A Goal without a Plan is Just a Dream

Doug Robinson

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

As we enter 2013 and a new sales year unfolds, goal setting takes center stage once again for salespeople. To help, here are some ideas from my book, Sell is NOT a Four Letter Word.  

Back in the Dark Ages beginning in 1980, I lived on straight commission for over twelve years in self-employed sales. No corporate advertising support, no salary, no benefits and no sales manager, although my wife improvised in that role. 

Year after year I continually strived to set and hit goals, employing what I called a reward and punish system. It wasn’t always easy, but it was simple and straightforward, and it worked like this. As each Friday night arrived, if I achieved my weekly sales goal, I would reward myself by taking the weekend off. Conversely, if I failed to reach my sales goal I would punish myself by working Saturday in hopes of closing the gap. This simple system functioned like cruise control for my sales performance.

A basic definition for goal setting is making commitments about what you will accomplish. Before anyone can achieve sales goals, they first must be created and established. Additionally, goals must be written, which makes it less likely that you kid yourself into believing you are on track, because unwritten goals are merely wishes. Surveys continually document that only 3% of salespeople set goals and…wait for it, only a paltry 1% actually write them down! Is it any wonder why so many salespeople fail?

There are various formats for accomplishing this; the most common system being the SMART method, where goals must be: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

With goals in writing as a given, I recommend going one step further; by placing written goals visibly in areas where they will be seen repeatedly, such as on the bathroom mirror or near the radio in the car. Seeing goals repetitively serves as a reminder and will eventually burn them into your brain. Finally, goals should be written in the present tense. I am… instead of I want to… will signal your subconscious mind to accomplish your objectives quicker. 

Now, back to the SMART acronym where we put some meat on those five bones:

Goals must be Specific – What should be accomplished, remembering preciseness is essential. For example:

If I am to generate enough sales to earn $5,000 per month, I will follow my sales manager’s lead concerning planning, prospecting, proposing and closing.

Goals must be Measurable – If it can’t be measured, it shouldn’t be included. It’s like playing basketball with backboards that have no rims. Regardless how hard you play, you never know whose winning. In sales, a goal without a deadline is nothing but a dream. For example:

I will contact a minimum of 12 ‘suspects’ daily in order to schedule appointments with at least 4 of them

Goals must be Attainable – If goals are too lofty, they will be impossible to achieve and frustration will set in quickly. Don’t commit to supersized goals early in your career when you are green and growing. Realize there is a ramp-up period on the road to success, so pace yourself to ensure you’ll be able to get there without having a nervous breakdown. For example:

I’m determined to make at least one sale per week, regardless of dollar amount, during my first month in the field following my rookie sales school. 

Goals must be Relevant – Goals that are important to you are worth expending the necessary effort to achieve, so make sure the prize is worth the endeavor. For example: 

I will stay on the phone today calling cancelled customers until I schedule four face-to-face appointments. 

Goals must be Time-Bound – You must be able to achieve your goals during the time allotted, but they should also make you stretch. Some need to be accomplished daily, while others fit a weekly or monthly frequency. For example:

I won’t quit this afternoon until I’ve canvassed enough businesses to secure 5 future appointments.

Don’t forget, goals are like features, requiring benefits to create the motivation for completion, especially when times are tough and roadblocks are blocking your progress. 

Putting it all together, here is an example of a written goal that contains all five components of the SMART methodology:

I will make 4 sales proposals each day, 5 days a week. I will accomplish this by contacting cancelled customers and canvassing around recent customer installations. This will result in selling 3-4 new customers per week or about $7,500 in sales revenue. By the end of the month, I will have sold at least $30,000, earning $5,000 in commissions. 

Never forget, a goal without a plan is just a dream