We’re all familiar with the “Law of Unintended Consequences.” My personal favorite is still the plastic whistles that were packaged with Cap’n Crunch cereal back in the ’70s. Blowing the whistle into your phone triggered a connection to AT&T’s long distance dialing AND by-passed their billing system. Free calls! Not exactly what Quaker Oats had in mind. (…and Ma Bell was not pleased.)
Turns out the “law” applies to Sales Process Engineering initiatives also. A long-time client gave us a challenge. Reduce their sell cycle by 10 days over a 6 month period. Off we went, and 6 months later had to report that we had taken the average sell cycle up to 78 days from 67 days. Uh-oh… 16% in the wrong direction.
That’s when we started scrambling for other metrics in an attempt to salvage our credibility. One was the win rate. Up to 58% from 52%. OK, takes longer, but we win more. Another was total number of opportunities in the active funnel. Up to 515 from 394. Better yet, the dollar value of those opportunities went up by 1/3. Then we discovered the pot of gold.
Days to lose an opportunity went down to 75 days from 180 days. That’s a 140% improvement. Turns out our intense focus on qualifying was flushing the “trash” opportunities out of the funnel much more quickly. The math’s a bit convoluted, but for this client, that lose cycle reduction translated into an additional 17 selling days per rep per year. I love what my client said. “You mean we now have 13 months a year to sell our stuff? And our poor, dumb competitors are still stuck with only 12?” Smooth, articulate me said, “Yep.”
So remember, unintended consequences will happen. Be prepared for them. More importantly, work hard at achieving significant improvement for one measurement of your sales process for a specific time frame. Even if you lose, you still win.