10 Essentials: Activity vs. Effectiveness

The first in series of ten posts in a series titled: 10 Essential B2B Sales Rep Attributes (and their 10 Essential Opposites)

There is an old saw about sales managers having a single button on their desk. The button is labeled: MORE! The reason they have a MORE button instead of a BETTER button is the admitted difficulty in actually improving sales rep performance. So, it is easier for a sales manager to improve the results of an ineffective salesperson by requiring more calls, hoping that the salesperson will bump into additional sales by simply by making additional sales calls. But this is not the whole picture.


Without activity, there is no succeeding in sales. You have to prospect each and every day with a devotion that might be mistaken for obsessive-compulsive disorder. You have to actively qualify the prospects in your sales funnel to ensure that the time you spend with prospects is valuable for both of you. You have to make sales calls with the prospects you have qualified. You have to design solutions, present solutions, and respond to questions and concerns.

What happens if you don’t prospect? Nothing. What happens if you don’t make sales calls? More nothing. This is why there is so much emphasis on activity; activity precedes sales.


The results of sales activity are rarely what they could (or should) be. Effectiveness is the opposing attribute. It is not enough to for a salesperson to generate activity. In fact, more often than not, more activity by itself isn’t enough to make a real difference for the salesperson or for their company. What is needed is greater effectiveness.

Effectiveness is the result of a lot of factors, but it can be summed up as sales behaviors. Is what you are doing when you are with the prospect or customer working? Is what you are doing advancing the sale?


If you work in sales long enough, you will see countless salespeople with very high activity fail. They simply won’t be effective enough. You will see even more salespeople who are very effective with the prospect fail because they are just too lazy to generate activity. Truth be told, you have to both generate activity and you be effective when you are with the prospect or customer.

The old rule: Activity precedes sales.

The new rule: Effective activity precedes sales.


  1. Are your sales results lower than your peer group’s sales, even though you have much greater activity? If so, than greater effectiveness is needed.
  2. Is your close ratio much higher than your co-worker’s, but your results are still lower? This indicates that your activity may need improving.
  3. Are your sales the same or higher than you peer group’s results, even though you have dramatically lower activity? If so, you might be coasting and boosting your activity will make you a star.
  4. Do you have both lower sales and lower activity? If this is the case, many sales professionals will recommend the advice of our sales manager in the opening paragraph and suggest more activity first. There is some truth to this, as it builds experience. I’d recommend that you work on both at the same time, taking note of what works and what doesn’t work, making distinctions, and ensuring that the increased activity is accompanied by improving effectiveness.



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  • http://blog.sellingtoconsumers.com Skip Anderson

    Love it – Love it – Love it!

    From my perspective you’re right on. I would add: Activity is better than no activity. And I agree totally that effective activity is king. Very well written post. Everyone should read it.


    • http://www.santhonyiannarino.com S. Anthony Iannarino

      Of course you would love it, Skip, you are one of the guys they call in to fix the effectiveness problem in B2C sales. Which makes me wonder how much time sales managers spend working on activity first, and neglecting effectiveness. Activity always appears to be low hanging fruit, but effectiveness seems to breed the confidence that enables the sales rep to improve his activity.

      Thanks for the kind words!


  • http://www.keys2selling.blogspot.com Noel Harris

    Great post. Over the years i have seen many sales people talk about how many sales calls they make and how busy they are and i often would ask how effective the calls were, how many sales were generated? Far to often they were not making their numbers because they were busy but not effective.

    • http://www.santhonyiannarino.com S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks for the comment, Noel. Busy and effective are sometimes worlds apart. A little self-reflection goes a long way.

  • http://www.robydyck.com Roby Dyck

    time to read all nine blogs tonite. If the others are as good as this one, I will really benefit. I had a heart attack this summer at 55, was working pretty well 7/15 in real estate. Worked at “chasing” the fickle buyers – was somewhat effective, but far too expensive in costs. During my layover, I really got stoked about making a funnel to get a following that will come to me vs. me chasing them. I think I am onto something really great. Noah Fleming at noahfleming.com helped me setup my website – its starting to happen – I plan to #Crush It# in real estate in Kingsville. 637% increase in web traffic w/ super low bounce rate. Great advice above and will do it.

  • http://twitter.com/InsightDemand Michael Harris

    Great post. Pushing activity happens because most VPs of Sales were good salespeople and they suddenly become managers without ever developing any management skills. Without really knowing what made them successful, they just revert to the easiest thing to manage, activity. How do i know, because I’ve done it.