In our daily work as sales reps or as managers, we must be careful not to confuse activity with accomplishment.

We can finish each day or each week thinking, “Wow, was I busy,” but if we go back and analyze our day or week honestly, and not for anyone else’s benefit but our own, I wonder how much we have actually accomplished.

In my opinion, if you’re in sales, accomplishment means writing orders. I know that there are lots of other activities that are required leading up to writing those orders, but I suggest that each person needs to take a hard look at their time spent and make some decisions about what they really need to do to increase their business.

If your sales are flat, or growing less than you need them to, ask yourself why. In a recent article, we wrote about setting goals. If you are falling behind in reaching your goals, you should also ask yourself how come you aren’t meeting them.

Here are a few examples of activities and accomplishments:

Accomplishments include: making sales calls; conducting demonstrations; preparing sales presentations; following up on sales calls in person or on the phone; conducting building audits for customers and prospects that result in sales proposals; conducting custodial training sessions for your accounts; and helping to develop housekeeping manuals and work schedules for your customers.

Most of these entail selling, follow-up or pre-sale planning, and giving presentations. Most of these processes generate business on ongoing orders. Note that some of this work can and should be done during off-selling hours.

Here are some activities that don’t really qualify as accomplishments: following up on unfulfilled commitments you have made; fielding phone calls about incomplete or inaccurate orders; following up and having to make a quick delivery because of one of the things noted above; and calling vendors as a follow up to “Where is our order?” or “What about the new literature you were going to send me?”

Do you call on your favorite accounts too often just because you feel warm and fuzzy when doing so? What if that customer only buys occasionally and would call in the order even if you didn’t call on them? What if their business is flat or diminishing? Do you call on people who cannot make or influence a buying decision? Do you drop everything when a customer calls and says they need something? You think they mean right now when really, had you asked when they need it, it may have fit right into your travel schedule over the next few days.

If this “activity” is cutting into your selling time and, therefore, your sales “accomplishments,” I suggest you have a heart-to-heart with your sales manager and let an insider do this follow-up work. Your time should be spent doing what really helps your company grow: writing orders.

If your business is growing at a clip you feel is going to generate the income you need, so be it, but if you do review your activity versus accomplishment, you can probably generate even more growth.

Each half-day is 10 percent of your workweek (based on a 5-day workweek) and if you are not selfish with your selling time, it is easy to spend 10 to 20 percent of your week accomplishing very little.

Writing proposals, follow-up letters, thank-you notes, etc., are all important, but these activities should not be done during prime selling time.

Don’t let the frustration of all of this activity cut into your selling time or damage your attitude. Lay out a plan, discuss it with your managers and get out and accomplish the main objective: writing more orders.

To share your selling ideas, fax: (414) 228-1134, contact Mr. Dixon at (877) 379-3566