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Why Is Goal Setting So Important In Sales?

Jonathan Farrington wrote a guest post on Paul McCord’s blog this week, entitled Top 5% Achievers Expect to be Successful Because They Plan for It.

Jonathan provided the why’s and how’s of goal setting in as clear a way as I have seen.

As Jonathan’s title suggests, goal setting isn’t a standalone activity, but rather a component of a larger planning process.  Whether it’s written down or not, that process normally has four parts:  (1) an assessment, (2) the determination of a goal, (3) devising a strategy to achieve the goal, and (4) coming up with individual steps or tactics required to execute the strategy.

Let’s say I’m 80 pounds overweight (which I was many years ago).  My assessment would be short and sweet:  I need to lose weight because at 240 pounds, I am headed toward a heart attack, diabetes or both and can hardly get out of my car.  Losing 10 pounds wouldn’t accomplish much and losing 150 would leave me, at six-feet tall, skinny as a rail.  You can see that the assessment points me toward a goal.  Lose 80 pounds.  Many of us learned about S.M.A.R.T. goals or objectives.  That concept works well.

My strategy to achieve the weight loss back then was through diet and exercise.

So far as tactics were concerned, I completely over-reacted—something I tended to do back then.  I immediately went on a macrobiotic diet (which I significantly modified after 6 months or so).  In addition, I started walking, then jogging at the high school track.  I could have employed other tactics to support my strategies, like going on The Atkins Diet and swimming instead of running.

I understand that people who accomplish great things in either their business or personal lives don’t always think in terms of this four-part plan.  But they follow one nevertheless.  You don’t just wind up climbing Mt. Everest, saving the lives of thousands of African children, losing 10 pounds, or learning how to play the piano without a goal and the plan to achieve it formal or otherwise.

With respect to salespeople, consistent and long-term effectiveness requires a formal planning process (including that important second step: goal-setting).  With many opportunities in a rep’s pipeline, all with different characteristics, timeframes, buyers, decision processes, competitors, and buying criteria, keeping them all advancing toward a sale requires executing a number of complex and parallel plans.

I’m sure you’re thinking about a super salesperson you know who doesn’t formally plan their sales campaigns.  I won’t argue with you.  But I will say they are the exception.

Photo Credit: Bob Cates

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2 Responses

  1. Good point Dave. You would think this would be a given for a sales person, but it is not. As a corporate sales trainer, I am often surprised how difficult it is to get a number from sales reps to what an account is worth to them – in money, or in number of transactions. They avoid doing this, consciously or not, like a plague.
    I stress that the number itself is really irrelevant – it is setting the goal that is important. Once you set the goal, your results will reveal if your estimate was too low or too high. The process of setting the goal will tell you which number is the best. If you do not set the goal, than any result is acceptable and you would never know the difference. This error will almost always put you on the under-producing side.

    I think sales people, particularly in an analytical environment, hesitate to use a “wrong” goal because they will be criticized for using unsubstantiated numbers.

    If you do not know where you are going, than any result will take you there.

  2. Dave,
    I totally agree with the goal setting process however I would add 3 things to it.
    1. Set up a mechanism to track you progress on a daily/weekly/monthly basis.
    2. Periodically analyze the results.
    3. Make necessary adjustments.
    Chip Reichhard
    Sandler Training

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