Rethinking sales activity management
I’ve never liked sales activity “point systems.” I’ve always looked at them as a crutch for management that couldn’t simply lay out a road map for salespeople to succeed. I still think I’m partially right, but I also think that the ever-changing world of sales may require my own viewpoint to evolve.
It is getting more challenging to get face time with good customers. That should have prompted a trend of salespeople getting better at prospecting and relationship building, and getting higher quality appointments with better prospects. Unfortunately I believe that the opposite is happening; salespeople are spending more of their time on meaningless, agenda-free sales calls on random prospects who can’t buy and who wouldn’t amount to much (in terms of the salesperson’s overall goals) if they could.
The reason that I don’t like point systems is that, the way they are typically constructed, they allow salespeople to amass points and pretend to have an acceptable level of activity when, in fact, they’re not accomplishing anything meaningful. For instance, most point systems put way too much weight on phone calls, and the more calls the salesperson logs, they can ‘fudge’ their level of activity.
After talking to a number of sales managers – who are struggling with managing the balance between great target accounts and smaller accounts that give regularity – maybe it’s time to think about a point system for sales activity. The conventional type of system counts simply activities, without thought as to WHO the customers are and WHAT is discussed. Let’s move beyond that and think about how we might put together a point system that works.
Calls: Zero points. I know, this goes against the whole philosophy of point systems – but what we’re trying to do is count meaningful activities that produce meaningful results. A phone call is the first activity of the sales funnel, and its only point is to get to someplace else. Genuine selling doesn’t start until the salesperson is face-to-face with a decision maker, so why give points here? The same goes for other activities such as emailing.
Face to face appointments: Here is where we’ll start giving points. I’m going to propose a scale that has a lot of different components to it. It’s going to seem very complex, and if you try to tabulate this manually, it will be. Instead, look for places where you can use sales statuses, contact titles, and other fields in your Customer Relationship Management tool (CRM) to calculate these points automatically. What I’m suggesting has many moving parts, but the last thing I want is for you to spend time sitting in your office counting points instead of being out and working with your salespeople.
Base: 1 point per appointment. This is the minimum for appointments that don’t meet any of our ‘kickers’ that I’ll explain below.
First appointment: 2 points. This appointment is one that initiates a sales cycle, and should be reserved either for new customers or reactivations (customers that have been inactive for 18 months or more).
Pre-set agenda and objective: Double points. For instance, a Base appointment would be worth 2 points with a pre-set Objective. A First Appointment would be worth 4 points. The idea is to stop the ‘agenda free’ type of sales call that we see so often nowadays.
Appointment with your target contact type: 5x points. Here is where you have to really manage the process and drive your sales activity. Too often, salespeople end up calling on mid- or low-level managers who couldn’t say “yes” if their lives depended on it. Those calls are, for the most part, pointless and result free. If you need to be calling on the C-suite in order to get a decision, why reward your people for calling on the stockroom manager? This measurement also takes into account the company that you’re calling on; your contact type should be one that is a meaningful piece of business. The difference is stark – a First Appointment, with a pre-set agenda, with a target contact type, is worth 20 points. An agenda-free call with a non-target is worth 1 point.
Proposals: 5 points. A Proposal is a critical step in the sales process; done correctly, it signifies that you are on the lip of the cup of a sale. Hence, we should recognize a Proposal more than other activity. Of course, our variables need to come into play here, as well.
Qualified proposal: 2x points. A Qualified Proposal is one that meets the following checklist: The customer’s needs have been discovered and confirmed with the customer. A solution has been presented that is agreeable to the customer. And then a specific price for specific service is quoted. This data should be logged in your CRM. If all this is present, give double points.
Face-to-face presentation of a proposal to a target contact type: 5x points. Again, presentation to a decision maker for a target account is nearly priceless. Based on our scale, a Qualified Proposal, presented face to face, to a target contact type, would be worth 50 points.
You might have other types of activity that you’d want to give points for – for instance, plant tours or in-house demonstrations might be worth points based on where they stand in the sales process. That’s okay; just make sure that you’re rewarding sales activity appropriately.
Finally is the question of where to put your weekly point quota. Well, that’s not something I can help you with – that depends on YOU. However, I would put it so that it’s nearly impossible without doing at least some target account activity every week – and then figure how much of the salesperson’s time you want to spend in those accounts. Set your target appropriately, then build in the variables to your CRM.
If you’re struggling with directing your salespeople where they need to be, a sales activity management program like this might be a solution.