Keep Proactive New Business on Track and Avoid “The Pinto Effect”

The single best way to improve results is to measure activity
by Todd Knutson

imageThose of us of a certain age remember the Ford Pinto. It had problem: hit it in the rear-end and the fuel tank might explode. This was a rather nasty surprise that drivers wanted to avoid, which presented a sales problem for Ford.

I've seen a similar, though self-inflicted, effect with ad agency new business teams. Performance often isn't regularly measured and then all of a sudden someone in senior management realizes there's a problem, raises hell, and the next thing you know the team is blown up.

Having wrestled with this challenge over the years, I've finally realized that there is one way to avoid surprises by non-performers. CEOs can use this to manage their proactive new business team, and new business people can use this to manage themselves, improve their skills, and demonstrate this improvement over time.

Manage activities.

Most of us manage to results. By this I mean, we look at reports that show meetings held with prospects, meetings held with search consultants, number of pitches, pitches won, dollars of new revenue generated. The problem is that all of these are results; what you want to measure are the activities that caused these things to happen.

Instead, you might want to look at:

  • Number of calls made - sales is a numbers game - without the calls, you won't generate new business. Track this by hour, by day, by week.
  • Average length of call (use your phone system's call reporting software) - indicates how often you are able to engage with prospects and have substantive conversations. Track this by week and month.
  • Number of "good conversations" (of a certain length and quality) - indicates your ability to ask good questions and develop rapport with your prospect. Track this each day and set expected minimums and goals.
  • Number of meetings set - indicates your ability to demonstrate the value of meeting with your agency. Track this by day, week and month and set expected minimums and goals.
  • Ratio of good conversations to total calls made - measures your ability to engage. Track by day, week to show improvement in this skill, as well as efficiency.
  • Ratio of meetings set to total calls made - measures overall sales ability. How effective are you at getting the person to the table? Track this by week and month.
  • Ratio of good conversations to meetings set - once you have a good conversation, how effective are you at establishing value and a reason to meet? Track by day, week, month.
  • Ratio of meetings held to meetings set - measures how good a meeting is being set. If meetings are regularly cancelled, you aren't demonstrating the value of meeting with your agency. Track this by month.

There are other activity measures that you can employ, but these are a great start. Best of all, if you set up your spread sheets and create a few graphs from your data, you'll be able to show - in picture form - exactly what's taking place.

Even better - once you have pictures of what you're doing, you'll be able to see where you're falling short. For example, let's say that you have a 30% close rate from "good conversations" to first meetings. This means that you're really, really good and demonstrating value once you get that prospect into a lengthy conversation. You're probably asking good questions, and demonstrating value (if you want to learn more about questioning, search on "good questions" on my blog and you'll find a variety of relevant posts).

However, let's say that you're only able to convert 1% of your total calls to good conversations. Your opportunity to improve is therefore to learn to better engage with prospects. The best remedy for that is role practice.

Hopefully, you get the idea from this how to measure and improve your results. I've found that if you measure and track your activities, you'll avoid The Pinto Effect: you'll see early-on what the problems are, with plenty of time to take corrective action and avoid an explosion.

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