What’s actually driving our sales?

Like all sensible people in business, I try hard not to be swayed by anecdotal evidence. “We need to start pushing blue widgets harder”, says the sales director. Why? “Because our biggest client didn’t know that we sold them”. Sure, but the rest of the market might be quite aware of what we’re doing. As they say, the plural of anecdote is not data.

On the other hand, I do agree that spending some time getting under the skin of a few recent sales can provide us with the sort of information than can change our outlook completely – and for the better. Here’s what I would do, as an exercise.

Talk to the sales team. Look at a list of recent sales. Ask the following questions:

  • What caused the customer to start looking for a product?
  • What did they need?
  • What did we offer that clinched the deal?
  • What did we not offer which might have lost us the deal?

We might well add further questions to this, but remember the exercise is to assess the motivation for the purchase, not our own sales and marketing activities. The answers might be things which are taken for granted by the sales team, but are news to the marketing department, mainly because of the inability of sales to articulate them.