Activity vs. Efficiency

When the going gets tough, the tough may aimlessly wander all over the place, and unfortunately, due to recent events, it might be tough going for a while. As a result, I see many companies do what I call “falling into the activity trap.” Yes, they are grasping for new business by implementing extra marketing strategies with the hope that these efforts will produce ready prospects for the sales team, anticipating an increase in sales activity to reverse currently dwindling sales results. But will these efforts work?

Compare this to a football game where a coach thinks that the only thing that matters is the time of possession. The coach reasons that if he uses some creative schemes to keep his team on the field on offense, the team will win more games. That may be true, but the team also needs to execute plays and score points when they have possession of the ball. If you are now thinking about football and scoring points, some of your favorite receivers of the past may come to mind – Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, Lynn Swan, Herman Moore, Andre Reed, and the list goes on. When I reflect on these great players, I marvel at how efficient they were at catching the ball and scoring points! When the ball came their way, you knew that they would catch it most of the time.

What do these great wide receivers have in common with the best salespeople? When top salespeople engage in a sales presentation (catch the ball), they are more likely to complete a deal (score points). Your best salespeople know that selling is not just activity; instead, it is about taking advantage of every sales opportunity. Over the past few years, there has been a shift in sales management discussions due in part to the influx of multifaceted customer relationship management systems, and as a result, an emphasis on sales activity. Now more than ever, these systems are presented as the go-to solution. At the same time, there is little discussion about sales presentation execution and performance (sales efficiency) and the need for higher conversion of current sales opportunities. Activity versus efficiency. What do you think? Does it make sense to do more of something less efficiently to reach a goal or do less with more efficiency and reach the same or improved goals?

I am not saying that salespeople should not engage in a certain amount of activity. Still, I argue for efficiency over activity, especially if qualified prospects are limited, which appears to be the situation now and may drag out for the foreseeable future. This slowdown means that the salesperson has fewer opportunities to make presentations. I don’t hear many salespeople saying, “my calendar is so full and that I cannot do any more presentations” or “I have so many qualified prospects, they are standing in line to meet with me.” No, that is rarely the case.

Using the example of the wide receiver, let’s say that you have a mediocre receiver, and you throw him the ball ten times in a game, and he only catches it twice. On the other hand, one of the greats mentioned above catches the ball eight out of ten times. Do you have enough opportunities during a football game to throw the ball forty times to a mediocre receiver? Yes, that is what it would take to equal the performance of a great wide receiver.

Salespeople are in a similar situation; they cannot overcome a low conversion rate. Why? Because they are not going to have unlimited opportunities. For example, if one salesperson does only four presentations and closes at a fifty percent closing rate and another salesperson does ten presentations and closes at a ten percent closing rate, who has the better result? The second salesperson had more than twice the activity; however, it resulted in fifty percent less business. So, what is more, important activity or efficiency? Like the football player, there is only so much time and so many qualified prospects or opportunities. Businesses cannot afford for their salespeople to drop the ball.

Sales, like sports, is more about efficiency and not activity. Make sure you avoid the sales activity trap. Instead, you want to keep in mind what all NFL head coaches know – that there is only so much time on the clock and that their team is only going to have the ball a specific amount of time. So, everything is about efficiency if you want to score more sales.

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