The Lag Effect

A few years back I joined a gym to lose weight. It was tough at the start. I was unfit and out of the habit of exercising regularly. After a week of getting up early and pushing myself at the gym, I didn’t see any results and wanted to give up. But then one the of the trainers encouraged me to push on when I wanted to pull out. So I pushed on and before I knew it, I was four kilos lighter.

About six months after I started my new exercise programme I went on a two-week holiday to Fiji. For two weeks I ate out, drank beer and didn’t do much exercise. To my surprise, I still looked in shape for the whole trip. I was under the illusion that I could eat and drink whatever I wanted and still stay slim. The week after I got back however, my indulgence caught up with me. I looked in the mirror and the flab was back. I jumped on the scales and was four kilos heavier.

I think sales is a lot like losing weight. Engage in more sales activity, and you’ll win more sales. But you need to be aware of the lag effect. There is a time lag between activity (the cause) and results (the effect). Depending on the length of your sales cycle, it can take weeks, months or even a year to see any results from your sales efforts.

We live in a world of instant gratification – we want everything now. If salespeople can’t connect the dots between activity and results, they’ll lose motivation and give up. Even if they do get on a roll, if they stop doing sales activity the results will soon wane (like my experience in Fiji). Those that can keep doing consistent proactive sales activity, during good months and average months, will win big in the long run.

Here’s a great question to ask yourself: “What activities do my sales team need to do this quarter, to make sure that that we are in great shape for next quarter?”