Stop Managing Activity – PLEASE!

I’m amazed at how many sales organizations manage activity.  If a sales organization is managing activity, it means one of two things:

  • The sales team is broken
  • or they’re killing it

A seasoned sales professional and friend of mine was lamenting that his company requires him to make 25 cold calls a day. Yes, I said “requires.”  This mandate comes all the way from the SVP of Sales.  He is so frustrated, he is about to quit. He knows how to do his job. He is on target. Making him do 25 cold calls a day is telling him how to do his job and just getting in his way.

Here’s the nugget to this post;

If you have to tell people how to do their job, you have the wrong people or the wrong people running the people. Either way, you have the wrong people.

Once you’re telling people how to do it, it’s over, just get new people or do it yourself.

Managing activity is demoralizing. It sends the message to your people they don’t know what they are doing and they need you to tell them how to do it. It say’s, you dont’ trust their ability to get it done on their own.  Study after study has shown personal ownership and accountability is key to productivity.  Employees need to feel they make a difference and are impacting the bottom line or the companies goals. When employees are told what to do and how to do it, the sense of contribution and ownership are stripped away and folks start feeling like cogs in a wheel.

“Like cogs in a wheel” is the LAST thing you want your sales people to feel.

If the sales team is broken and your not hitting your numbers, activity based management isn’t the solution. Get new sales people.

Don’t wast time telling sub-par sales people how to do their job.  Get high-performing sales people and get out of their way.

If the sales team isn’t broken then your killing it. Managing activity is a morale killer. It sucks the life out of your sales people. As the EVP, SVP, or VP of sales, how would you feel if the CEO or your boss told you how to do your job.  How enabled and empowered would you feel if the CEO told you what your sales strategy was going to be, or told you what companies to go after or what the cadence should be, or how the territories should be structured, or what CRM to use etc., regardless of what you thought was the best approach to making the number.

Yeah, that’s what I thought. You’d hate it. So . . . don’t do it to your people.

The best and most productive way to manage your people is goal based management, supported by coaching.  The crazy popular book, the Challenger Sale says coaching is the most effective and productive approach to managing sales organizations and that outperforming teams spend more time coaching than the underperforming teams.

If you’re sales team ain’t broke dont’ break it and stop managing activity. Start managing the goals, everything and everyone will be better because of it, including the numbers.

I suppose you want to know HOW to manage goals. That’s another post. You’ll have to come back for that.


There is slight deviation to goal based management. It’s a struggling sales person.  When you are coaching struggling sales people you have to shrink the freedom box.  You can read more about the freedom box here.