Colorful plastic alphabet letters on a white background

Who can forget the iconic scene in Glengarry Glen Ross where sales consultant from hell Blake (Alec Baldwin) schools the underperforming reps of Chicago real estate company Premier Properties about the ABCs of sales? “Always. Be. Closing,” he chants between expletives.


Fast-forward twenty years and best-selling author Daniel Pink reimagined these ABCs in his book To Sell is Human. According to Daniel, the ABCs of selling are as follows:

Attunement: Stay attuned to your customers’ needs and try to see things from their perspectives.

Buoyancy: Don’t let rejection get you down – keep your chin up and move on.

Clarity: Be clear about the problems your business can solve and how this will benefit your customers.

No doubt these are important characteristics for any sales rep to have, but we believe that there’s something major missing in both Blake and Daniel’s ABCs: they can’t measured, scaled or refined. What constitutes a “closer?” Can attunement be taught? How do you analyze the impact of buoyancy on sales performance?

With so much data now available, sales teams have a unique opportunity to quantify, understand and optimize sales growth like never before. Leaders and reps alike can now know the exact prospect qualities they should be searching for, the precise processes they should be following and much, much more.

Given the possibility of this scientific approach, the new ABCs of sales are (drumroll please): Always Be Calculating. Now go pour yourself a cup of coffee (no longer just for closers!) and listen up.

Stick to the Sales Process

Chances are if you remember Blake’s ABCs, you also remember AIDA: Attention, Interest, Decision, Action. While we disagree with his ABCs, we do think he’s onto something here.

With AIDA, Blake is essentially laying out the stages and steps that reps need to take to move a prospect to close – AKA a sales process, albeit a very basic one. Following a formalized sales process is extremely important when it comes to the ability to calculate sales performance, as it shows exactly where prospects sit within the sales funnel and can be used to help measure their likeliness to close.

For instance, imagine a sales pipeline with the following stages:

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 3.50.43 PM

A defined sales process might say that reps have to have an on-site meeting, get a verbal yes and receive a list of competitors before moving a deal from the qualified to the closure stage. As reps collect the necessary information to take these steps, key insights will emerge over time. Maybe prospects that sit in the qualified stage for longer than 3 weeks are only half as likely to close as those that stay there for one week. Or perhaps going up against a certain competitor means a sure win.

When scoring strategies are developed around insights like these, it’s easy for sales teams to know when to “be closing” or when they’re going to need that “buoyancy.” What’s more, instead of every rep following his or her own process, formalized processes can be optimized for success and scaled across the entire team.

Keep an Eye on Reports

Traditionally, sales reporting was a meticulous, time-consuming exercise requiring sales leaders to spend days crunching numbers and rolling up reports in Excel. By the time they were finished they were already inaccurate and outdated, and whether they ever found their way to the front lines of the business was anyone’s guess.

Today, data science has the power to seamlessly capture and process big data from across multiple sources in real-time. This leads to visual dashboards and out-of-the-box reports that can be made available to each and every person on the sales team. So which sales reports should you be paying attention to? Here are a few of our favorites:

Activity Reports: These reports provide a breakdown of how teams are spending their days: making calls, sending emails, holding meetings, etc. As your business discovers what actions are more closely correlated to wins, managers can see how their teams are pacing at a glance, while reps can easily track and stay on top of their targets.

Activity Report

Deal Loss Reasons: See why each of your lost deals fell through in a single view. This type of report makes it easy for reps and managers alike to spot areas for improvement and coaching opportunities.

Deal Loss Reasons Report

Stage Duration Analysis: Not only does this report show where each of your open deals sits within the sales pipeline, but it also compares the amount of time it has spent in a given stage with the optimal time calculated from your won deals. Identify where deals are getting stuck and know when you need to speed things up or slow them down.

Stage Duration Report

Learn the New Metrics of Sales

Best-selling author Jason Jordan said it best during an interview with Xactly when he revealed, “The no. 1 metric tracked by every company is revenue. But the reality is that you can’t manage revenue.” Sound familiar? You can’t manage “closing” either!

Fortunately, businesses now have access to heaps of sales data that help sales leaders identify the specific steps that they can take to increase revenue. For a full list of these new sales metrics, check out this white paper. For now, let’s talk about two types of metrics in particular: Yield Measures and Process Measures.

Process and Yield Measures

Yield Measures are used to understand how much value you are getting in return for your investments, enabling you to quantify and optimize the true ROI of your time, money and effort.

Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 9.46.51 AM

Process Measures are used to understand how leads and opportunities flow through your sales process and pipeline, allowing you to pinpoint bottlenecks, inefficiencies and missed opportunities.

Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 9.47.04 AM

Together, these two sets of measures help you to precisely quantify the impact of particular actions, processes and people on key conversion points within your sales pipeline. Unlike revenue, these things can be managed, and pulling these levers is what will ultimately impact wins.

Now You Know Your ABCs

Sales is constantly evolving, and the best sales leaders are the ones that are able to keep a finger on the pulse of the latest tips, trends and technologies. Following the new ABCs of sales – Always Be Calculating – is sure to put your team on the path to success.

Read more: