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Selling Tip: Focus on Close Ratio for Better Results

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An important concept in selling of any type is the close ratio -- or the number of successful contracts divided by the total number of contracts pitched to prospects.

Online sales contractAn important concept in selling of any type is the close ratio — or the number of successful contracts divided by the total number of contracts pitched to prospects.

Web selling takes many forms:

  • A site run by a single person who sells links;
  • A large media site with 20 account executives and hundreds of local accounts;
  • A Web design company trying to land the next site development contract.

Close ratios vary from one online business type to another. A typical close ratio may be as low as five to 10 percent.

Tracking close ratios may be as simple as someone who creates a spreadsheet with a list of the clients in one column and their status in another. The status levels might include a percentage to close — 50 percent likely, 70 percent likely, 90 percent likely — and either “no” or “closed.” Other columns may include notes, follow-up dates, etc.

The spreadsheet covers a certain period of time, usually either monthly or quarterly. At the end of the period, it is an easy matter to add up the results to see the final ratio.

Close Ratios for Top Producers

Some online consultants have claimed close ratios as high as 85 percent when putting newspaper advertisers on the papers’ Web sites.

These close ratios are achieved with four-legged calls using a combination of consultants and existing newspaper account executives, targeting their existing customers and making aggressive, well-developed presentations.

They also are achieved in part because the sales consultants are highly experienced and have skills far more developed than the typical newspaper, broadcast or online sales staff.

Yes, consultants can achieve high close ratios, but they also can end up with exceptionally low retention rates — often hovering near zero.

Traditional Media Selling Online

Our experience puts close ratios for online advertising with all prospects — existing broadcast clients, newspaper clients or prospects who have never advertised in the traditional property — at 10 to 20 percent of all leads when pitched by typical media account executives.


The actual level depends on whether the client is an existing traditional media client or a new one.

With an existing client, the traditional media account already has an established relationship and a degree of credibility with the client.

The client has a related degree of trust with the account executive because that client has already spent money on print or broadcast advertising.

With new business, no such relationship, trust or credibility exists. The prospect usually says no early in the process or takes longer to make a decision. Even then, the sale may be smaller than what the account executive might achieve with an existing client because the new client wants to test the waters.

Retention Rates

Client acquisition is only the first step. Next comes client retention.

Retaining a client usually requires less time and effort than acquiring one. As a result, a retention has a low cost of sale.

In the case of traditional media upselling to online, close ratios for existing clients may average 60-70 percent, which is in line with traditional media retention rates.

Retention requires ongoing effort that begins after the initial close.

The account executive must track the first campaign to ensure it is delivering all of the agreed-upon impressions and delivering a decent response rate.

He or she must be prepared to make changes to the campaign to make it more effective as well as communicate with the client during the course of the campaign.

Blindsiding the client with bad news at the end of the campaign certainly increases the odds that the client won’t come back — and possibly telling other businesses about the bad experience.

Factors Impacting Close Ratios

Clearly, a number of factors play into close ratios, including the skills and experience of the AE, the price of the product, size of contract, quality of presentation, whether or not the client is new or existing, etc.

Although information about online close ratios doesn’t seem readily available via search engines, one source put online close ratios for auto dealers in the range of 15-25 percent of all leads. Those leads are highly qualified.

A key difference with online clients is that they tend more often to be new business rather than repeat business. It’s harder to get them in the door, but once in the door, it’s somewhat more qualified and easier to close and retain.

Tracking online close ratios with sales staff is a simple but useful device for measuring how well they are doing the job and whether they have the right tools, education and motivation in achieving online sales budgets.

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