"The Navigator" News Blog

Activity Drives Results.

“Why do you care how many customers I see if I’m hitting my sales quota?”  That’s the question that sales managers have dealt with since forever.  Sales managers have been accused of being small-minded bean counters because they look at their salespeople and say, “Congratulations for the big sale – but let’s talk about your appointments.”  Even some “sales trainers” feel this way.

The truth is that activity drives results, and there are some extremely good reasons for sales managers to care how many appointments their reps are getting – and if you’re one of those reps, there are some very good reasons that you should, too.  Let’s talk about them:

For the sake of the discussion, let’s say that we’re in an environment where the average sales rep sells one out of every six customers he or she meets.  In this environment, management wants a minimum of one sale per week, so salespeople are expected to meet six people per week.  That’s easy, right?  Most salespeople on the team are hitting that number without problem.

Of course, not all salespeople are at the same talent level.  One is only meeting three customers per week, but still making the one sale.  And his defense to management is, “I’m hitting my number.  That’s all that matters.”  Sometimes managers get a bit tongue-tied at this moment, but they shouldn’t.  Here are the reasons why it matters that that rep goes ahead and sees six customers per week:

Marketing exposure:  Unless you work for a highly branded company (think Coca-Cola, Budweiser, Xerox, etc.), most of the potential customers in your territory don’t know who you are or what you do.  And in sales, if they don’t know who you are, they can’t buy from you.  In the small to medium sized business space, the best marketing material is a business card passed across a desk during a sales call.  Salespeople aren’t just salespeople, they are MARKETING people.  Working at half-speed takes away half of the company’s marketing in that territory.

We work on thin margins: In sales, we tend to work on thin margins.  Even that salesperson who is selling one out of every three people is failing 2/3 of the time.  It’s easy to go 0 for 3 instead of 1 for 3.  Stack that up for a few weeks and we’re in a slump.  More opportunities to do business = more chance for success.

Work up to potential:  In sales, the job isn’t just to hit quota – it’s to maximize our potential.  I’ve said many times before that the truly successful salespeople love the activity and not just the result.  The salesperson who loves the activity doesn’t only work half-speed; they work to their maximum and overachieve if their talent will do so.  As a manager, I always felt my job was to get the most out of my people – not just to hit quota.

It hurts the sales team:  Most of the people on the team don’t have the ability to work a portion of the appointments and hit quota – that’s why standards are devised around the average salesperson.  When the manager allows one set of rules for one member of the team and enforces a different set of rules for other members, it creates problems and hurts morale.  Many times, this morale actually harms the performance of other team members – thus taking away any benefit from the top person.

Sales is a full time job:  Your company employs many people whose job it is to make the stuff, distribute the stuff, ship the stuff, etc., and all of those people work a full time job and are dependent upon the sales staff to keep selling.  Frankly, I find it disrespectful to them to allow salespeople to work half-speed to sell that which they produce and service.  Salespeople should be good team members, as they expect others to be.

Look, if you’re that salesperson and your manager tells you that you need to work full-time and to hit certain activity numbers, there are several reasons for it – and if you’re that good, you’ll just sell that much more and make that much more.  Those are good things.  And if you’re that manager, don’t be afraid to confront this issue.  You’re working a much bigger picture, and if your team respects you, they’ll respect your wishes on this issue.

Activity drives results.