Words have power. Their power can be noticeable and immediate, or their power can be nuanced—even insidious.
Have you ever considered the nuance of the word “activity” in your sales endeavors?
In day-to-day life, an activity is something we engage in lightheartedly—maybe to pass the time—almost like a hobby, or like playing in the sandbox.
In sales, performance is often measured as units of sales “activities”. How many times did you pick up the phone? How many meetings did you schedule? How many meetings did you log in your CRM?
There’s nothing wrong with using the word “activity” when it comes to your work – except that it completely neglects the most powerful capability within you, which is your intention.
The word “activity” implies something you just kinda wind up doing. It implies that you’re filling up your time in order to create the illusion of productivity. Most sales professionals agree that you can’t control how many deals you close today, but you can control how many activities you engage in. The question is, are you engaging in those activities just to check a box?
What if you replaced “activities” with “actions”? An action is something that you take with intention. An action has a more clearly intended outcome. An action has clarity of purpose.
How do you distinguish between activities and actions?
The distinction between an activity and an action will depend on what is really going on beneath the surface.
For example, a sales meeting with an unqualified prospect is just an activity meant to check a box so that leadership knows you’re working. By contrast, a sales meeting with a highly qualified prospect is an action that could very likely lead to a sale, a referral, or at least a solid advancement in the relationship.
Another example: creating a data-rich presentation for a customer who is relationship-focused is just an activity (perhaps to avoid the discomfort of asking for the sale?) Creating a data-rich presentation for a customer who is data-driven is an intentional action.
Maximizing the Law of Averages
Staying busy with activities will eventually lead to more sales, but that will probably happen more by accident than by design.
Instead, when you remain engaged in action, you have a much higher probability of enjoying the results you want—without wasting extra time or energy. When time and energy are at a premium, wouldn’t you want to ensure the highest ROI for your efforts?
I recently listened to a talk about how a certain software program could increase a company’s sales by monitoring the reps’ sales activities. The data showed that the software increased the reps’ sales activities by 25%, while the company’s revenue increased by 5%.
Sure, a 5% increase in revenue is great, but relative to the increase in the reps’ sales activities (and presumably their time and energy expenditure), the well-intentioned emphasis was misplaced. And could lead to burnout.
Instead of a frenzied attempt to increase sales activities, what if the salesforce were to focus on replacing sales activities with targeted actions? You would see a greater increase in revenue while maintaining or even decreasing the reps’ time and energy output.
Yes, the Law of Averages tells us that if we just keep picking up the phone and having those meetings, we will naturally advance closer to our goals. But why not shift those activities to actions?
At the end of the day, what we all want is improved outcomes, not more points racked up on a sales activity scorecard.
How to shift from activities to actions
In order to engage in more actions and less activities, ask yourself:
Am I doing this just to check a box, or is this an action that is likely to produce a desired outcome?
If no one was looking over my shoulder, would I still do this?
Will I feel busy doing this—or will I feel impactful?
Is this the best use of my time and energy in this moment?
What are the most impactful actions that will align with my ultimate goals?
Intentional actions will advance you toward your desired outcome, but you still need to remain emotionally unattached to the outcome.
Stay present on the targeted action and focus on being of service to your customers. The outcome will unfold naturally—as naturally as you are able to shift your focus from “activities” to “actions”.
This is one of the topics I cover in my forthcoming book Heart-Powered Sales. Sign up to be notified when it’s released.