Sales management: Does more activity increase sales?

From the PILYTIX Series: “Challenging Conventional Sales Wisdom”: Sales management using high call volume to ensure conversions

Smile and dial: Does more activity increase sales?

The mindset and philosophy driving most sales management teams is to mandate a set level of expected daily prospect calls.

50 calls a day? Great idea!

100? Even better!

And so goes the conventional wisdom of sales management in most sports organizations. Sports sales often drives the belief that more activity equals more sales”. That is, if we ensure universally high call volume, we will ensure the highest levels of sales.

Obviously, there is nothing objectionable about encouraging salespeople to actually do their jobs. However, too many sports teams have overly simplified these metrics and overemphasized the role they play in their sales strategies.

Sales management by sales activity

The execution of these plans almost always morphs into management by numbers and results in unintended consequences:

– Lower performing reps tend to waste time entering bogus opportunities, fudging bad data, and calling the same prospects over and  over, regardless of whether there is anything indicating a purchase possibility. Presumably this is to appease the manager who is driving the team to basic activity metrics. Better qualified leads and opportunities leaves less time wasted preparing for better calls.
– Higher performing sales reps tend to have a laser-like focus on achievement: getting the next sale, achieving the next rung in the commission ladder, hitting their sales quotas. They loathe the micromanagement that typically accompanies activity-based management. By focusing on activity levels, managers fix a problem that doesn’t exist for these employees. Therefore, some of these reps will do the bare minimum required to keep their managers off their backs. Others will actually waste a few hours here or there spamming emails or making dials to people that they have no reason to believe will buy. However, the most common response for these reps is to ignore the direction of the manager. This simultaneously undermines the manager and suggests that there is a double standard within the organization.

The combination of the first two points ensures that the team’s CRM system is a swamp of bad data, making it more difficult to extract actionable intelligence from the CRM.

Sales management and understanding sales reps

The reality is, not all activities are the same for all reps. Certain reps are smooth as silk on the phone. Other reps are tongue-tied, nervous, and unable to articulate a clear message to prospects who answer the phone. Some reps write very compelling emails; others make you question whether their schools had any writing requirements to graduate. Similarly, certain reps are magicians when they are in front of prospects while others are better off hanging back at the office when prospect events are taking place.

Despite the obvious presence of inherent personality differences and relative strengths and weaknesses, every one of these rep tendencies can close a lot of business! Activity-based management strategies that fail to incorporate the nuances that define each individual rep prevent teams from maximizing the financial impact that each rep can have on the organization.

Using sales management strategies driven by data

Sports is finally beginning to break free from this “dial-until-your-fingers-bleed” management philosophy. Progressive sales leaders leverage their sales and marketing data to learn about the patterns of success and failure for each rep.  The inherent strengths and weaknesses of the individuals influence these patterns of success. These defining characteristics often relate to specific communication behaviors – positioning managers to easily define more appropriate customized activity metrics.

The most cutting-edge leaders recognize that strict adherence to rigid activity metrics ultimately sacrifices quality for quantity. Sales leaders who understand their sales and marketing data understand that sales activity – important as it is – is only one component of sales success. In addition, buyer attributes, buyer behaviors, product attributes, price points, and other elements of the sales process are driving characteristics that cannot be excluded when defining a sales strategy. In addition to activity metrics, these factors should never be looked at in a silo. However, sales leaders who understand their teams’ patterns of success and failure are optimally positioned to align their organizations for greater sales success while minimizing costs.