vastly exceeding all estimates for the smart phone market. Different thinking created different results.

The Pareto Principle – 80/20 thinking – tells us that the top 20% of anything delivers 80% of the result. How can you use this approach to dominate your market? The top salespeople in any organization (the 20%) deliver 80% of the sales. Life is a horse race and those that win (even by a nose) win 100% of the prize money.

In other words, being marginally better can deliver massive results.

I am not Steve Jobs but here is an example from my life!

In the 1990s I sold office/art supply products to retail stationery stores – a boring traditional business with a predictable, established market. The majority of my customers were Mom and Pop shops with one, two or three locations. The average customer bought about $8,000.00 of product per year at wholesale level – a $2,400,000 sales territory. This had been a stable sales territory for many years.

Then one day everything changed.

I sold stationary products to a retailer who had never sold stationary before. After a test in half a dozen stores they added our products into all the stores – they had almost 1,800 stores in North America. Within a year my sales went from $2,400,000 to $7,500,000 – a complete game changer. My commission structure delivered a  4 times earnings increase in one year. This was a new market and the results were massive. From a sales point of view selling to and managing the new large account was easily manageable as I was dealing with one buyer and one head office.

So let’s look at the sales math of an average business. These are the main factors of the average sales process. Change one or all the factors and the results are massive.

Number of prospects x number of customers x average annual sales = revenue

Let’s plug-in some numbers as a base point.

300 prospects x a closing rate of 10% x average annual sales of $5,000 = $150,000

Let’s work a bit harder and increase these inputs by 20%

360 prospects x a closing rate of 12% x average annual sales of $6,000 = $259,200

A 20% improvement in inputs does not increase revenue by 20% but by over 60%.

Top sales performers can earn 10 times or 20 times their industry average but they are not 20 times better. They are marginally better in many Key Performance Indicators. Let’s look at the typical Key Performance Indicators and how you could do better.

Here are just a few ways you could quickly improve your sales Key Performance Indicators. This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are thousands of ways to improve and every business and every industry is unique with unique challenges and solutions. The more areas you improve the harder you make for your competitor to catch up.


The old expression about computer systems ‘garbage in, garbage out’ also holds true for sales prospects. Time invested at the beginning of the process to define the ideal customer and to build a database of quality prospects will go a long way to improving outcomes when the time comes to closing business, increasing order value and generating a higher order repeat cycle.

Industry Associations, Email marketing, squeeze pages, Email Newsletters, Report, e-books, Seminars and targeted Cold Calling are all-powerful ways to generate a list of quality prospects that could be nurtured over time until they are ready.

Closing Rate

Here are some sales facts that prove that getting better, building skills and building better sales processes can translate into higher sales.

  • If you call a prospect in the first 5 minutes after they have submitted a web form they are 100 times more likely to accept your telephone call.
  • High-performing companies are 2 times as likely as underperforming companies to describe their sales process as ‘automated’’
  • Salespeople who use social media selling are 50% more likely to meet or exceed their quota.
  • 31.65% of salespeople say they do not have content (reports, sell sheets, company backgrounder) to send to prospects.
  • 32.91% of customers say they would give referrals, but only 11% of salespeople ask for them. Similar statistics are found for important review sites like Google Local or Trust Pilot that can generate powerful prospects.
  • Time investing in keeping a customer delivers huge results. Increasing client retention by 5% can boost profits by as much as 95%.
  • 50% of sales time is lost on unproductive prospecting!
  • 80% of sales need 5 follow-up calls. On average it takes 8 follow-up calls to reach a prospect. 44% of salespeople give up after one call.
  • Only 33% of a salesperson’s time is actively selling.

Spending more time on getting better at all the KPI’s, investing in the organizational, research and people skills required to get better than the average will pay HUGE dividends.

Order Size/Frequency

Do you want fries with that? Upgrades to service? Discounts for volume purchases? There are thousands of way to increase the value of an order marginally or in the case of Business Class or First Class upgrades – massively!

Again, remember that even a small increase in order size combined with more and better prospects combined with higher closing rates combined with more frequent orders can have a massive effect on business. Landing the Wal-Mart of your industry is a life changing experience! Think Big!

Even with your existing clients – can you get them to order once or twice more a year? Can you introduce a ‘premium’ version of your service? Do they have multiple or international offices that you are not now servicing?

Get creative and change the game!

What does it take?

It takes planning and discipline. A vague intention to do better or be better won’t cut it. Steve Jobs was absolute ruthless about the massive and the slight gains that created a huge advantage.

Look at the history of Apple – great products but years of struggles trying to get better. Relentlessly driven! Even today each version of almost every product is better, smaller, thinner, more packed with innovations. No company can lay claim to being more focused on doing everything better.

Make it happen for you! How?

  • Get A Formal Written Sales Process – understand where you are, where you want to get and EXACTLY HOW you are going to get there!
  • Don’t hire mediocre salespeople – no amount of training will improve them because they simply don’t care!
  • Hire your industry’s very best salespeople and then give them all the resources, support and training they need!
  • Be committed to endless improvement in every conceivable area!
  • Understand that doing more is NOT the answer! The answer is to doing more – better!

Not all of us are working in industries with the scale of Smartphone or Mobile apps but many people and businesses has created massive success by becoming marginally better week after week, month after month and year after year. In fact, the proof of this approach is that people can become massively successful through innovation.

Sam Walton of Wal-Mart is an example of someone creating huge success doing things only marginally different! Starbucks, took a slightly different approach to coffee and kept refining and refining the idea!

Remember it is the leverage of small improvements that deliver massive results! No magic here!