Don’t Confuse Activity with Results

Peady’s Selling Engagement sponsored by IRD Prospector

Welcome to this week’s post on sales and selling success.

Recently I was coaching a sales manager on measuring the performance of her team. The five salespeople were a mix of experience but on a combined basis the team were missing their targets; this had been occurring for nearly 6 months. 

The sales manager in question couldn’t understand why this was happening. “My team works really hard and they are all hitting or exceeding their weekly call rates. It must be the market,” she said. But as I explained to her activity doesn’t automatically equal results – it all comes down to what goes on before, during and after the activity! 

In their book “Cracking the Sales Management Code” authors Jason Jordan and Michelle Vazzana argue that tracking, monitoring and measuring output from a salesperson’s activity leads to stronger results.
It makes sense. By providing the reps with clear instructions on how to navigate the sales process (the activity), measuring the activity and then supporting that process with in-field coaching, you are setting them up for success.

Why do sales activities lead to business results?

Simple. Because activities are the explicit behaviours of a sales team, sales activities are manageable. They can be controlled by the sales manager. And once we understand the direct cause and effect relationship between sales activities and business results, we can influence things that really matter.

Activities can’t be managed without measurement

To achieve the business results required of a team they must perform specific activities. And that doesn’t mean having a team perform a ton of sales activities to hit target. It means guiding the salespeople to the right activities that will result in closing more business.

This is why sales activity management is so important. It helps focus a team on the 3-4 activities that are important to their sales role. It also provides the sales manager with visibility into how reps are performing against their activity goals. Activity based selling turns reactive managementinto proactive leadership.

This isn’t a new concept – it’s one of the fundamentals of running a strong sales team. But far too many sales managers ignore it.

Activity based sales management allows better coaching too

When a salesperson isn’t hitting target it’s just a matter of looking at the metrics from the activity to identify the problem – if a rep needs to produce four proposals to gain two sales and they are only creating three proposals each week. Its immediately easy to coach that person on what they need to do to effect change.

Some amazing sales manager stats

Jason Jordan who I mentioned earlier in the post says “a good, high-performing sales manager substantially outperforms a poor-performing sales manager”.
He also shared a study from Vantage Point Performance that looked at the percentage of reps achieving quota and the connection to sales management performance:

  1. The bottom 25% of sales managers had 47% of reps achieving quota.
  2. The middle 50% of sales managers had 48% of reps achieving quota.
  3. The top 25% of sales managers had 65% of reps achieving quota.

While the middle-performing sales managers were at 99% of their target, only 48% of their reps were hitting target!

“This proves something we anecdotally know – lot of sales managers can get to their quota not because all their reps are knocking it out of the park, but because they have two or three reps that are knocking it out of the park,” Jason says.

Isn’t it amazing what activity management can do?

Until next week good selling!

About the author 

Stephen Pead is a media industry veteran of 30 years with significant experience in direct sales, sales management and general management. He is based in Sydney and specialises in helping SME’s market their businesses more effectively and providing training for salespeople and sales managers.

He can be contacted at [email protected]