sales goals clarity

How would your salespeople grade themselves when it comes to the key dimensions of sales success? Namely, their ability to clearly set (and hit) their sales goals.

In our sales training programs, we always ask participants to do a little self-reflection and assess how well they believe they embody the four traits of high producers: goal clarity, achievement drive, emotional intelligence and social skills. Our research has shown that these four inner dimensions drive top salespeople’s successful beliefs and behaviors.

Over the years, an interesting and unmistakable pattern has emerged from reviewing thousands of these self-evaluations: Goal clarity is consistently the lowest self-reported trait among salespeople.

Why is this worth looking at? Well, without clarity, everything else suffers. Hoping for higher levels of achievement without goal clarity is a bit like being blindfolded and swinging a bat at a pinata. With a little luck, you might hit the target, but you’re just as likely to catch nothing but air.

A lack of goal clarity is often one of the reasons successful salespeople hit plateaus. When their activity falls off and they can’t seem to get back in track, there’s a good chance they’re not clear about what they want to accomplish and aren’t sure that they have what it takes to achieve it. Goal clarity provides purpose and direction, which give us the self-motivation to push ourselves to the next level.

But strong goal clarity isn’t something most people inherently have. Like most things, you have to learn how to develop it.

Let’s take a closer look at what goal clarity is, what could be getting in the way of it and how you can strengthen your own or others’ goal clarity to move further up the sales success curve.

What Stands Between Salespeople and Achieving Their Sales Goals?

Goal clarity means having clear, specific, written descriptions of what you want to happen in your future. These are goals that you deeply desire, firmly believe are possible for you to achieve and ones that you feel you deserve to achieve. But reaching goals isn’t just a matter of knowing how. It’s a much deeper issue, and there are inner conflicts that often get in the way. Here are a few of the primary obstacles to sales goal achievement.

Shiny Object Syndrome: The challenge of distraction

The upheaval of the last couple of years has led many people to question what it is they really want. It’s also created a swirl of distractions and confusion that can take us even further off course. When there’s so much going on and everything seems important, it’s hard to figure out what you should be focusing on at any given moment. And each one of those things can keep you from accomplishing what it is you really want to achieve.

The Procrastination Habit: The challenge of urgency

We all like our routines, and almost by definition, a goal is going to force you out of them—because if you stayed in that routine, then you wouldn’t be moving anywhere. The prospect of having to upend our daily routines often leads to procrastination and avoidance behaviors. We’ll busy ourselves with activities that seem urgent but are really just helping us stay within our comfort zones. As a result, they keep us from moving towards our goal.

Distorted Thinking: The challenge of belief

In his book Reach, Dr. Andy Molinsky writes about the impact of distorted or exaggerated thinking on our behavior. He points out that distorted thinking causes us to take legitimate fears we have and pump them up to a level that feels practically intolerable. These inner beliefs can trip you up before you ever get started. Sure, the goal might be a big stretch for you, but if your subconscious is telling you that it’s impossible and that you’re incapable of doing it, then you’re more than likely to live down to that low expectation.

All or Nothing: The challenge of perfectionism

Striving to be your best is admirable, but in some cases, the pressure to be perfect can backfire by making us feel insecure or overly focused on the potential for failure. When insecurity bubbles up, it can actually lead to lowered ability and a decrease in performance. In fact, “all or nothing” thinking may say more about avoiding failure than it does about a desire to succeed. If you don’t try at all, then you can be sure you won’t fail.

Hot Potato: The challenge of ownership

Goals have to be meaningful on a personal level, otherwise, you’ll have a hard time rallying yourself to put in the effort. If your goal has been set by someone else and then pushed down to you, unless you can find the “why” in it and a way to passionately own it, you probably won’t perform to it.

A lack of passion for and ownership of your goals can have a broader effect as well. What people refer to as burnout is often boredom in disguise, and without goal clarity providing the “why” behind what you’re doing, it’s easy to get bored with the work.

Finding that passion for what you’re doing is especially important in sales, where rejection and disappointment are part of the job. If you’re not clear about what you want to achieve and how you’ll get there, you could eventually go from bored to burned out.

How to Strengthen a Salesperson’s Goal Clarity

If we’re not diligently owning and honing our goals, things like distraction, procrastination, lack of belief, perfectionism or the hot potato can derail us. If you’re a sales leader, you play an important role in helping your salespeople develop greater goal clarity so they can achieve more.

As you’re working with your team members, keep these coaching tips in mind:

Emphasize the “why.”

When you can’t connect what you’re doing with a deeper purpose and meaningful impact, it’s hard to be enthusiastic about it. As a leader and a coach to your salespeople, this is one of the most important things you can do to help make goals personal for each individual and release greater achievement drive. Because once they have the “why,” they’ll be motivated to find a way past the obstacles to get it done.

Ask, rather than tell.

Since it’s so important for salespeople to own their goals, your coaching should be focused around enabling rather than dictating. If the salesperson seems to have plateaued, ask them what they believe might be keeping them from progressing. Encourage them to come up ideas rather than just telling them what to do.

Help them move outside their comfort zones.

Great sales coaches see more in their salespeople than their salespeople see in themselves. As the selling environment has evolved over the past few years, many previously successful salespeople are struggling internally, questioning whether they have what it takes to make it anymore. Your confidence and belief in their potential is essential for helping them expand their view of what’s really possible for them to achieve.

If you’re the one struggling with sales goals clarity, here are a few steps you can take to strengthen it.

Set some new sales goals- and put them in writing,

Whether on a piece of paper, in your smartphone app or on a sticky note on your computer. Just make sure they’re somewhere you’ll look at each day.

These goals might include:

  • Monthly sales goals
  • An annual sales goal
  • An income goal
  • A motivational goal (something you’ll give or do for yourself when you reach another goal)
  • A family goal
  • A personal goal

Put reasonable target dates on your sales goals, and begin taking daily actions toward reaching them.

Clarity and commitment to your sales purpose are the best deterrents for challenges like distraction. Once you know what the goal is, break it down into daily actions so that every day, you know what activities you’re going to do to move you closer to it. And remember, even if your sales goals have been set by someone else, the more that you can take ownership of what you’re doing and the more you feel that it’s truly your project or your responsibility, the more engaged and willing you’ll be to give it your best effort.

Visualize the rewards you’ll enjoy once you achieve a goal, and focus on them when you face a roadblock.

You said this is what success is going to look like and this is how I’m going to feel, this is what’s going to happen as a result of achieving this goal—so in those moments of doubt or fear or uncertainty, consciously refocus on the rewards.

Keep sales goals flexible, but not at the expense of clarity.

In a constantly changing environment, your sales goals might very well change throughout the year (or quarter, or month…). That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be clear. Even if your goal changes from the beginning of the year to the end, you still need to be able to track your progress and see which way you’re headed.

Your goals can only be designed and passionately pursued by you. By connecting with the “why” of what you’re doing and aligning your actions and beliefs with the outcomes you want to accomplish, each day will become a stepping stone to the next level, and you’ll be that much closer to achieving your goals.

About the Author
Mike Esterday

Partner and CEO

Mike Esterday first discovered his talent for sales when he ranked number one out of 6,000 sales professionals in his...
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