An Introduction to Activity-Based Selling

How shifting your focus leads to better sales results.

July 17, 2016

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When you hear the word “selling,” closing a deal might be the first thing to come to mind. While this mindset makes sense at first – we all need to make money – you need to focus on doing the opposite.

In activity-based selling, you keep your focus on the actions that make a sale happen, rather than the close of the sale itself, operating on the knowledge that you’ll get better sales results by completing key steps with a prospect.

Notice, I did not say forget about results. But the foundation of activity-based selling lies in resisting the temptation to make results your focus.

Think of it as a marathon. At the start of the race, you know your goal: make it to the finish line in the shortest amount of time. But in an activity-based approach, once you start running, you don’t focus on the finish. Instead, you concentrate on what you’re doing at the moment. How quickly you’re running. How well you’re breathing. How often you swig water.

Yet your goal is in the back of your mind, and it stays there.

This is the core mental shift you need to make.

Why it works so well

The constant uncertainty, frequent rejection… and worries over quotas… and reliance on commissions to pay your bills… and the conflicting desire to spend time with your loved ones… can eat away at you.

Activity-based selling helps turn all of this around by putting you in control. It allows you to build a more desirable life – while simultaneously boosting your closure rate.

Typically in sales, even if you do everything right, most of the time you will face failure. This is because the result you’re looking for is entirely out of your control. You simply cannot control whether someone will decide to buy, or when.

But you can decide for a set period, perhaps a month, that you’re going to follow a system you’ve established and focus on your own actions. When you do this, you suddenly find yourself more productive. All great achievers do more of the things that ultimately lead to the sale – the best salespeople, for instance, speak to many more prospects than they have buyers.

8 steps to build an activity-based plan

In changing how you operate, it’s critical to design your process around simple, concrete steps you can take, even when it looks like nothing is coming your way.

1. Understand your goals. This might seem counterintuitive: “Isn’t the whole point not to fixate on the goals?” Yes. But you need to know what your goals are from the start to decide what specific actions to take to achieve them.

2. Know your “why.” Determine the personal meaning behind your goals. Certainly, there’s the need to make money to pay the bills. But there’s often something deeper at work as well. Dig into that.

3. Map your successes. Take a good, hard look at the times you have been successful.

Look for commonalities in your actions when you were successful. List them. When salespeople do this, they often find themselves saying: “Wow, that’s my process.”

4. Tap action resources. It may be helpful to research some of the most successful sales management techniques, which can offer excellent ideas to experiment with, even as a salesperson. But don’t assume that other people’s techniques will work for you – no matter how senior – nor give up on the actions that are already working for you.

5. Calculate your action metrics. Use the figures you have in front of you. You know what your goals are. You should know your KPIs. You should know the steps to keep your KPIs on track. And you have to be able to track, analyze and compare data, in a convenient and accessible way.

6. Set weekly and daily action metrics. This is a crucial step to make sure your goal is realistic. While it’s good to be ambitious, it’s also essential to make sure you can carry the load each day.

7. Take stock. At the end of each week, look back at those metrics. Treat yourself, even in some small way, to celebrate the metrics you achieved. And be honest with yourself about those you missed, so that you can rebound.

8. Evolve. The pace at which this new approach starts working is different for every person, depending on their style, ambition, potential, and other factors. But after a while, you should start to recognize that things are moving along better than before.

More prospects are entering the pipeline. More deals are progressing. More sales are happening.

Then, you’ll start to ask more of yourself. You’ll calculate and recalibrate your action metrics higher to make it happen. And it will. This is true not just in sales, but in everything. You evolve and improve through commitment to your goals – and that starts with committing to the action in front of you.

By being aware of your actions and having a plan, you’ll equip yourself to thrive as a salesperson. And when you master activity-based sales, you’ll put yourself on the best possible track to success.