Increasingly, there is a tendency to measure our value by activities and our “busyness.” Managers set activity metrics, rigorously measuring performance against those metrics. Sales people rush from activity to activity, seldom having the time to meet their goals.

We implement new technologies, enabling our people to increase the number of activities they can accomplish in a given period.

And when those activities fail to achieve the outcomes we want, we just increase the activity requirements. The thinking is always, “we will produce more results if we just do more….”

Yet the market data shows year after year of declining quota performance.

In the midst of this frenzy of activity, one can always find the “laziest salesperson.” By this, I mean, there is always a salesperson that always meets or exceeds her goals, but they don’t appear to be breaking a sweat. They appear to be doing the minimum work possible, yet somehow they always meet their goals.

Usually, these people keep a very low profile. They stay out of the way of their managers, because they know their managers are going to talk about activity–despite the fact they are already beating their numbers.

Often, managers tend to ignore them. These sales people tend to be different, they may be perceived as a little difficult since they resist the focus on activity and busyness. But, they are producing business, they are quietly operating in the background, so they tend to be left alone. Instead, managers focus their time on the others, whipping up a frenzy of activity while producing declining results.

Sometimes, these “lazy” salespeople frustrate managers. They don’t understand them. They think they “aren’t busy,” yet can’t explain why they are always making the numbers. One manager I spoke with was so angry, “I want to fire her! She’s not doing all the activities I want her to be doing……!” I responded, “But she’s the only person on your team making the numbers. Maybe there’s something to understand?” (This went over the manager’s head.)

These “lazy” sales people fascinate me. Somehow, they seem to have broken the code. They’ve figured out how to produce the results with the least effort and time. They’ve maximized the impact of each minute they are working.

We get performance wrong. Too often we design for “busy” or “activity.” In reality we need to design for productivity and performance. For example, how much output(sales) we create in a period of time.*

In truth, it’s not how busy we are, but how effectively we create the outcomes we need. And there’s always the upside, for those “lazy” sales people with extra time on their hands, you can just increase their goals. They’ll figure it out faster than anyone else.

*Credit goes to Andy Paul for this notion of productivity.