Recently, someone shared with me a list of thirty-seven points that cause business failure. As usual, the inability to market effectively and sell reliably was right at the top of the list. Plus, it carried this admonishment: “If you don’t get these first two right, nothing else on this list really matters.”

I was discussing the list with a friend in the banking business when he asked me what I thought were the top four things about sales and marketing that he should tell his customers to attend to.

As I pondered my friend’s question, I remembered a long-ago realization that changed my results—and my life—in marketing and sales. Here are the top four success factors in marketing and sales, followed by that critical realization.

1. Define a Goal

The goal simply defines the gap between the situation today and what you want to achieve in the future. Everything that follows is relevant only to the extent that it closes the gap between your current condition and your future goal. Without a measurable, specific and time-sensitive goal, it is hard to close the gap between today and where you want to be.

2. Pick Your Targets

Let’s call the list of targets your “ideal customers.” In direct marketing, where everything is measured, we know that picking the right target and target list often accounts for up to 70 percent of the success or failure of a marketing and sales effort. For example, you may decide, “I only work with people over fifty because they know that they won’t live forever and value their health today more than most folks under fifty.”

3. Build Your Offer

This is the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) from the client’s perspective. Nine out of ten offers we receive are way short of what they could be. The offer accounts for up to 20 percent of the success rate. For example, “If you can give me an hour a week, I can help you make an extra thousand dollars a month or more for the rest of your life.”

4. Manage Your Conversion Table

This simply means: track your numbers so that you can test your marketing and improve sales. It also requires rigorously sticking with an offer for some period of time or number of attempts, until you have a good idea about what needs to be changed to improve performance.

The Long-Ago Realization

When I was eight years old, I won my first sales contest selling newspaper subscriptions in my little town of 2,000 people in the mountains of the Oregon Coast. Initially, my new sales job was a very discouraging activity, until I realized that for every ten doors I knocked on, I got one subscription.

Once that fact settled into my young brain, I practically ran from door to door, asking people to buy. This new realization was pure magic: I could always see the light at the end of the tunnel. I never felt even remotely discouraged again. The more doors I knocked on, the better my results. I won the contest by a wide margin.

Working the four steps above is one of the major keys to marketing and sales success in any business, anywhere on this earth. The other big realization was that each type of offer has its own hit ratio.

Earn More, Work Less

In order to see the light at the end of the tunnel, you need to know what to expect. Forecast your results so that you can: 1) get enough targets to work through; 2) know how many no’s you’ll likely get before you get another yes.

When you know roughly what the appointment and close rates will be, when you have gathered enough targets and when you are disciplined in working through the list, you are in a spot to start testing strategies to optimize your conversion table. Optimizing simply means that you make refinements so it takes fewer calls to get the sale.

Here is a sample conversion table:

Calls 1,000 100 %
100 %
Connects with target
Appointment now
20% of interested
“Not now, maybe later”
40% of interested
10% of interested

This is just a hypothetical example. Your conversion table will serve you best if it reflects your actual process and is simple enough that you will use it daily. Action is the key ingredient that only you can provide.

As I was teaching the above steps in my consulting practice, one of my clients quit trying to sell to everyone. She elected to serve only the top 10 percent of zip codes (in terms of net worth) in the United States. She also decided to work only with targets who have already had a certain level of financial success in life. My client’s close rate zoomed to about 80 percent, and her revenue went up 144 percent, along with her confidence and self-esteem. I brought the plan and she brought the execution.

If you can wisely set your goals. pick your targets, build your offer and manage your conversion table, you too should have a good shot at making more money while working the same or less. You should also be able to eliminate stress and live a more enjoyable life, because you will always see that light at the end of the tunnel.

ERIC ALBERTSON has been a marketing and sales executive and mentor
for companies of all sizes for more than thirty years. He is the author of three
books on marketing and sales:
Elevator Speech, Marketing by the
Numbers, and Closing More Sales through Better Questions.