Why Salespeople Fail to Reach Their Sales Goals


Our research has shown that there are five factors that affect whether or not someone achieves their sales goals

New Year’s resolutions. They’re a January ritual that is almost always followed by the February ritual of abandoning them.

Statistics show that each year, just 8% of people will be successful in keeping their resolutions. Another 24% have never succeeded and fail on their resolutions every year.

Why do the vast majority of people abandon their personal and professional goals and settle for less?

It seems like that’s the perennial question for those who are responsible for sales training development and management. Every year, they see the same patterns repeating themselves. Sales reps have been through training. Their managers work with them to put goals in place at the beginning of the year. The salespeople are excited about the huge potential ahead of them—there are so many clients who need the organization’s products, services and expertise! And then, all too often, the results just don’t follow.

What’s the secret to not just setting goals, but achieving them?

Five Core Factors Influencing Goal Achievement

One reality many organizations overlook in their sales training development strategies is the fact that knowing doesn’t always translate into doing. And it doesn’t guarantee results. Of course, you need to know what to do and what you want to accomplish. But that’s just the beginning and, in many ways, it’s the easiest part.

Our research has shown that there are five factors that affect whether or not someone achieves their goals:

  1. Goal Clarity: Having clear, specific, written goals of what you want to accomplish
  2. View of Possibilities: Believing that your goals are possible for you to attain
  3. Values: The moral and ethical beliefs that guide your behavior
  4. Achievement Drive: Energy released when you have clear goals you believe are possible
  5. Supportive Environment: People, places and things that support and encourage you

All five are important. When salespeople have gaps in any of these areas, it will create conflict, stress and emotional blocks, all of which can become barriers to doing the work required to accomplish their goals. It’s no surprise, then, that when gaps exist, salespeople will struggle and inevitably fail to produce the expected results. The problem is, sales training development — and even the coaching sales managers provide — doesn’t often address these critical factors in any significant way. And so every year is like déjà vu all over again, despite everyone’s good intentions.

But here’s what happens when those gaps are reduced: People feel energized. Their confidence increases. They’re laser-focused and driven by an inner passion to achieve. Rather than giving up or wasting time on unproductive tasks, they’re willing to focus and do the necessary activities to reach their goals.

Those who reliably achieve or even surpass their goals don’t just do it by luck or dogged determination. Their real secret is that they have all of these five dimensions in alignment. That’s why, if you’re working with salespeople on their goals and they still seem to be struggling, one of the most helpful things you can do is to look for the gaps. Once you’ve identified them, focus your coaching around closing those gaps to create alignment.

Coaching Sales Reps to Achieve Their Goals

If you’re coaching sales reps and you’re not sure whether those gaps exist or what they might be, our advice is to start with Goal Clarity. We’ve surveyed tens of thousands of people globally on twelve dimensions of success. And Goal Clarity is consistently rated as one of the areas people have the most trouble with. No matter how good the sales training development is or how skilled the salesperson is, it takes time and attention to come up with a clear picture of what the end result looks like. If a salesperson can’t articulate exactly where they need to go, they’ll wind up wasting a lot of energy on nonproductive activities.

Keep in mind, goals don’t need to be save-the-world in scope! They could be things like reaching a sales target, buying a new home, earning a certain amount of income, providing an education for their children, acquiring a new skill or habit, or developing a comprehensive financial plan.

As you coach and develop your sales team on reaching their sales goals, have them really think about and then answer the following four questions. This process will help bring clarity to what they’re trying to accomplish so they can chart their course — and stick with it.

  • Why is this goal important to me?
  • Is it clear, specific, measurable and time bound?
  • Do I have a support group of people who believe I can reach the goal?
  • Is there a clear reward when the goal is achieved?

Hone in on the factors that influence their success. Help them discover their purpose and how it drives them. As the year progresses and others abandon their goals and settle for less, you’ll find that your salespeople will be among the rarefied few who don’t just set goals but actually go after and achieve them.


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