I have written before about the need for sales managers to focus on activity goals with their salespeople as opposed to being only focused on the outcome goals (or closed business goals). There are many reasons for this:

  • Nobody can control whether or not the prospect or customer actually buys, so focusing exclusively on sales goals allows salespeople some room for excuse making. “The guy was never going to buy.” “He was such a jerk. It’s probably good he didn’t buy.”
  • If the sales manager gives direction to the salesperson to sell more, frequently the salesperson doesn’t really know how to make that happen. They sometimes think they are doing everything right and then are paralyzed because they don’t know what to change.
  • Salespeople commonly think they are doing far more productive activity than they actually are. They believe they are as busy as they can be to generate sales, so they sometimes need help detailing out exactly what the appropriate activity is to generate enough business.  Salespeople get distracted, and having an activity plan can help them stay focused.


What has recently occurred to me, though, is that I might have been sending the wrong message when I speak of activity goals vs outcome goals. I want to be perfectly clear:

I do NOT mean activity goals for the sake of checking the box.

I do NOT mean that we should turn our people into “smilers and dialers” just for the sake of them being able to say that they did the task.

Sales managers need to be thoughtful about the activities they are requiring of their salespeople. Do NOT just give them a call quota in a vacuum. If you are going to give them a call quota (whether in person or on the phone) then be diligent about reviewing those calls. Make sure you as the manager are inspecting these items:

  • What is the goal of the call?
  • What was the outcome of the call?
  • What are the agreed-to next steps?

If you require a call quota without this type of inspection, you will find salespeople making the calls, but the intended additional closed business will not necessarily flow. Be strategic about what you are measuring. Don’t just accept call numbers. Dig into the calls with the salespeople and make sure they doing enough of the right activity with a purpose or goal in mind.

Have you ever gone awry with activity-based goals that were mismanaged? Let us know about your experience in the comments!

Read more about this topic in an earlier post, “Outcome Goals vs. Activity Goals.”