Activity! Activity! Activity!

Unfortunately, there are no two ways about it, no easy answers, no short cuts. Sales is a process, and putting more into the ‘front end’ results in more out of the ‘back end’

There is a caveat. And that is that you are not a complete blithering idiot. That you can string a sentence together, and that you and the product you sell can provide the promised results to your clients. Those things being the case, quite simply as ‘Giff’ Gifford et al have described, ‘more presentations equals more sales’

This surely won’t be a surprise to many sellers? But to what extent do we take it seriously? In my experience as a sales manager, I can categorically state, that my success or otherwise was down completely to the number of sales presentations my sales people made – For sales presentation read: ask for the cash.

Interestingly, sales people, given it’s so hard to make appointments, generally speaking, have become adept at ‘letting themselves off the hook’ for under performing from an activity perspective. Consequently they have devised all sorts of strategies to explain away the lack of activity which is clearly transmitted up the chain to the various managers in the organisation. The sales managers in the organisation take part in this charade,  rather than look at the reality of the situation. They aren’t talking to enough people! This is an example of the sales effort managing the organisation, rather than the other way around.

Thats not to say that sales people are lazy, or sales managers stupid. I’ve thought a lot about this over the years. Why would otherwise committed sales people, aware that their earnings are a function of the amount of people they see, not make seeing more people an absolute priority? Why would they allow their work to expand to fill their day, rather than trying to do everything they can to delegate unimportant tasks out to the various people employed to support them? Making the appointments in the first place has become the hardest part of the job.

The sales bit is relatively straight forward is it not? taking a brief from your client can even be very interesting, and presenting is the bit most sellers look forward to the most. But putting in the telephone calls to make the appointments seems to be the last thing anyone wants to do. Doesn’t make sense. Which is why I have spent so much time thinking about it. I’ve come up with two observations.

  1. It’s the part of the job where you are most open to rejection, and even though its rejection by someone you don’t even know, it’s still hard to take day in day out
  2. Most sales people like being good at things. And importantly, like to be recognised for being good at things. Most sales people have no idea how good or not they are at making appointments.

The solution to point 1: Reduce the importance of the task. Make it about making the calls, not getting the appointments. If you shift your focus from the acceptance or rejection of getting an appointment or not, to the simple process goal of just getting through ‘X’ number of leads, it’s far easier to deal with. ‘I only got two appointments!’ is very different to ‘I managed to make 50 calls!’ Given the seller making the calls is capable of making appointments with prospects, the more calls they make, the more appointments they make. So focus on the processes rather than the outcomes

The solution to point 2: Measure and celebrate how good you really are at making appointments. If it’s not measured , it’s not managed. Chances are, because we tend to focus on the negative connotations of not getting appointments rather than any positive outcomes in terms of our efficiency at carrying out the process, all we feel is negative about the whole thing. If sales managers incentivise telephone calls, rather than appointments, or just processes generally, we would all be better off. And measuring the outcome of each process gives us actual proper data we can use to celebrate success or identify real training needs.

If you take this on board, a sales person, or a sales manager, given a product that will sell, and a product that will answer a clients brief, is completely at the mercy of how many telephone calls they make.

More telephone calls = more appointments = more presentations = more sales

So stop worrying about your presentation skills, your negotiation skills, your closing skills. They’re fine! You wouldn’t be doing this job if they weren’t! Get into driving your business by driving your activity. Get into process goals.

Here’s another observation for you, the best sales training you get is out in the field in front of clients. The more calls you make the better you get. The more calls you make, the more presentations you make. The more presentations you make, the more sales you will make!

It’s all you need to know.

p.s. If you are making more presentations than anyone you know, and still not selling, do us all a favour – go get a job doing something else instead!

  1. Mark Pettit
    Mark Pettit says:

    Hi Tony, that was a very interesting article that you wrote. Your email today (about it not getting the attention it deserved) clearly worked on me. I would like to ask your opinion on something. Do you believe that even the best sales people can be defeated by tough market conditions, or do the best always pull through no matter what? As a young sales and marketing exec I suppose I have this naïve view that as long as you know your product inside out, are good with people and there is a demand for the product/service you are selling then you will always do well. How wrong I may be! Mark.

    • damiandowling
      damiandowling says:

      Mark, I firmly believe, given the conditions that you illustrate, that all that is required is a focus on the plan. That may be to increase your activity, or to sell a certain product.
      But this is the third recession I have been through, and while they don’t get easier, i’ve found hard work wins out
      As Lance Armstrong said, ‘Pain is temporary, quitting is forever’ and the number one reason for a failing sales person is lack of commitment (to the plan)
      of course, there can always be mitigation like sudden client movements, non paying etc. but generally, if you can stick to the plan, and see more people, you’ll succeed
      In fact, the more you see, the more you succeed!
      thanks for taking the time to comment