With 75% of businesses either investing or planning to invest in big data, sales teams everywhere are under pressure to forego the art of sales in favor of a more scientific, data-driven approach. Of course, pressure makes diamonds, and using data to make smarter sales decisions results in enhanced performance.
However, being “data-driven” isn’t enough. Just like data can drastically improve your sales, focusing on the wrong data points and metrics can absolutely kill your business. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s hard to recognize these metrics and the damage that they’re doing before it’s too late. One type of metric that is commonly misused to the detriment of sales teams is activity metrics.
The problem with measuring activities
When used correctly, there is no doubt that activity metrics can be among the most useful and impactful sales data available. In fact, according to sales expert and best-selling author Jason Jordan, “Revenue tells you how great you were at selling last month. And that’s informative, but what you sold last month is not going to help you sell more this month, unless you can use it to identify trouble and look at what people are actually doing and how you can manage and sell differently. The most useful data is around sales activity.”
Where the problem starts is when managers and reps get caught up in hitting call quotas and lose sight of what should be their ultimate goal: closing business. To avoid this trap, you must go beyond common vanity metrics like number of calls made or emails sent. While hitting these numbers may make your team feel busy, the truth is that simply making a certain number of dials doesn’t mean that they were productive or successful.
How to define the right activity metrics for your business
Of course, that’s not to say that keeping track of the number of calls, emails or knocks your team completes is useless. On the contrary, when done strategically, these activity metrics can really work for your business by helping you understand the average number of calls or emails required to book a demo or a meeting, and keeping your team on pace.
This is valuable information. However, the most meaningful activity metrics look at the outcomes rather than the number of activities that reps complete. Only when you understand the outcomes of activities can you begin to comprehend the impact that they make and the steps that you can take to improve them.
Let’s start by thinking about the different actions that a sales team can take. How do you determine which of these are the most important for you to measure? Answering this question requires you to refer to your sales process. What actions are reps required to take when following your process? What are the potential outcomes of these activities, and what does each of these outcomes mean for the rest of your sales process?
Of course, key actions and outcomes vary by sales organization. For example, a door-to-door sales team will need to track visits. Whether or not someone is home is an important outcome, as it could potentially result in the delay or loss of a sale. Let’s take a look at two standard sales activities with fairly straightforward outcomes: sending emails and making calls.
When one of your reps sends an email, the potential outcomes are:
- Not opened
- No interest
- Future interest
Similarly, when it comes to making calls, outcomes could be:
- No answer
- Left voicemail
- Call back later
- No interest
- Future interest
Pro Tip: To retrieve any meaningful and reliable insights from your activity data, it’s important to have a standardized set of outcomes that your team is consistently recording throughout your sales process. For example, if different reps are marking “left voicemail” as “left message,” “VM,” “voicemail,” “had to leave message,” etc., generating any insights from this disorganized information will prove to be extremely difficult.
So, what happens if you notice a large percentage of email outcomes being marked as “not opened”? It may be time to spruce up those subject lines! Still not seeing success? You may be reaching out to the wrong contact title.
Similarly, if you’re noticing that an excessively large percentage of your phone calls is being bucketed under “not interested,” it could be in your best interest to provide the sales team with a prospecting script. Or, if a large percentage of calls are being marked “future interest,” your reps may need some coaching around how to convey urgency to prospects.
Providing recommended actions
Regardless of the exact outcomes you observe, approaching activity metrics in this scientific and strategic manner will help you come away with a recommended action or follow up analysis that will lead to improved performance.