The Key To Sales Success: Focus On What You Can Control

New Year’s resolutions get a bad rap. With only an estimated 8% of people achieving them, it makes sense that the idea itself has become something of a joke. No wonder sales success doesn’t ride solely on the hopes of a pipe dream. 

For those of us in sales, the new year is a great time to make changes. New annual quotas kick in, and with them a fresh start. It’s like stepping up to the starting line of a marathon.

Resolving to run your best possible race isn’t just a good idea, it’s crucial. So the question is: What kind of resolution can you make that will give you the greatest likelihood of success?

The answer: Adopting the right activity-based selling strategy.

What is Activity-Based Selling?

At Pipedrive, we swear by activity-based selling, and make it the standard process for our team.

It starts with the right mindset: designing your work life around the things you can control — not the results you can’t.

Using something you’re already great at, basic math, you calculate the daily metrics for the steps you’ll need to take to meet your goal: how many calls, meetings, proposals and more.

It keeps you on track and keeps you feeling optimistic, which in turn breeds more sales success.

When you check off these activities as you achieve them, you can see your own accomplishments, making it easy to maintain the pace necessary to meet or even beat quotas.

Why This Can Breed Sales Success

People are most likely to keep resolutions that are realistic and lead to changing behaviors through small steps. Doing this requires changing your thinking: “Change requires creating new neural pathways,” leadership expert Ray Williams writes in Psychology Today.

Activity-based selling meets all of these criteria.

By measuring your successes based on your own actions rather than conversions, you get continuous positive feedback and a sense of concrete accomplishment.

I started my career selling textbooks door-to-door. People slammed doors in my face all the time — a few told me to “[expletive] off.”

I could have gotten despondent or given up. But when I discovered activity-based selling, it turned my work life around. I found ways to keep going, to charge forward.

Soon, I had no trouble making my numbers. And I enjoyed each day. Okay, sometimes I survived a day, but things definitely started to feel easier 🙂

Spiking Sales Success Levels

sales success tips activity based selling

The latest figures from CSO Insights, which tracks sales performance, show that half of salespeople make their quotas when their companies lack a “single standard process” for how its salespeople operate.

When companies follow an “informal process” — meaning their sales teams are told to follow a certain system, but no steps are taken to make sure they do — that figure rises to 58%

But when companies adopt a formal sales process and ensure that their teams follow it, 63% make quota. And when they keep updating that process throughout the year, tweaking it based on how well things are going, CSO Insights has found that sales success improves to 72%.

An Organized Work Life Breeds Good Sales Habits

When you organize your work life around an activity-based sales method, tweaking your method becomes second nature.

When salespeople input their information into Pipedrive, our software creates visuals and helps them see their key performance indicators:

  • Number of deals in their pipeline
  • Average deal size
  • Conversion rates
  • Sales velocity (how long it takes for a prospect to make it all the way through the pipeline).

With this information in front of them, salespeople know where they have the most work to do.

Common Work Habits You Can Fix

Want to start improving your sales behaviors today?

Make any of the changes below to speed up your sales funnel, move more deals through your pipeline from cold call to conversion, and do so faster than ever.

Don’t: Play the blame game

Do: Own your successes and failures

More sales attempts fail than succeed, no matter how good you are. Placing blame is a waste of time — and a lost opportunity. Instead, make a habit of learning from every sale and every failure, and move on. What made that prospect the right or wrong one to pursue? What actions did you take that worked or didn’t? Use this information to fine-tune your sales process.

Don’t: Get stuck on a script

Do: Focus on the prospect

To sell, you should always be learning about your prospect — his or her unique needs and challenges. You need to hear not only the words your prospect is saying, but the emotions behind it. This is essential to engage and to make sure your proposal is right.

“Selling requires deliberate, mindful action,” says sales coach Andy Paul.

“Sales is hard mental work. You have to bring your A-game absolutely every time you reach out.”

Don’t: Dial for dollars

Do: Make sure there’s a necessity for every call

Sales coach and trainer Alice Heiman told us she sees this all the time.

Sales reps call prospects for no valid reason. At one company, the owner required the entire sales team to call every customer four times a week. “That’s unproductive,” Heiman says. “In fact, it might really irritate people so that they will not take your call when you actually have something to say to them.”

Don’t: Let email rule the day

Do: Be proactive about your schedule

Many salespeople jump at every incoming email. This is the opposite of activity-based selling. It’s what I call results-based or anxiety-based selling. Following a plan to cover each of your activities is more productive. So unless the email is urgent, stick to your plan for when you’ll do each activity throughout the day, including handling emails.

Don’t: Get too relaxed

Do: Stay vigilant

Leaving anxiety behind doesn’t mean giving up vigilance. It’s crucial to pull through for every prospect as planned, and to have all the information you need at your fingertips when doing so. This is another reason a great CRM tool is so important. It reminds you of every task, and can pull up all the information you need for every interaction.

Timo Rein is the co-founder and CEO of Pipedrive, a provider of sales CRM software that gives sales teams control over their selling processes. He has 15-plus years experience as a salesman, sales manager and software entrepreneur. Before co-founding Pipedrive, Rein helped build a leading sales and management training house in the Baltics. Prior to that, he was among the top one percent door-to-door salesmen with Southwestern Company.

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