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Never Confuse Activity with Accomplishment

There are times in your sales career when you hear something that really resonates. Salespeople are always borrowing ideas from others. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In a meeting one day, I heard this great phrase from a respected and successful colleague that really made me pause.

“Never confuse activity with accomplishment.”

So often, I hear salespeople and sales leaders talk about the importance of lots of activity. You know those conversations that take place where the leader asks the salesperson about the number of sales calls they made this week. Or the salesperson is telling the leader in their update about all the sales calls they made that day. While activity is important, at what cost are you conducting it?

When you start in a new sales role, there is typically a lot to learn about your product, your organization, and your leader. You want to get off to a fast start as you mesh the sales skills you should have been hired for with the product knowledge required to sell your product.

You have likely been assigned a sales quota that clings to you like a shirt with static electricity. It can all be a little overwhelming and detrimental for some who end up not making the grade. Sales, after all, is a high-risk, high-reward career. Activity that closes zero business is just that, activity. Accomplishment for a salesperson is closing business. Don’t get me wrong, activity is part of closing sales, but the right activity is what is more important. So how will you know that? I remember going on a sales call with a senior colleague who asked me to tag along to see a prospect valued in the many millions of dollars for the business. Prior to the sales call, there were e-mails back and forth with my colleague’s leader copied and them replying with callouts and watch-outs for the representative. There were a couple of conference calls to discuss the prospect and to go over logistics for the day. As I was not the lead salesperson, I asked several questions about the prospect's business. The answers I received gave me concerns, but I was assured that we would work it out on the day. Turns out the sales call was short. After a few minutes, it was very clear that due to the structure of the company, we would be unable to do business with this prospect. Furthermore, it was unlikely that they would ever change their well-established business model just for us. After the call, I spent some time discussing this with the salesperson and indicated to them that spending any more time with this prospect was a futile exercise. Bewildered, they looked back at me and indicated they could not let it go as it was their largest potential prospect. This my friends is activity.

On the flip side of this, I once worked with a new representative who was in the early part of their sales career. I wanted them to have lots of activity to learn through repetition. The representative felt stretched, but this activity early on was designed to get them a quick sale, any sale, to give them the thrill of victory and the necessary experience working the sales order process system. In time, a balanced and now vetted pipeline refined their activity to a proper and manageable level where wasted activity was never part of their routine. They began to close quality business every week. This is accomplishment.

There is always lots of pressure in sales. One of the keys to success is finding that balance. For every product and salesperson, that can be different. The salesperson must make an intelligent assessment of the factors that will go into their success. This process cannot be left entirely up to others in the organization. In the process, the salesperson must evaluate multiple factors that can include their product, the quota they have been assigned, the prospect list, the territory they operate in, and perhaps how the last salesperson in the role performed and why? This process requires some mental math and strategic thinking to give the sales person the best plan for success.

There has never been a better time to be a sales professional, as there is always something that needs to be sold. Technology that includes Artificial Intelligence (AI) is at our fingertips, along with the correct use of a CRM tool that can help a salesperson manage a pipeline more efficiently than ever before. There are also multiple resources and experts out there to assist along the way. Imagine the salespeople of yesteryear without e-mail, computers, or websites to tell them all about the prospects they are trying to sell. The fantastic resources available now should allow us to never confuse activity with accomplishment.

P.S. Thanks for the phrase big fella……

Roger McNamara Bio:

Roger is a 25+-year veteran of the Payments Industry, most recently as the Director of Business Development with American Express in the US. He has worked on the largest Acquisition targets for acceptance across multiple Industries and across the globe that include : Airlines, Communications, Technology, Cruise Lines, Entertainment, Fractional Jet, Freight, Government, Healthcare, Insurance, Oil & Gas, Residential Rent, Restaurants, QSR’s, Retail, Services, Supermarkets, Travel, Vehicle Sales, B2B and Wholesale. Over that time, he has sold more than $200 Billion worth of Card processing and became an expert in Bankcard Interchange and Discount Rates, how they are calculated and what merchant pay to accept Credit and how this is dramatically different from what they believe they pay. He is an expert in Merchant Statement analysis and payment processing and the rules and regulations associated with payments and the associations. Roger has also developed the insight for Merchant Services Salesforces and salesforces in general to be able to better position their products and gain share particularly in B2B. Let him show you how you can too. He can be reached at

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