We asked that question on our LinkedIn group, Sales Readiness, and started a pretty spirited debate among our members. Probably the most thoughtful reply was this one from Sandy Horner: “If a lead is not closed, there is no sale. Therefore, closing is critical. However, I believe that a properly qualified lead that is well managed will close naturally, without the need for engaging in clever ‘closing techniques.’ “

Consider your own sales organization. Which is more important to you, generating leads above your sales funnel or getting better at closing deals already in your funnel? While the easy answer is to say both, force yourself to really think through the equation.

Change your win rate

Here’s one approach to determining the answer: Change your win rate. Take it from 30 percent to 50 percent (or 15 percent to 25 percent) or whatever constitutes a meaningful jump. Without getting better at any other stage of your sales pipeline–and keeping the number of incoming new opportunities steady–will you make your sales target this year? That’s one way to start looking at things. Just realize that if changing your win rate gets you to your goal in this calculation, you will actually have to change your real win rate.

Of course, the opposite side of this calculation is to increase the number qualified leads entering your funnel. Keeping everything else the same, double or triple the new leads you receive and see what happens to your revenue goal.

Most companies find that increasing leads is a surer way to hit their target. Get better at both lead generation and closing and you’re on your way to best-in-class results.

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Matt Smith is the co-founder and executive vice president of 3forward, a sales consulting company that helps companies find and create leads, increase wins and accelerate sales. He can be reached at matt.smith@3forward.com.