Don’t Incentivize Sales Activities

Here at InsightSquared we stress that sales leaders should measure their team using data, but it’s important to understand why you are tracking these metrics. You then need to determine whether your metrics effectively meet their purpose.

Trish Bertuzzi, President and Chief Strategist of The Bridge Group, Inc., brought up a powerful point in a recent LinkedIn thread, stating that while “talk time has fallen by the wayside… the bigger question [is what are you] trying to address?”

Activity data from doesn’t accurately explain your entire sales situation, but there are nuggets of insight to find in these activity measures that can help you develop baseline expectations. Here are 4 helpful tips for setting up a framework to measure your team’s activities.

Tip 1. Choose the Right Sales Activities to Measure

The first step when you start tracking sales activities is to diagram your workflow to identify where your reps interact with leads and opportunities. These interactions are all potential activities to track, but just because you can doesn’t mean you should!

At InsightSquared we follow the +1 rule. It’s simple and easy. The +1 rule states:

If a rep does 1 more sales activity, will the extra activity affect the bottom line?

Think about it practically. One demo is much more significant than an extra e-mail. Activities that do not move the needle are important functions day-to-day, but insignificant for in terms of the revenue they directly bring into the company. Activities like these should not be tracked.

Tip 2. Understand Activity Count vs. Ratios

This is the age-old debate of effort vs. efficiency. Which is better? We won’t solve the question of which one is more important in life, but we can spell out exactly what both mean for your sales.

Activity count is a rough idea of how hard your team works to build the sales funnel. Take for instance total call count for a given month. Calls alone will not bring in bookings; it’s all about how you use that time on the phone. This is why talk time is a useless metric to track.

Activity count in isolation is an empty metric. The value of this measure comes from coupling the activity count with its efficiency measure, activity ratios. High ratios tend to mean a less efficient stage in your sales pipeline.

Activity count and ratios are tactical measures that give you an idea of the amount of legwork required in your sales process. This distinction from a business measure will be fleshed out in Tip 4.

Tip 3. Use Sales Activities as a Leading Indicator for Pipeline Growth

As Trish pointed out on the LinkedIn thread, knowing why you are tracking a metric is at the core of understanding the value of that metric. Sales activities are important to track because they provide an early indication of how your pipeline will shape up down the road.

It may seem obvious, but if your team shirks calls today, the sales funnel a month from now will suffer. The effect on your pipeline will appear at different times depending on the length of your unique sales cycle. Teams with a long sales cycles will not feel the effects of an underdeveloped pipeline until it’s too late and bookings have stalled.

You should track sales activities because at the end of the day, building a healthy pipeline requires your sales reps actively engaging opportunities.

Tip 4. Establish Activity Goals, Don’t Incentivize Them 

Set up activity goals at the beginning of the month to measure and create accountability with your employees. Publicly display each rep’s progress around the sales department to reinforce the importance of meeting these expectations.

Tactical measures, like activity count and ratios, should be expected from your sales team, not incentivized. Reps earning a bonus for total calls may be more interested in making the quota than actually talking to quality opportunities. Instead incentivize business measures, like total bookings, which bring money through the door.

After you set activity goals for reps, consider tracking these activities as a percentage of the expectation. The nature of different inside sales jobs makes it difficult to compare expectations in terms of absolute numbers. Development reps will have more early-stage activities (like calls), while senior reps will have more late-stage pipeline activities (like demos). Keep each employee’s ultimate goal in mind when creating activity expectations.

Sales activities are critical to growing your sales, but not the end-all, be-all for building out your team’s pipeline or bringing in more bookings. They are purely another way to establish transparent expectations with your reps.

Want an easier way to manage sales expectations? InsightSquared makes it simple.