On average, 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail according to US News. If you’re one of those rare few who manage to accomplish their resolutions, then congratulations you understand the importance of setting manageable goals.
For the rest of us who struggle in the area of goal setting, our goal is to improve our goals. One department of growing companies that should understand the value of goal setting—perhaps more than any other department—is sales management. After all, sales teams are a large part of setting the pace of growth within an organization, and goal setting can determine the speed at which success comes.
But sometimes sales management sets goals that don’t deliver results, and this is because the goals and process to create them were flawed. When sales managers sit down to set goals, here are some questions they should ask to help form effective goals that drive growth.
Do you remember the previous goals?
Human nature is forgetful. How many times have we walked into a room only to forget why we came in there in the first place? If our brains are wired such that we forget something in less than a minute, then remembering the goals set a week before might be a challenge.
When we lose sight of our goals, we spend our energies doing ineffective activities. Furthermore, forgotten past goals create problems for future goals because whatever processes were in place during the previous goal setting could be replicated in the current session.
There are numerous tricks to conquering this natural shortcoming. While there is no one right answer for every individual, here are a couple tricks you can utilize to outsmart your own brain.
- Use visual cues to help recall sales goals e.g. if the goal is to close X number of sales, then change your computer’s wallpaper to that number.
- Take time each day to review your goals. Even just five minutes of briefly scanning the goals can orient your brain to focus on achieving them for the rest of the day.
- Place reminders of your goals in spots you frequently visit, like the fridge in the break room.
- If you’re feeling especially creative, you can create rhymes or little songs out of your goals. (You may laugh, but I still remember my home phone number from when I was 7 years-old because of this.)
These are just a few tricks to help with remembering goals. Work with your own brain, are you more visual, audio, or kinetic? Whatever method you use, the important takeaway is that it’s worth taking the time to remember sales goals.
Do the sales reps know the goals?
This may seem like a repeat of the last question but thinking of how sales reps will remember the goals requires a different focus. Chances are if sales management is the goal setter, then sales management may be the only group that remembers the goals.
It is perhaps even more dangerous when sales reps forget the sales goals, then when sales management forgets. The reason is because sales reps are the ones who put in the effort to accomplish the goals. While sales management is busy prepping for meetings with the c-suite, compiling forecast data for the board of directors and training sales teams, their time spent making calls, engaging with potential customers, and closing deals is limited.
Constantly orienting sales teams towards goals is a valuable exercise to do daily. Having sales reps take five minutes when they first come in to re-familiarize themselves with the goals will result in hours of more productive activities.
Are the goals in line with the overall company strategy?
As a sales manager, the company’s growth and revenue rests heavily on your shoulders.
No pressure, right?
But sales is only a part of the whole company and it needs to work with multiple other departments in order to succeed. This is why understanding the overall company strategy is important. It is there to guide every aspect of the company on a broad and general scale. It tells sales management what the direction of the company is, why the company is going in that direction, how to get started on that path, and what resources are available.
Just like it’s worth taking a quick look at goals each day, it’s also valuable to remind oneself of the company strategy. The nice part of having a company strategy is that when sales management sits down to set goals, there is already an established foundation for getting started. Also, if you face a mental block, then the company strategy can provide inspiration.
What is the nature of the goals?
Not all goals are equal. The inequality among goals is due in large part to the nature of the goal. Take a moment to look at some classic New Year’s resolutions. According to a poll by YouGov, the most common resolutions of 2018 were:
- Eat healthier
- Get more exercise
- Save (more) money
After seeing goals like these, it is understandable why New Year’s resolutions have such a low success rate. Why? It’s because the nature of these goals is a setup for inevitable failure! They are ambiguous, lack any standard for achievement, and show little desire to commit.
Instead, we want goals that avoid vague results. Ask yourself, what is the objective standard for the success of a goal? Setting a standard improves the chances of success significantly. Let’s take the example of eating healthier. A standard we could apply to this would be, “I will keep my daily calorie consumption below 2,200.”
When setting goals, change the nature of goals from subjective to objective. By setting a clear standard there is a distinct threshold of success and this gives a target for sales management and reps to strive for.
How ambitious are the goals?
Ambition is a fantastic trait to possess. But too much ambition can have negative consequences. Let’s imagine a new hire joins the team and sets a goal that goes far beyond the success rate of even the best sales reps in the company. What happens when that goal is inevitably never realized? At first everything may seem fine, but overtime constant failure is disheartening and will eventually kill ambition.
Likewise, goals that are lackluster will result in passionless efforts. This in turn will also kill ambition.
Sales management needs to find the “Goldilocks zone” of goal setting; goals that are neither too hot, nor too cold. Identifying this zone is simple if goals with objective standards are set. With goals that now have objective standards, we can identify a perfect middle ground between the two extremes. Create a spectrum using the previous week’s numbers. Set a range of what goes too far and what will come up too short. Then use this spectrum to evaluate the boundaries individual sales reps will operate in.
Ambition is a desirable trait in sales reps, but like a fire, it needs constant fuel. And that fuel is success. But don’t discount the success of occasionally failing. Failing to meet goals can provide great learning opportunities to help struggling sales reps.
Was technology used in goal-setting?
Welcome to the 21st century, where everything is touched by technology. There’s no escaping it now. And the reason why new technology is constantly interjecting itself into our lives is because of the results it can produce. Organizations that implement technology into their sales operations always have a competitive edge.
What technology does is remove some of the mind-stressing work that could take hours to complete. Sales forecasting is taking the stress of goal creation and presenting all the relevant information anyone in sales management could need. Not sure if a goal is too ambitious or lackluster? Sales forecasting can show you exactly where the middle ground will be. It takes all past data and analyzes it to see what the most likely outcome for a week is.
Gut-based goal setting is rapidly losing value as a successful process. The best steps sales management can take is to implement sales technology yesterday. Simply taking the time to find a sales management software that gives insight and transparency into sales processes will transform goal-setting from subjective and gut-based to measurable and objective. Goals created with the latter traits will soon become the only method by which organizations can grow effectively.
When to reevaluate goal setting
Goals should be constantly reviewed and modified, but bad goals are symptoms of the real issue. The real problem lies in bad goal setting, and if bad processes remain in place for goal setting, then only bad goals can follow.
Bad process will never create a good product.
If you notice that your goals are proving inefficient, then it’s time to analyze the potential problems behind goal-setting. Ask the questions above and diagnose where the issue lies. Does it lie in human nature, lack of technology, or both? Whatever it is, there is always something more that can be done to improve the value of goals, and the processes in place to create them should be evaluated alongside the goals themselves.