Some years back I was lucky enough to work alongside one of the top sales executives in the professional services industry. This business development leader directed a group of 30+ sales professionals and consistently delivered top 5% results across all national offices.
As part of one of our weekly 1-on-1 meetings, he used an analogy that has always directed our approach in sales: I would rather be 6 out of 100, than 5-for-5.
In this analogy, the lesson is that many managers see 6% as failure and 100% as success. Many salespeople see 1.0 as a perfect ratio with no wasted activity, no bruised egos and they can close the laptop, head out of the office and try to make happy hour or a tee time.
However, there are two important considerations you miss when you stop at 100%.
When you sell for absolutes not percentages you need to analyze time for the activity. Were you able to go 5-for-5 over the course of one or two weeks? If so, your focus should be to blow up your perfect percentage and over-index on your attempts number instead of your closed number, while doing it faster (in days not weeks). Conversely, if you get to the office make five calls and book 5 appointments, extend your activity time, expand your reach, and focus on absolutes (+1) not percentages.
Innovation comes from failure. If you are focused on percentages, you are likely only reaching out to targets that you’ve curated so long in advance that will say YES to your offer. We on the other hand get really uncomfortable when we don’t hear NO enough because you miss hearing about objections, opportunities and customer needs not being fulfilled by a competitor or substitute.
If you sell in your business or direct the sales activities of others, push your sales efforts in the direction of absolutes and away from percentages, move more quickly in the direction of NO’s and fail fearlessly to learn about the other things the market needs that you’re currently not offering.