Dear Jeffrey,

I’m a big fan of your weekly column, especially the one about making sales versus measuring sales activity. I’m an outside salesman who spends countless hours filling in itineraries, customer relationship management notes and reports. I had the biggest-ever increase in sales last year by far, yet I have been told at times I didn’t make enough calls that week. Very frustrating. Thanks for any advice you can give me.

My first piece of advice is: Get your boss fired as soon as possible. Get a real boss, leader, coach and helper, and your sales will double.

You seem to be doing the right thing: increasing sales. What else could a manager want?

Reality question for sales leaders: Why would you, as a leader, take an improving salesperson who is having the best year of his career, and tell him he’s “not making enough calls”? Why not do something to actually help?

Reality answers: (Pick any or all that apply.) You’re an idiot who knows nothing about leadership, coaching or creating winners. You’re a micromanager with little or no current sales talent yourself. You’re an unschooled leader, following the old way rather than learning what’s new. You’re using CRM as an accountability tool, rather than a sales tool. You’re totally clueless about your customer base and what will grow more and profitable sales.

Successful sales leaders:

• Manage the sales cycle, not call activity.

• Measure the sales cycle, not sales activity.

• Help make follow-up calls with their sales people to learn more about the sales cycle.

• Study the last 10 sales to help understand what will make the 11th successful.

• Discover their most profitable customers – and then go on to uncover WHY they’re the most profitable.

• Find where the profit comes from in every sale.

• Discover their most loyal customer – and why they stay loyal.

• Make a few sales calls together with their people.

• Teach salespeople to ask better questions that emotionally engage.

Maybe by spending more value time with each existing customer, it will increase their wallet share and your market share, and referrals will go up.

Maybe making too many calls is actually hampering growth. Someone measuring activity and numbers would never know that. Pity.

“Measuring activity” gives you a false read on the reality of sales. And as a leader, a manager, a coach, a teacher, you have a far greater responsibility to help increase sales than to just bellow out “more calls” as your cure-all answer.

Sales leadership is one of the hardest jobs in the world. First, you have to know each of your people, why they’re working, why they’re working for you, and what will make them better. Second, you have to know your customers, why your customers buy (beyond price), and what keeps them loyal. Third, you have to be a better salesperson than they are. And fourth, you have to be a great teacher – able to convey your knowledge in ways that others want to hear.

Know these things so when your salespeople come to you with issues, you can actually help them make the sale – not just more calls.

If you’re looking to become a hated sales leader, with lots of turnover, make your people make lots of cold calls.

If you’re wanting to drive your best people to the competition, make your people make lots of cold calls.

Get a grip on “why” salespeople want to win. Give them real-world help. Coach them. It will improve their sales and your success.