Sure we all know that the scorecard for sales reps is their closed business.  But, if we only focus on this “outcome” goal we may be putting too much pressure on the sales reps to perform and may actually reduce their likelihood of success.


Here’s what I mean.  We all know that our team and each individual needs to hit his or her sales goal.  However, they have absolutely no control over whether or not the prospect will actually buy anything, let alone anything from them.  When we, as managers, constantly harp on the end game, the closed business goal, without an appropriate amount of focus on the execution goals, we place undue pressure on situations that are beyond the sales reps’ control, thereby causing extra stress.  Now don’t get me wrong; I am not opposed to stress.  Sales reps should always have a healthy dose of angst, which causes them to do the activities necessary to get the opportunities in the pipeline.  Unfortunately, in most companies too much focus is placed on the sale, which is old, historic data, and not enough emphasis is placed on the activities that the reps should be doing every day to generate those opportunities.  Thus, there tends to be fluffy pipelines, which I have previously discussed here, “Reduce the Fluffy Pipeline Syndrome”, because there is too much emphasis placed on the deal and not enough placed on the activity that will consistently produce the deals.


Sales reps are like professional athletes in that they need to do the little things everyday that will provide the highest likelihood of a successful outcome.  In sports psychology, there is a focus on the concept of activity vs. outcome goals, because it is known that the athlete cannot totally control the end result.  It is a common practice, in sports psychology, to focus the athlete on the activity goal as opposed to the outcome goal to reduce tension and improve performance.  This is relevant for sales as well.  If we can adjust our thinking to focus on the activity goals (number of attempts to reach prospects, number of requests for introductions, etc.) instead of the outcome goals (number of proposals or closed business), then the emphasis will be appropriately placed and will actually produce better outcome results (more quality proposals and more closed business).  It will also take the pressure off of the sales rep when they are in the sales appointment.  Remember that the sales rep does not actually have control of the outcome.  And, when they do not have control over the situation and are under pressure to produce the results, they will be under stress.  Their brains will not work as effectively when under stress.  If we can reduce the stress experienced by the sales rep in the selling situation, then we can improve their brain function and their ability to produce a successful outcome.


Focus on the activity goals, not exclusively the outcome goals, and your reps will focus on the right behaviors, which, in turn, will produce more successful results.