Activities vs. Results – Which Should You Track?

entrepreneurship business development business metricsIt’s the beginning of the year and a lot of us are working on goals for 2014. When it comes to goal-setting I often get asked which is more important to track – the result or the activity? The answer is, it depends. Both are important, but I almost always tend towards tracking the result, because in the end, as an entrepreneur, that’s what we care most about. Crossing the finish line.

A lot of leaders and employees get the two confused. For example, a salesperson says his goal is going to be to book 5 in-person meetings per week, or an entrepreneur says he tracks the number of calls each sales person makes. These are activities. At the end of the day, an in-person call does not guarantee a sale nor does the number of calls. I’ve seen very elaborate tracking systems mapping the “activities” of the sales person and the leaders are still very perplexed and upset that the “sales” or “results” are not there.

Focus on the result. If you want 5 new clients with at least “X dollars” in business each month, say so, then figure out what needs to be done to make that happen. Chances are it’s a combination of activities, or in the case of sales, “the funnel,” that cause a sale to occur. Back in my early sales days, (and I mean early), I was a broker for small to mid-size businesses, before they were called investment bankers or advisors. We were barely using fax machines, mobile phones meant a phone attached to your car, (yes, I had one of those), and “laptops” were as big as suitcases.  All my contacts were on 3×5 cards in a nice little plastic box and I had an intricate graphic method for tracking what I was supposed to do that worked about 80% of the time. I knew that for every 10 calls I made, I would get one person who was willing to meet with me and talk about selling their business. Ka-Ching! I wasn’t bothered by the 9 no’s because I was going for the 1 yes. For every 3 meetings, I got one listing and I sold approximately 75% of the listings I had. So I didn’t track my activities, I had a goal of one closing per month for X dollars and I knew exactly how many activities I needed to do and in what order to get there.

Unless someone is new, struggling, or in training, don’t track their activities, focus on the results. They may have a different way of getting there than you did, something that works for them. I’m sure other brokers had different numbers than I did. I had what worked for me. You want your people to figure out their process and not adopt yours unless it works for them.

People get activities confused with results all the time, “I’m working so hard – can’t you see that?” If you can’t see the results, they are working very hard on the wrong things. You need to redirect them and hold them accountable for the results, and nothing else.