Sales leaders around the world will have already made plans to set more effective goals for 2017. But this year, instead of going through the motions again and later expressing frustration when things don’t go as planned, here's a thought:
Related: Why You Need to Set Sales Goals
Perhaps those sales leaders -- maybe you, too -- should devote some time to thinking about your team's 2017 goals in earnest, and learn how to use them to improve performance and increase engagement.
Here are six tips that could help you do that.
1. Understand the psychology behind goal-setting.
Many sales leaders begin their task of setting goals because they’ve been told to do so, either by a superior or cultural forces at large. Yet they haven't thought seriously about what that means psychologically. That's crazy, because in every other sales operation, leaders carefully scrutinize the psychological factors that play a role in actions and outcomes.
They know why certain phrases during a sales call have a particular effect with clients, or the reasons why personalized emails resonate with prospects; yet, with goals, they’re content to outline them with only vague reasoning.
Yet knowing why goals are important helps you set more effective milestones. Goal-setting actually changes the chemistry of our brains, and studies have shown that that activity can increase motivation and boost achievement levels by approximately 30 percent. Because the very action of creating goals has such a strong impact on brain activity, it’s crucial to take the process seriously and stick to your decisions.
2. Recognize that sales goals are like any other type of goals.
One of the most illuminating results of breaking down the sales process is the opportunity to learn that the sales function is just another form of relationship management.
This is comforting, because you likely already know how to successfully manage personal relationships (even if you don't excel at it), and you can translate many of those same principles into your sales strategy.
Similarly, you'll understand what goes into setting strong personal goals. You probably know that they need to be specific, practical and consistently tracked. And sales goals are no different, which is why it’s important to think about these principles when you’re planning your goals, in order to keep your process on track.
Related: 3 Steps to Realistic Sales Goals
3. Encourage regular feedback.
Even when you put a lot of thought and effort into your goals, they’re never going to be perfect. And even when you get them mostly right, they will still need to evolve from time to time.
That’s why you need to have frequent feedback sessions with others who have a stake in the goal-setting process, and encourage constructive criticism, as well as celebrate their achievements. Your salespeople will likely have many thoughts about the goals they're expected to meet.
Meanwhile, when it comes to your goals for yourself, scheduling a feedback session with a mentor or fellow colleague can help you take stock of the effectiveness of your own personal effort.
4. Focus on what you and your team can control.
We hear constantly about creating goals that are “actionable,” but usually the concept is expressed in abstract terms. Instead, leaders should instill a process that delivers “action-oriented” goals, and let the rest follow from there.
No matter how hard you try, you can’t control how much people buy. What you can control are the actions that typically encourage buying behavior. This will help you and your team internalize the notion that you are directly responsible for achieving your desired results.
5. Give your salespeople some autonomy with their goal-tracking.
We all know that taking the time to create goals is useless unless you also invest the effort in tracking those goals' progress.
For some managers, this means being in control of the tracking software and calling in employees to discuss results at set intervals. Many salespeople aren’t even aware of their progress until they arrive at this meeting.
Instead, try giving your sales professionals the responsibility of tracking their own goal progress, and sending the results to you at specified times. This will help them feel more invested in the process, and high-achievers will be eager to share the results they have worked so hard to attain.
6. Have a plan for bouncing back.
An inevitable consequence of maintaining an effective system for creating goals is knowing that you won’t always reach them.
Failure is an important part of life both personally and professionally, but it’s important to not let these setbacks derail your strategy. Instead, use them as an opportunity to learn how you can adjust your game plan for the future.
Were your goals too ambitious? Is there some aspect of your time-management process that could be modified so that you can increase your performance?
Take the time to implement a specific plan-of-action for the next time you and your team fall short of a goal, including sessions for evaluation, analysis and next steps.