Deciding between tracking activities or tracking opportunities is one of the most common challenges when reviewing a sales process and trying to ensure that best practice is being used across an organisation.
The story generally goes a little something like this: there’ll be a unit or group of salespeople who are consistently hitting their targets by employing a well-organised, activity-metric-driven method. Each sales person will have a call target – 50 calls per day, for example – and there will be evidence that each individual hitting that target means that the overall unit’s target will be met. Meanwhile, in another area of the business, the salespeople will be measuring their progress through opportunity stage progression and key activities related to the opportunity.
So, which one is best practice? Well, it depends on the case. Here are a few scenarios:
Are you dealing with a lot of relatively low value individual sales?
If the answer to this is yes, then an activity-driven approach is probably correct. You’re unlikely to have a long sales cycle. In fact, you should be considering moving to automate this sales activity and drive it through your website, and supporting this through an effective marketing automation approach. If you’re primarily a subscription business, make sure you have a clear auto-renewal policy and email customers to remind them in advance of their renewal.
“We have halved the time it takes to process a sale. The automated renewal process has increased renewal by 15%, an increase of 35% in user initiated renewals and contacts.
We now have absolute clarity on the status of each of our members within their life cycle with our business and the current services they have purchased from us.
The process Clarasys implemented has now also been rolled out across other areas of our organisation.
Working with Clarasys was an absolute pleasure. It took them no time at all to grasp our business’ need, cut through the surface of the issue and deliver a solution that is now being used in multiple areas of the business.”
– Matt Garisch, Head of Business Development
Is your activity-driven sales work primarily lead qualification?
Again, an activity-driven approach is probably best here. It’s likely that you’ve got a long list of prospects to contact before one of them shows interest. Automation and data quality are key to ensuring the efficiency of this team.
Are most of your deals enterprise level with long sales cycles?
This is likely to need an account planning and management approach, focused on the quality rather than quantity of your activity. An account plan, including influencers, key decision makers, swot analysis, whitespace and competitor landscape, is going to be necessary for you to make real progress. Once an opportunity is identified then an equally rigorous opportunity plan needs to be developed and followed
Are most of your deals in the middle market, where customers value an account management relationship?
Blending the techniques above and generating a sales plan that identifies which activities need to be performed where is going to be critical – making sure that you pay the right level of attention to each of your customers, bearing in mind your previous and expected levels of business with them.
Across the board, unsurprisingly, the best approach is to plan and measure performance against a plan. Setting inappropriate targets will cause sales people to be demotivated and may act as a perverse incentive to go after the wrong targets. Developing a strong sales plan, in the context of the type of customers and products you sell will enable you to ensure that you use the right approach at the right time.