The “new” sales mantra seems to be all about activity. Our managers measure us on activities, and it seems our performance is based on how many activities we complete.
As a result, we measure all sorts of things to demonstrate our “busyness,” dials, emails, meetings, InMails, contacts, proposals, and on and on. The more activities we do, the better. Sales people and managers are overwhelmed with the data around activities we are held accountable to perform. Our social feeds are filled with “hacks,” enabling us to do even more activities. “Use ChatGPT to produce 1000 emails in 15 minutes……”
Activities have become ends in themselves. We are successful if we have completed a certain number of activities–regardless of what those activities produced. We, somehow, seem disconnected from the reason we are doing the activities. We seem disconnected with whether we have executed those activities well or poorly, we just need to do the activities.
But the reason we do activities is to produce some sort of result. Perhaps it’s a response to an email, a conversation. Perhaps it’s an indication of interest, “Tell me more,” or the opposite, “Stop spamming me!”
Our purpose in doing an activity is to produce a result. And if our activities are not producing the desired results, then they are meaningless, wasted efforts.
But what kind of results are we producing? They can be categorized in a couple of ways, Outputs and Outcomes.
Sometimes we tend to think of these as interchangeable. but they are very different.
Outputs tend to focus on the tangible results of an activity. For example, an open, a response, a click-through, a conversation are examples of outputs. They might be downloads of content, demonstrations, even proposals completed.
Measuring the outputs give us some indication around whether our activities are producing results. Did the customer respond? Did we conduct a demo? Did we provide the information they requested. Did they….
But a more important measure of the results of our activities is the outcome produced in the activity. Outcomes focus on the overall impact of the activities. They may be more qualitative, looking at a longer term perspective.
Outcomes may include: Agreement on what the customer is trying to achieve and why it’s important; agreement the customer will sponsor a workshop: help the customer develop a plan to reach a decision; help the customer gain confidence that they are doing the right thing for their organization.
Outcomes are key to engaging our customers and helping them move to a decision. What moves both of us forward to our shared goal are outcomes. Outcomes are the results of well executed activities and the outputs of those activities.
But activities don’t necessarily produce outcomes. We go through the motions defined by the activity, yet we have not produced the desired outputs and outcomes. It is just wasted effort.
I wonder, often, about our fixation on activities and measuring those activities. Somehow, it seems outcomes are more important.
Todd Hockenberry says
When I was a VP of Sales I had a sign on my desk that read – Activity does not equal accomplishment. Still doesn’t!
David Brock says