The TACTIC: Identify unproductive behavior

Tactics Sales


Ray finally got through to something besides voicemail.

“Hi! Mr. Minkle. How are you today?”

“Just fine… who’s this?”

“Ray Barry from General Office Supply. This week we’re introducing a new copier. I’m going to be in your neighborhood next Thursday from 10:00 to 12:00. Can I drop by and give you a free, no obligation demonstration?”

“Well, I suppose so. Next Thursday you say?”

“That’s right. Shall we make it at 10:00?”

“Uh, okay, sure… that sounds fine. See you then. Bye.”

All right, thought Ray. Finally, after 27 cold calls, an appointment. What have I got here? Let’s see… another 48 to go and I’ll have done my 75 for the day.

At 4:30 that afternoon, Ray dialed the last number, got voice mail, and left his standard message. But he wasn’t disappointed. He got five appointments out of 75 dials. That was a better average than anyone else in the office.

Let’s see, I’ve got another hour or so I need to be in here, might as well put together the presentation packages for the five appointments.

A week went by and Ray was dragging himself back into the office late on Friday afternoon.

“Well,” asked Stuart, the sales manager, “any of the five appointments for real?”

“Three of them cancelled out on me. Would you believe they waited until I showed up?”


“Both of the others let me go through the whole demonstration. The first one then told me she wasn’t the one responsible for purchasing and just wanted to see a color copier. The second one has a five-year lease on her current machines. All-in-all, it was a bust.”

“Well, you know what I say.”

“Yeah, ‘it’s a numbers game. You can’t sell unless you get in front of them.’ ”

“That’s it. Now go hit the phones.”


Eventually, Ray will find another line of work. While his sales manager evidently thinks Ray is following a productive behavior pattern, as does Ray, the exact opposite is true. Nothing is being accomplished.


Most salespeople will have one of two reactions to this story. The first is one of complete identification with Ray. “Yes,” they say, “that’s exactly the situation I’m in.”

The other reaction is, “Yes, that’s the situation I used to be in before I wised up and changed my act.”

If you have the first reaction, then you need to learn how to identify what unproductive behavior is. In essence, the way to identify it is by asking yourself a simple question, “Am I in sales to make money or not?”

Consider how Ray might answer that question. “Of course,” he would say, “I want to make money.”

But the reality of Ray’s situation is that last week he made no money. During the week he was chasing after his appointments, he did nothing to set himself up to make money the following week. So now Ray is not going to make any money for two weeks. Does having the best appointment making ability make Ray any money? Not unless he closes sales, which he won’t do now for at least two weeks.

Was there anything that Ray did for two weeks that was productive? Did he do anything to make money? Or did Ray go through the motions?


Being able to identify unproductive behavior is not easy. In the story, the sales manager encourages Ray to continue in his unproductive behavior by having him recite back what appears to be the office gospel. Not only does Ray engage in unproductive behavior, the manager expects it.

The simple “is it productive or unproductive behavior” test is to ask whether money is earned as a result. Then, if money is earned, is enough money earned so that the salesperson is perfectly happy with the amount that goes into the bank.

When Ray makes the occasional sale, is he going to be perfectly happy with what goes into the bank?

Do not draw from the story that cold calling is unproductive. Cold calling can be very productive. The unproductive part of Ray’s cold calling is the way in which it is done. His cold calling technique is poor, but his commitment to doing the behavior is incredibly high. In his situation he needs to change the technique, not the behavior.


If what you are doing does not produce the results you want, then change what you are doing.

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