Activity gets a bad rap. Just suggesting that more activity might be necessary to improve results makes sales leaders and sales managers nervous. They don't want to ask their sales force to make more calls (yes, calls) and schedule more meetings with prospects whose outcomes you sincerely want to improve.
The reason it's so difficult to talk about more activity is that it hearkens back to the days when every sales manager knew only one strategy: More. It was believed that more activity would automatically result in revenue growth. Sales was treated like a simple transaction, making more ''asks'' resulted in more sales. This was sometimes true, even if it never produced the increase in revenue the sales manager expected.
There are scenarios where the best way to improve results is to increase your activity. But automating spam and ruining LinkedIn with a spray and pray approach isn't nearly the most effective strategy for revenue growth or greater activity.
Not all Activities are Equal
Not all activities are equal. Some activities are more equal. In one of my business email inboxes, nine emails found their way into the spam filter. This is a light day, as most days my poor, overwhelmed spam filter screens out thirty messages. None of the people who sent these mostly automated messages know they are going directly to spam. Occasionally, I will browse them to see if there are any messages that might have come from a real human, only to be continually disappointed by the lack of genuine communication from a real human.
The math on automated email sequences is that every 4 million emails are equal to one phone call. In 2020, people sent and received 306 billion emails, and my estimation is that 207 resulted in a new meeting. Most of the rest were treated to the delete button, the spam filter, or a quick unsubscribe from an email you didn't subscribe to and that provided little value.
A phone call to a prospective client is a better activity by the widest of margins. The low conversion rate of a cold call is dwarfed by email, especially the automated variety. Most sales leaders and sales managers will ask you to prospect, but they rarely require a phone-first approach, even though it’s the medium that allows a two-way conversation.
From insight-based nurture campaigns, a well-designed prospecting sequence, and a value trade that results in a meeting: increased activity is more than counting calls.
Not All Are Effective at Their Sales Activities
We don't believe that activity by itself is enough to increase revenue. As the world grew more complex, more activity was no longer capable of improving results. As salespeople struggled to execute what used to be a linear sales process, they ran headlong into the buzzsaw that is professional buyers. These clients need consensus from their team and a signed check from a senior leader. Even what might have been a straightforward transactional sale dealt with a process that was more complex, nonlinear, and required an increasing amount of time.
Those who still have a transactional sale may enjoy deals that move relatively fast. If you have this luxury, more activity may be just the thing to increase your revenue and speed it up. And if your clients need you to transact, transact.
One of the larger problems of believing that more activity can increase your sales is that even though you can make calls and get meetings, it's all the conversations and commitments that follow that grind the speed down to a snail's pace. Even more of a drag on revenue growth is the lack of the sales force’s effectiveness when it comes to creating and pursuing an opportunity.
The activities that follow the first meeting, like creating value for your contacts through your insights and your discovery conversations, facilitating the buyer's journey, and creating the paradigm shift that would cause a prospective client to recognize the need to change. All the while, you must concern yourself with acquiring the stakeholders you need and building consensus amongst a group of people who may not even agree on what day it is, let alone whether to (or how to) significantly change their business.
The Holy Grail for Increasing Activity and Results
The Holy Grail of activity combines the right action, in the right amount at the right time, provided the sales force is effective enough that no action is wasted. This activity leads to greater competency, but the better approach to increasing and improving your results is to work on the sales effectiveness first, giving yourself the best shot at success.
Sales leaders who invest time and energy into increasing their sales team's effectiveness discover their team not only improves their overall competency but also increases their win rates and revenue growth—something that isn't nearly as likely by simply doing more activity with poor effectiveness. A quick look at LinkedIn, and you find no end of posts about cold calling, as if that is the high mark of salesperson competency, when the humble cold call is one of the least challenging skills in B2B sales.
No matter what you sell or what approach you use, working on both effectiveness and greater activity will speed the acquisition of competency, followed by a greater confidence that improves results even more.