Selling in a Model


by Ken Courtright

Have you ever heard the old cliché phrase:

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”?

Many sales reps and managers have heard it, yet are also living out the phrase every day.

If you’ve been selling at your current company 12 weeks or more, and you aren’t hitting the numbers you want to hit, it may be as simple as changing your routine, or more importantly,

“Working in a Model”.

Let me throw out a quick definition.

“Working Model”: A working model is where X + Y = Z and X and Y can be controlled.

In the game of selling X and Y can be things like…

  • time spent on the phones
  • number of calls made each day
  • number of scripts tried
  • quality of training

Sometimes the greatest changes come from minor adjustments to a model. I’m going to use a real life example of a 19 year old sales rep to explain the power of making a minor adjustment and working in a well structured sales Model.

Most reps work in what is called an “ACTIVITY BASED MODEL”. This means they work from this time to this time, usually structured around a quota of some kind. Today, over 80% of sales reps work from 9am to 5pm, or some 8 hour shift.

Years ago I consulted a telemarketing company. The company had an extraordinary 19 years old sales rep. We’ll call this rep, “ED”. To say ED was extremely driven would be an understatement. He was a complete ball of energy.

ED was the company’s famous teenager. At 19, ED came to work in the office and was immediately one of the most successful reps they had. Then like a lot of reps, he hit a wall. ED was running on what I call, pure adrenaline. Adrenaline and enthusiasm only go so far.

Sensing ED’s mounting frustration, in ED’s second month I asked him if he’d like to try something that I was sure would double his income the first week he tried it. At this time, ED was averaging 5 closings per week, working full-time. Ed needed 8 closings per week to cover his bills and have some spending money.

Something had to change, either his output, or his job.

He said he’d try anything.

Setting a certain number of appointments a day can be part of working in a model

Photo Courtesy of beccaxsos via Flickr

Let me set the table. For every 3 appointments ED would set he would get one to close, or in short, he’d get paid on 1 out of every 3 appointments he set. At this point ED was continually moaning about how he couldn’t live on 5 closings each week.

I explained that he was confusing “activity” with “accomplishment”.

I said, “just because you are here, sitting in your cube, doesn’t mean you are working at full capacity, and going through the motions, certainly doesn’t GUARANTEE success. I said if you want to GUARANTEE success, and be in control of your paycheck, all you have to do is switch to an “ACCOMPLISHMENT MODEL”. I explained that he needed to control his X or his Y.

The fastest way for any rep to immediately improve their paycheck is to switch from an activity model, to an accomplishment model. –Ken Courtright

I explained to ED that he was setting only enough appointments to “allow” for 5 closings per week. Since, in ED’s case, one-third of his appointments turned into closings, all he had to do was increase his appointments to 24 per week, or roughly, 5 per day. I went on to simply draw out that if he could set 24 appointments each week, if one out of every 3 closed, he’d get paid on 8 closings each week which was the number he needed to hit to be productive, pay his bills and make some money.

ED looked at me like I had 2 heads and said something to the effect of…”Ken, don’t you think I know that. What do you think I do all day, twiddle my thumbs? My problem is that I’m only averaging 3 appointments per day, which is 15 per week, I NEED 5 APPOINTMENTS PER DAY, I know, I know.”

This is when things got fun.

I took control and told ED, in front of every rep in the office…

“I’ll let you go home as soon as you set your 7th appointment each day”

ED immediately shouted, “7, I’m not even setting the 5 I need, how am I going to set 7”?

I went on to explain to every rep in the office that the average sales rep spends less than 30% of their 8 hour day actually on the phone. Study after study has shown that over 30% of time is simply spent at the coffee machine, extended lunch breaks, starting late and leaving early. Another 40% is spent in a category I call “Worry and Wonder”. In this category reps spend 40% of their day and their week wondering what people on the other line might think if they call.

  • Will they be in?
  • What will they think?
  • Are they the decision maker?
  • Am I calling to early?
  • Am I calling to late?
  • Am I prepared?
  • Are they prepared to take my call?
  • The “Wonder” list goes on and on

The “Worry” list is even longer…

  • What will my spouse say if I don’t bring home a check this week?
  • What will their partner think of our proposal?
  • Do they have a silent partner they aren’t telling me about?
  • Is this the right job for me?
  • Do I even like sales?

These 2 lists go on and on and on.

I told every rep in the office that day that ED is going to prove this to be true.

I told ED we are going to replace his “Worry and Wonder” time with “Reward” time. I reiterated that ED will get to go home, and leave work early, the moment he set his 7th appointment.

I explained that ED is about to apply the Law of the Magnifying Glass. Simply put, what a magnifying glass does, in addition to “magnifying”, is to eliminate everything outside of what is being studied. When looking at something through a magnifying glass you CAN NOT see anything outside of the lens of the glass, it is now out of focus.

In the case of a sales rep, the magnifying glass becomes the goal of 7 appointments equaling a “get out of jail” card, meaning the right to leave work early. Goals that are very close to someone can become like large heavy magnets, pulling them in.

ED, now in the hot seat, said, “so let me get this straight, if I somehow set 7 appointments tomorrow, I get to go home before 5pm.


Here’s the rest of the story.

The next day, ED ironically, and for the first time, showed up close to a half an hour early.

The focus of the “Law of the Magnifying Glass” had begun.

He was in the office at 8:35am and at 5pm had only 5 appointments. Somewhat competitively he asked if he could stay into the second shift to try for 7. We opened an extra desk and ED had to stay till 7pm to get his 7th appointment.

When he came in the second day, he was exhausted, but hopeful. He said he was more surprised he even set 5 yesterday, let alone the 7. I promised him that today he’d hit 7 before 4pm. He was very doubtful but willing to try.

Just after 3 o’clock the whole office was welcomed with an extremely loud slam on a desk and a rather obnoxious yell of… “I’M OUTTA HERE.”

To ED’s surprise, he set his 7th appointment right after 3PM !!!!!

Since I made the deal with him, he was skipping out the door at 3.20 in the afternoon.

That was a Friday, most other reps in the office said it was a fluke and that anybody can set 7 by 3pm once in a while. Well, come Monday, ED was done by 2pm. Tuesday, if memory serves me right, he left around 3pm again, and one day that week, he left a little after noon.

Listen closely to this next part. When you hold a magnifying glass up to the sun, and hold it about 3 feet above the lawn, nothing happens, but if you bring it down about 3 inches away from a blade of grass, you can burn that grass in 10 – 15 seconds. When u can focus that magnifying glass on a specific target, it’ll burn it!

When I got ED to FOCUS on setting appointments, instead of passing time, he set 40% more appointments than 22 other reps, 2 months in a row, at 19 years old.

Look below at all the changes ED made when the Focus was changed from spending time in an office and dialing a phone to “Setting Appointments until a Goal was met and Going Home Early”.

Here’s exactly what he did:

He made sure all his voicemails were cleared before 9am.

He was always at his desk by 8:40am. Prior to switching from an activity model to an accomplishment model, he came in at different times every morning.

He took a lunch break, AFTER his 7th appointment. (big tip here, he allowed NO distractions or momentum killers)

Here’s the ABSOLUTE BIGGEST CHANGE. As ED started setting appointments regularly, the other reps wanted to know what he was doing different. No matter who walked up to him, he WOULD NOT speak to any other reps during the work day, PERIOD. His general statement was… “I’m here to set appointments, not socialize, ask Ken or the managers, they can help you.”

These may seem a bit extreme and even radical but that was the point. ED was not at the job to socialize, he was there to earn a paycheck, and that he did. He was the record setter for as long as he worked there.

The point to be learned here is that prior to my conversation with ED he was no different than any other rep showing up for work. He had the same training, the same script, the same leads and the same phone system. Like most reps, he was showing up for work, performing in an “Activity Model”, not necessarily an “Accomplishment Model”. He was simply making calls. Not any specific number of calls, just as many calls as he could from 9am to 5pm. At the time, ED thought he was productive.

Prior to my challenge to ED, he would never show up at the same time, would take 30 – 60 minute lunches like anyone else, and wouldn’t really get started till 10am-ish, etc., etc. ED would dilly-dally like most other reps in the office. He could shoot the breeze with the best of them.

So what changed?

ED was presented with a simple reward system. This reward system opened up a window that allowed ED the freedom to work in an “Accomplishment Model” instead of an “Activity Model”. ED was 19 years old. To not have to work till 5pm everyday was incredibly motivating. He was like a dog on a bone. He became LASER FOCUSED.

What would happen, if starting today, you said to yourself…

“I’m going to find out how many appointments I’ve been averaging each day. Once I find that, I’m going to double that number and when I hit that number I’M GOING HOME”. (obviously with your bosses approval) If you did this, odds are strong you’ll experience the 5 items below.

5 things you are going to notice by the end of the second day.

The first day will not feel that much different. You may even find yourself working a bit longer and become a bit frustrated.

The second day, you will probably find yourself starting a bit sooner to get a jump on the day. You may even find yourself clearing voicemails and emails 30 – 40 minutes before you normally would.

On the second day, you’ll probably also notice you take more breaks than you thought you did. Here’s a quick stat…most at home reps, or subcontracted reps, stop working and start up again 6 times each day!!

You will think that the day felt like it flew by twice as fast as any other day, yet on the second day, you’ll have set maybe as many as 50% more appointments than your average day, simply because of the laser focus you had on hitting a target.

You begin to realize, by the end of the third day, that you’ll never start another day without a numeric target to hit, say 4 appointments per day, or 9 appointments per day. Also, by the end of the third day you will realize how much idle time you’ve been spending. It will become clear that having a quota is one thing, but having a daily goal with a reward attached to that quota

is a completely different game. I teach reps that your quota is your target, but your daily reward of leaving early is the equivalent of switching out your bow and arrow for a high-powered rifle with a laser scope, it becomes physically impossible to miss. You are now controlling the X and the Y, which as a result, controls your Z.

Ed was no different than any other sales rep. The difference was in his approach and in the “Model” he was operating in.

Are you working in a “Model”? Do you know what your X and Y are? Are you confusing “Activity” for “Accomplishment”?

-Ken Courtright is the founder of Today’s Growth Consultant and Income Store. Ken has trained over 1000 sales reps over the last 20 years and regularly speaks on the topics of sales, business growth and marketing.


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