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Anyone can set goals…. You can commit to selling more than anyone on your team, bringing in a major client, or doubling your conversion rate.

But meeting your goal is far harder. What are the chances you’ll actually outperform all your peers without an effective action plan? Not very high.

Over the years, I’ve watched a great number of salespeople set goals and succeed — and an even greater number set goals and fail. Here are the characteristics I’ve seen in sales people in the first group.

1. They focus on their strengths.

Most sales people choose goals based on their weaknesses or failures. For example, someone who struggles to achieve full price during negotiations might say to himself, “I won’t drop my price by more than 5% for the next 10 deals.”

However, successful goal-setters do the opposite: They pick their objectives based on their strengths.

If a salesperson is really successful at booking sales meetings, they might set a goal that’ll have them doing more sales meetings than ever before. Focussing on what’s working, rather than what’s not, means you’ll enjoy working toward the goal; which makes you much more likely to stick with it. When you’re trying to compensate for a weakness, on the other hand, you dislike the process and easily become discouraged.

2. They set activity-based goals.

Setting results-based goals is dangerous. You can’t directly control the outcome of your work, so you might get discouraged even if you’re doing everything right. Imagine you set a goal of getting five meetings this week. If the professionals you call are busy, out of the office, or uninterested, you’ll miss your goal. However, whether or not you meet an activity-based goal is completely up to you. Your target might be, “I’m going to call 50 prospects this month.” All you need to do is sit down and make the calls. You probably will get five meetings, but even if you don’t, you won’t feel like a failure. Look at your historical performance data from your CRM to pick a goal that’s ambitious but doable. If your call-to-meetings rate is roughly 8%, for instance, you’d likely need to call around 63 executives to book five appointments.

3. They share their goals with others.

Sales people who consistently meet their goals don’t keep those goals to themselves. If you merely tell yourself, “I’m going to do X,” and leave it at that, there’s zero accountability. When you experience a setback, you’ll probably give up on your goal; after all, no one will know. Suppose instead you tell your sales manager about your objective. Knowing they’ll ask about your progress each week during your one-to-one meetings dramatically increases your motivation. You want to avoid the embarrassment of saying you’ve thrown in the towel. To further increase your accountability, share your goals with your team members. Simply announcing your objectives is helpful, but having a partner is even better.
Perhaps another salesperson wants to attend more networking events, while you want to blog more frequently. Every Friday, you check in with each other to discuss each other’s progress.

Finally, consider writing your goal(s) on a Post-It note and sticking it somewhere on your desk. A visual reminder will keep it top-of-mind.

4. They choose small, specific, short-term goals.

The more drastic or overly ambitious the goal, the sooner sales people tend to give up. Imagine if you never exercised, and then one day you woke up and said, “I’m going to run 25 miles.” You’re probably not going to make it past the three-mile mark. Pick goals that are small, specific, and short-term. Once you meet the first one, you’ll feel uplifted and energized; so you’ll set another, slightly harder one. For instance, if your ultimate goal is to achieve 110% of your annual target, but you’re only making 75% right now, you might strive to hit 80% next month. The month after that, try to maintain 80%. The month after that, aim for 85%. You may actually end up making 120% of your number in time. Using the right goal-setting techniques usually means the difference between success and failure.

5. They walk away from dead deals early.

Walking away from a dead deal early requires a considerable amount of discipline and mental toughness and only a small percentage of reps have the strength to do it. And it’s a strong indicator that they’re going to be successful in sales. By walking away, you’re able to work on other deals that have a better likelihood of closing. But, why is it so hard to leave a deal? If you’ve been working on a deal for an extended period of time, it’s inevitable to become attached to it. The longer you continue working a deal that’s a bad fit, the harder it will be to walk away. Even the most confident sales rep will stay to the bitter end because they have an emotional connection to the deal and want to see it through. The successful reps are those that walk away early because they’re self-aware enough to understand that they’re powerless to walk away late in the deal.

Are you or your sales teams struggling to set effective goals? Maybe we can help.