Goals: Who Needs Them?

Goals, Quotas, Targets, and Projections are all words that live in a salesperson’s head. They motivate, intimidate, provide structure, guidance, and measure a salesperson. Are these goals worthwhile? Are they useful? Do they lead to success? The results are anecdotal, and different factors motivate people differently. Some folks will thrive with the carrot and stick method. Some will succeed if they know there are significant financial rewards. However, to be truly successful in your sincere sales approach, we must have sincere and controllable goals.

So much of the success of sales depends on many external factors that a salesperson can’t control. If you sell the baby formula, for example, and the factory gets shut down, can you say that you are a terrible salesperson because you couldn’t sell any baby formula that month? On the other hand, if you control a factory with baby formula and your most significant competitor shuts down for a month, are you an exceptional salesperson because you sold the most baby formula of your career at record profit margins? Maybe you are the best salesperson but also benefited from external factors in this case. On reflection, to be a successful and sincere salesperson you should rely on goals driven by you and not by the whims of external factors.

Instead of judging your success by external factors like how many units or dollars sold, focus on the effort you can control—set goals based on what you can do. For example, set a goal to make ten cold calls a day. Set a goal to call five customers that day. Set a goal to read three trade publications to help you learn more about the market. If you put in the hard work, the sales will come. Results will follow if you lay down good habits and discipline in your sincere sales approach. Also, achieving goals feels good and develops good habits. If you set a goal to make ten cold calls, even if they aren’t successful, you have completed that item, thus achieving a goal. In the book Atomic Habits by James Clear, he discusses that changes come from a small process that leads to more significant results. He also discusses the idea of building a system instead of goals. If your system is laid out to make small controllable contributions daily, they will result in success.

How can this sincere goal of setting up a system built on what you can control translate to management? It does very quickly and relates to anything in life. Like in sales, you can’t always control the success of your team, division, company, and or organization. External factors can always influence the success of the team you lead. If you are the largest importer of wheat in the U.S. and war in Ukraine cuts off 75% of supply, and your company loses money, it is hard to blame the manager of a team. What you can do as a manager to gauge your success by sincere goals and a system of accomplishing self-controlled tasks. For example, set a goal to talk to four constituents daily; in this case four individuals who know about the grain market. Learn from them and listen to them about their experience under your supervision.

Another example is to talk to one supplier daily to see what their pains are and what they see on the horizon. Do little things that ultimately will have an impact on your organization. The hard work of systematically doing the little controllable tasks will pay off.

I would like each of you to try and set up a system of small goals that you can achieve that you can imagine will lead to success.  Maybe it is a commitment to go on two 15-minute walks a day. Perhaps it is reading one trade publication article a day. It could be to call three customers a day. Try to set this minor obtainable self-controlled assignment. I would love to hear the results if you keep it up and achieve these small goals to see what changes happen. If you enjoy the blog, please subscribe, leave a comment, and follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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