Measuring and Managing Your Professional Service Firm Sales Process

Lord Kelvin the mathematical physicist and engineer declared “if you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it”.

So what should architects, engineers, interior designers, management consultants, lawyers and IT consultants measure when trying to improve their sales efforts?

There are plenty of variables that could be measured but only two key drivers of your sales success – people and projects.

Let me explain.

1. Early Stage Buyers (People) – These are people that may one day hire your firm. They do not have a project right now and in fact may never ever hire you. (Hint: For all intentions and purposes, this is your e-newsletter subscriber list. If you don’t have an e-newsletter, you don’t have early stage buyers.) These are the people that because of their occupation, or role in an organization, or personal network, may one day want to refer you or talk to you about…

2. Late Stage Opportunities (Projects) – These are projects that require a firm like yours and have a deadline for completion and a budget. We measure this not by number of projects but by potential revenue of all these projects. Notice how we shift from counting the number of people and now focus on counting the number of dollars – but notice also that it is the first number (the people) that drives the second number (the money). Now just an FYI that this will never be a discreet number but will always be a range with the bottom value assigned to zero and the top value equal to the total of all currently identified potential project revenues. (Hint: Don’t waste your time assigning closing probabilities to these opportunities to try come up with a weighted forecast. Why? Closing is binary – you either win or you don’t. You rarely win a part of a project so projecting that is pointless and sometimes dangerous.)

Now imagine a sales meeting that used only these two sales drivers as the basis for an entire meeting.

Here’s what that agenda might look like.

Early Stage Buyers

  • How many do we have?
  • How many have we added since our last meeting and is this enough?
  • What has been the most efficient way to add new early stage buyers?
  • What do we plan to do over the next three months to increase this number by X% (and who is doing that)?
  • What are we doing to inspire these early stage buyers to initiate new projects (and who is doing that)?

Late Stage Opportunities

  • What is the maximum potential revenue that these opportunities represent?
  • How much potential revenue has been added since our last meeting and is this enough?
  • What has been the most effective way to inspire early stage buyers to take action and contact us about new opportunities?
  • What do we plan to do over the next three months to increase the dollar value of new opportunities by X% (and who is doing that)?
  • What are we doing to close these existing opportunities (and who is doing that)?

Look at the two categories above – the first is one person speaking to many people via some intermediary like an e-newsletter and is about the front end of the selling process – creating a community of followers.

The second category is about one person closing one deal at a time which is the back end of the selling process – making transactions happen.

Sales success in a professional service firm comes when both the front and back end of the selling process are measured – and therefore managed – well.

The numbers that you need to drive growth in your firm are unique to your firm.

So start by capturing and measuring the data above and use that to build the right predictive model for your firm.

*Caveat Emptor

(“Let the buyer beware”)

If you are poorly positioned as a generalist with no obvious expertise it will be (i) very hard to write or communicate about anything that is compelling or engaging meaning (ii) no one will subscribe to your e-newsletter meaning (iii) you will have no early stage buyers meaning (iv) opportunities will not rise from early stage buyers which all adds up to (v) limited new revenue.

Everything always comes back to positioning.


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The Consultant with Pink Hair

"This should be required reading for consultants AND their clients - especially the part about RFPs." - Blair Enns, Win Without Pitching

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