Sales goals are always on our minds when a new year kicks off or when a salesperson starts a new position, but it’s not uncommon to see that attention and energy fizzle out as the weeks and months go by. What does it take to sustain that momentum and turn those aspirations into results?
The most successful salespeople have a few tricks up their sleeves, but the truth it, there’s nothing magical about it. Like most things that are worthwhile, goal-setting and goal achievement take focus, intention, a good process and the right mindset. Sales goals are more than a single conversation or a quota number. And the ability to follow through on them extends through the decisions and choices we make every day.
Effective Goal-Setting for Salespeople
Many salespeople trip up right out of the starting gate, and part of the reason is that we assume people know what effective goal-setting looks like. A salesperson will often make general statements like, “I’ll aim for a 20% improvement next year,” and that’s the end of their goal-setting process.
As Mike Fisher pointed out in a recent episode of the Mental Selling podcast, that’s a number, not a plan.
“There’s a difference when you’re setting goals and writing them down and having a plan versus just having an idea in your head,” he notes.
Effective goal-setting spurs action, and that’s when it becomes real. That’s when you start putting in the effort. “And if you’re putting forth effort, then you’re buying in,” Fisher says.
The point of setting sales goals isn’t just to set out a target; the process should also motivate you to make progress toward the target, day in and day out. And it needs to help you lay out the steps along the way. This doesn’t have to be a complicated process, but it does require focus and attention. Let’s take a look at some powerful yet simple strategies for making goal-setting more productive.
Set both personal and business goals.
If you’re productive and happy outside of work, that positivity will influence your business life as well. In fact, some studies have shown that happier salespeople can sell up to 37% more, and employees with a happier, more positive mindset are 30% more productive.
Personal goals also provide broader context for the “why” of your business goals. What do you want out of your life this year? What matters most? Thinking about what’s really important to you gives deeper meaning and purpose to your professional goals and is often a more profound motivator than just money.
You may have a professional goal of wanting to make a certain amount of money, but dig deeper. What’s the money for? Is it to build a house or put your kids through college or take a long-planned trip or cushion your retirement fund? What is the real “why” behind what you’re doing? Once you figure that out, you have a totally different reason for getting up in the morning and pursuing your business goals.
Write your goals down.
With personal as well as sales goals, writing them down is an essential step toward helping you achieve them. It takes effort to put pen to paper, but the effort pays off — and there’s actually science to support this. One study found that people are 42% more likely to achieve their goals and dreams when they write them down on a regular basis.
Take the time to write out your goals and include a time limit or date by which you want to achieve them. Keep in mind that nothing happens overnight, so be realistic about your time frames.
If you’re having trouble coming up with specific sales goals, think in terms of a question you might answer. For example, what specific client relationship would you like to strengthen? What specific sales skills would you like to develop? What would you like to do for your community? What goal could you reach that would solve a specific problem you have right now?
After you’ve written down a target date for each of your goals, turn them into definitive statements, such as: “By June 30th, I’ll be 70% to my year-end goal.” Or “By September 1, I’ll be averaging sales of $200,000 per month.”
Remember, there’s a difference between ideas and goals. Be specific. Each goal should be a statement of the desired end result.
Identify the activities and the obstacles.
To make your goals actionable and less daunting, start by breaking them down into smaller subgoals or incremental steps and then assign activities you can perform each day and week to move you closer to the end result. This has the added benefit of helping you prioritize your time more effectively and realize what activities are not worth as much of your energy and focus going forward. More activity does not necessarily translate to more value. The objective here is to make better choices so you can achieve what you’ve set out to achieve.
Having clarity about your goals as well as the activities and choices that will help you reach them builds confidence, and confidence unleashes achievement drive. You’ll be more motivated and focused on accomplishing what you set out to do. In some ways, this can be even more important if you’re coming off of a good year, because you may be worried about whether or not you can repeat that success. The expectations are going to be higher, and that can often paralyze salespeople with fear. Take a step back and look at the activities that got you to where you were last year. What have you been doing, fundamentally, that led to such a successful year?
By the same token, if you fell short the previous year, what obstacles did you encounter? What obstacles do you see going forward, and what could you do differently to help get you to your goals? Write it down! Anticipate potential barriers, and then do the activities to make sure they don’t hold you back.
Using Sales Goals to Bolster Your Self-Discipline
Having a vision of what you want to accomplish and the process to achieve it are critical, but we all know that the story doesn’t end there. Knowing what you’re supposed to do and actually doing it are two very different things.
Everything you do — or don’t do — is a choice. If your goal is to lose 20 pounds, you can find plenty of processes and plans to follow to lose the weight. The question is, do you have the discipline to do those things you need to do to lose the weight? What if you don’t feel like it?
It’s no different in sales. You know what activities you need to do, but many times, emotion takes over. You may have lost a sale or had a tough month, and you feel dejected. Self-doubt creeps in. Those negative emotions and internal pressures can torpedo your activity levels. Goal clarity keeps you on course and helps prevent sales burnout. It brings you back to the “why” of what you’re doing, the beliefs and values you articulated as important to you when you started this process.
In sales, situations change all the time. We can’t control broader economic conditions or predict the future. It’s all too easy to find obstacles, excuses and reasons that you can’t do what you know you need to do. And once you’ve decided you can’t, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
As Fisher said to me in the podcast, the choice is yours: “Am I going to figure out a way to solve a problem —that way didn’t work, what else can we do? Or am I going to sit back and go, that way didn’t work so I guess we’re just going to have a bad year.”
The key is to focus on the goal, not the circumstances. Instead of obsessing over what’s going to get in your way, redirect that energy on how you’re going to deal with it.
Forming Habits to Stay Productive Towards Your Sales Goals Every Day
Even when momentum and focus are high, it’s easy to get bogged down and distracted in the day-to-day. This is particularly true in sales, where you can get pulled in different many different directions. In another episode of the Mental Selling podcast, “Someday Is Today” author Matthew Dicks shared some tips for managing time and attention more productively and getting the most out of your days.
Here are just a few of the steps he suggests:
Take advantage of the spare minutes that are normally wasted.
“When people ask me how I manage to get as much done as I do, I tell them that I make sure that I do all that work in the cracks of my life that oftentimes just go wasted by other people,” Dicks says. Make a list of the things you can get done in 10 or 15 minutes. That way, when you have 10 minutes to spare before your next meeting, you’ll have something productive you can accomplish in that time.
Focus on the steps in front of you instead of worrying about the end result.
As part of your goal-setting process, you’ve outlined activities to get you to the end result. The goal itself might feel overwhelming. That’s okay. Focus instead on doing the small, incremental tasks that will ultimately get you where you need to go.
At the same time, it’s just not realistic to expect to find the ideal circumstances, so don’t get caught up in the pursuit of perfection. “Make each step on the way to the end the best possible step you can make,” Dicks says. “And if you don’t make the sale, but you’ve made every attempt to make the sale as honest and as good and as hard as you possibly could, then you just move on to the next one.”
Combat procrastination at its roots.
It’s easy to procrastinate when you’re not organization or unprepared. But as Matthew says, that’s the not usually the toughest problem to address. The more insidious challenge is the fear of failure. If you lack confidence and belief that you can accomplish the goal, the tendency is to put it off and instead focus on less risky things. As Matthew puts it, “We’ll fill our lives with the nonsense rather than tackling the thing that will actually usually lead to better outcomes.”
Think in terms of ROI.
As mentioned above, we make choices every day about where and how to spend our time and energy, and all too often, the easiest choice isn’t the one that’s going to get us to our goals. One way to combat this tendency and build new habits is to focus on how your future self will benefit from making different decisions. Think of it as the return on investment you get from the choices you make with your time and productivity.
Set and Achieve Smart Sales Goals This Year
We’re all the sum of our decisions. Your success as a salesperson is tied to how efficient and productive you are with your time. And like everything else in sales, it’s a choice of how you go about managing the moments that are available to you. Make this the year that you take tangible steps toward the great things you want for yourself and the heights of success that you’re capable of.
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