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Sales Solutions
Setting and Achieving Goals vol 2, issue #16
September 1, 2004

How many times have we heard it? "You have to set goals for yourself." "If you don't know where you're going, how will you know you've arrived? We all know we're supposed to set goals. And in fact many of us do - or think we do. Some intend to, but somehow never manage to get around to it. Even those who do don't always execute on them. Why is that? Well, I don't claim to speak for everyone, but I know from my own past that sometimes we either don't know how or we just lack the discipline. After all, what's a reasonable goal, anyway? Is, "I want to sell 30 units," a goal? To me, that sounds like a wish, not a goal. And "if there's no one watching over me making sure I do what I'm supposed to, well, who's going to know? I'll make my numbers - somehow." Really? I think not. How, then, can we both set meaningful goals and ensure that we do what we need to in order to achieve them?

The first step is to write your goals down (yes, write - my unscientific observation over time is that 95% of all goals that aren't written aren't achieved. And that includes mine!) - and place them where you can see them every day. The second step is to make them SMART - Specific, Measureable, Ambitious, Reachable, and Time-Bound. "My goal is to get initial discussions going with 6 of my 25 key prospects by the end of the week," is a SMART goal. If other reps are able to get 3 or 4 such discussions in the same time period, then 6 (a specific number) is ambitious, but one the sales person feels is reachable in this time frame. And which can be measured at the end of that time.

It also helps if you've publicly announced your goals. I don't mean standing on a hill with a megaphone. I'm talking about telling someone you know and trust - someone who will call you to task without offending you if you start to slack off on your commitment. This applies not only to our business lives, but to our personal ones as well.

For the managers among you, in setting goals for your team you should also be sure that they're SMART. If the goals you set aren't specific ("go out and sell as much as you can", "let's improve over last year"), don't be surprised when your results lag expectations; you haven't set a number for them to strive for. Furthermore, you can't measure (nor reward) performance with such a vague mandate. In setting targets, pick numbers that are ambitious, but reachable; you certainly want to stretch your staff, but if you're setting your targets unrealistically high - such that even your top performer can't reach them - you're going to have on your hand a lot of (justifiably) disgruntled sales people who missed their accelerators and the money that goes with them. On the other hand, set your targets too low and you fail to challenge them - plus you'll be paying accelerated commissions for unexceptional performance. In both cases, your numbers won't roll up to what you forecast, and your profitability will suffer.

And you don't have to limit the goals you set to annual performance. Consider setting shorter-term activity-based goals for members of your team - and providing rewards for achieving them. For example, one of my salespeople detested prospecting (OK, they all did, but this one neglected to do any!). But she recognized that with a weak lead-generation program at the company, she needed to generate her own activity if she were to have a shot at making any serious money. So we sat down and agreed on a goal of scheduling ten initial meetings in a two week period resulting from prospecting calls. While this was below my expectation for other members of the team, for her the number was a stretch, yet one she thought she could reach. Sure enough, she scheduled twelve appointments in the subsequent two weeks, earning her reward - permission to take the following Friday off without being docked a vacation day.


Have you set goals for yourself? Have you committed them to writing? Told anyone else? If not, get cracking! Set at least one long- and one short- term goal - either for business or pleasure. Write it down and place it somewhere where it'll be staring you in the face every day. Then tell someone - a spouse, a friend, a colleague - and make that person promise to check up on you periodically. Do this, and then relish the sense of accomplishment you'll have upon having achieved it.

Good Selling!

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