Activity metrics are receiving lots of attention. Activity metrics can be very useful, at the same time, they can stimulate a lot of, well … wasted activity.

Too often, we focus on the wrong things as we put activity metrics in place. We focus on the “what and how many,” for example, “You need to make 150 dials today,” or, “You have to send out 200 prospecting emails.” As a result, the activities become “ends” in themselves, and not means to achieve certain goals.

Every sales person (competent or not) should be able to achieve these goals, just find a 150 numbers and dial them. In fact, hope that no one on the other side has the bad sense to pick up the phone and have a conversation, they just slow you down in hitting your activity goal.

Activity metrics receive huge attention, but are the most easily gamed things we can do in selling.

We have to go beyond the “what and how many” of activity metrics, reframing them in the context of outcomes we want to create, understanding why these activities are critical in achieving those outcomes, knowing who we should be conducting those activities with, finally understanding what great execution of that activity looks like.

Only then, can we create activity metrics that help us achieve what we want from these activities.

Let me use my own company as an example. All 15 of us, including me, have a critical activity metric we must achieve each week. Each person must make a certain number of prospecting calls each week. Every Friday, I get a report showing how many each person has completed against their target.

You might be thinking, “Dave, this just looks like any prospecting metrics anyone has.”

But we go beyond just the activity of “X prospecting calls.” We break them down further with very specific definitions to quality as a “prospecting call.” For example, these calls have to be to one of the 5 personas we identify as critical for our prospecting outreach.

These personas have to be in organizations within our sweet spot.

They have to be first conversations with those people in the target organizations. Stated differently, these are people we have never met or are in a new role with a new company we haven’t done business with (at least in the past 3 years).

But we refine these further. These calls have to be to people in organizations we believe, through our research, have one of 5 problem areas we want to focus our discussion on.

We’ve set these criteria very purposefully, because we know if we have these types of conversations with the right people in the right organizations, a very high percentage of those convert into highly qualified opportunities (perhaps not in the first call, but within three conversations).

We set the weekly volume of calls knowing the number of these calls that convert to qualified opportunities, the number of those we generally win, and what our revenue goals are. Stated differently, I know that if I make my weekly goal for these calls, there is a high likelihood of meeting my quota in the next 9-15 months. Likewise, if I don’t achieve that goal, the probability of missing my number in a year increases.

Each of us has a prospecting call goal, but we’ve been very specific on what “counts” as a prospecting call and what doesn’t. For example, I could have a call with someone I’ve never met before, in one of our target customers, but if that individual isn’t the right person, it doesn’t count toward my prospecting activity goal (Though, clearly, I might seek to get that individual to introduce me to the right person.). Alternatively, I might have a conversation with the right person in the right organization, but if it’s not around an issue that’s in the 5 areas in which we focus, it doesn’t count. Again, I might try, in the conversation, to shift the conversation, but if I can’t, it doesn’t count.

Now here’s the interesting irony to this process. Because we are very focused on our prospecting activity, we don’t have huge numbers for weekly prospecting activity. In fact my personal weekly number is “6.” If I have those six conversations every week, I have high certainty I will make my number in the following 12-15 months. Because I don’t have to make a huge, possibly, arbitrary number of calls, I can invest the time in finding and making the right calls.

Do you understand what the right activities are for yourself/your organization? Can you clearly define them in a way that drives the outcomes you expect? Have you defined the volumes in a way that’s directly tied to those outcomes/goals you expect?

If you can’t say, “Yes,” to the above, then your activity metrics are likely to be meaningless.

SOURCEPartners in Excellence
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Dave Brock
Dave Brock is the founder of Partners in EXCELLENCE, a consulting and services company helping to improve the effectiveness of business professionals with strategy development, organizational planning, and implementation. Dave has spent his career working for and with high performance organizations, ranging from the Fortune 25 to startups, including companies such as IBM, HP, Nokia, AT&T, Microsoft, General Electric, and many, many more. The work Dave does with business strategies is closely tied to personal effectiveness of the people in the organization. As a result, Dave is deeply involved in the development of a number of training and coaching programs.

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